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Difficulty in Understanding Statistics: Medical Students’ Perspectives in a Nigerian University

OA Adeleye
AN Ofili


PURPOSE: The study was conducted to examine the
characteristics of medical students vis-à-vis difficulty in
understanding statistics and to explore the perceived causes
of this difficulty among those affected.
METHODS: In a descriptive cross-sectional questionnairebased
survey, 293 consenting final year medical students of
the University of Benin were interviewed.
RESULTS: Eighty-seven (29.7%) respondents expressed
difficulty in understanding statistics. Their major reasons
(from multiple-response questions) were the unsatisfactory
teaching of statistics, 58, (66.7%); their unseriousness about
statistics, 21, (24.1%); and a perception that statistics itself
was difficult, 19, (21.8%). Females were more likely than
males to blame their difficulty on the unsatisfactory teaching
of the subject (p=0.09; OR=0.34). Respondents whose
interest in statistics ranged from “good” to “excellent” were
also more likely to blame their difficulty on the unsatisfactory
teaching of the subject (p=0.034; OR=0.37) but less likely to
blame this on their unseriousness about the subject (p=0.00;
OR=9.84) than those whose interest ranged from “fair” to
“very low”.
CONCLUSION: Most medical students who had difficulty in
understanding statistics blamed the situation mainly on poor
teaching of the subject and their self-rated unseriousness
about the subject. Skilled medical statistics teachers should
be engaged to teach the subject and to motivate students to
learn it.

Key words: Medical students, Medical education, Statistics,
Gender, Nigeria.
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eISSN: 1596-9819