Pharmaceutical advertising material can confuse clinical and statistical significance. We used a brief questionnaire (five questions) to evaluate psychiatrists' appreciation of this difference. This approximated to the level of critical appraisal competence of the MRCPsych part 3 examination.
Of the 113 questionnaires distributed 93 were returned complete (response rate 82%). Senior trainees were significantly better than junior trainees at correctly interpreting data (mean score (maximum 5) 2.61v.2.08; P = 0.04). Consultants did less well than senior trainees, although our sample of consultant respondents was too small for significance testing.
Learning critical appraisal for the MRCPsych examination may provide psychiatrists with valuable transferable skills and prevent gaps in our knowledge being exploited by misleading study data. Psychiatrists of all grades need to maintain their research appraisal skills and should not regard the MRCPsych examination as the end of their learning.
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