INTRODUCTION : There are no empirical studies that describe factors that may influence the development of integrated clinical reasoning skills in dental education. Hence, this study examines the association between outcomes of clinical reasoning in relation with differences in instructional design and student factors. MATERIALS AND METHODS : Progress test scores, including diagnostic and treatment planning scores, of fourth and fifth year dental students (2009-2011) at the University of Pretoria, South Africa served as the outcome measures in stepwise linear regression analyses. These scores were correlated with the instructional design (lecture-based teaching and learning (LBTL = 0) or case-based teaching and learning (CBTL = 1), students' grades in Oral Biology, indicators of socio-economic status (SES) and gender. RESULTS : CBTL showed an independent association with progress test scores. Oral Biology scores correlated with diagnostic component scores. Diagnostic component scores correlated with treatment planning scores in the fourth year of study but not in the fifth year of study. 'SES' correlated with progress test scores in year five only, while gender showed no correlation. CONCLUSION : The empirical evidence gathered in this study provides support for scaffolded inductive teaching and learning methods to develop clinical reasoning skills. Knowledge in Oral Biology and reading skills may be important attributes to develop to ensure that students are able to reason accurately in a clinical setting.