Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Studies (to 2007)

First Advisor

Dr. Mary Anne Bunda

Second Advisor

Dr. James R. Sanders

Third Advisor

Dr. Diane Hamilton


Two physician certification examinations from different medical specialties were investigated. The purpose of the study was twofold: 1) to determine the similarities between the factor structure of the examinations and their respective tables of specifications; and 2) to demonstrate the relative efficacy of factor analysis in differentiating the structure between two related but dissimilar domains of information. Specialty A is a homogeneous discipline focused on a relatively narrow concentration of organs, body systems and anatomy. This examination contained 309 items. There were 845 cases available for analysis. Specialty B is a heterogeneous area of specialty concerned with numerous areas of anatomy and physiology. The Specialty B examination contained 336 items and was completed by 1460 examinees. The table of specifications for Specialty A called for six dimensions of content arrayed in relatively large areas ranging from 10% to 25% of the total examination length. The two largest areas in Specialty A accounted for half of the content. Conversely, Specialty B contained 22 areas ranging from 1% to 11% o f the total content. Its two largest areas represented only 22% o f the total examination content. A principal components analysis with varimax rotation was conducted on both examinations. The results of the study showed that neither obtained structure revealed any dimensions that approximated the elements of the respective tables of specifications. In both examinations the number of viable obtained factors was less than the number of factors expected by the researcher and less than the number derived by the Minimum Average Partial procedure. The two viable factors derived from the homogeneous discipline (Specialty A), diagnostic skills and treatment choices, accounted for about 5% o f the variance. Analysis o f the heterogeneous specialty (Specialty B) returned three viable factors (diagnosis and treatment, internal medicine, and symptom recognition), explaining about 9% o f the variance. Because the percentage of variance explained falls below a reasonable threshold, these results are considered to be inconclusive. It was not possible to make a definitive statement about the comparative structure of the two disciplines.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access