Dr Kerri Parnell asks whether coaching for tests such as UMAT (now UCAT) helps ('Medical School Pick of the Crop may be Missing the Point', Gut Feelings, 25 March).
If UCAT coaching is not useful, the logical conclusion is that coaching for selective/private school entry/scholarships tests is also not useful. Yet parents spend enormous amounts having their children coached for such tests.
Further, while the final high school exams admittedly test both knowledge and ability, the fact that people spend money on tutoring and send their children to 'better' schools is evidence that coaching helps improve performance.
Coaching certainly improves a person's ability to some degree – or at least a person's ability to do better in tests that purport to assess that ability – just as much as coaching helps even elite athletes and sporting stars perform better on that crucial day in competitions that aim to test their inherent ability.
In our information rich society, going to university purely to acquire knowledge is a waste of time and money, particularly since most people are expected to have several careers in their lifetime.
Universities, therefore, claim to develop a person's 'generic skills' (a politically correct term for 'ability') and charge at least $50 000 for that privilege. If this is not the case, the very foundations on which the universities exist, crumble. Are the claims of universities correct or are we being conned? Answer this question and you have the answer to the question of whether coaching for UCAT/private/selective school entry helps. Finally, whether we have created a new form of inequity between the 'coached' and the 'uncoached' is analogous to asking whether there is inequity between the 'educated' and the 'uneducated'. Both the coached (in sporting or intellectual ability) and the educated have been 'value added'.