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What is an OSCE?

Photo courtesy of the Miller School of Medicine at the U of Miami

Photo courtesy of the Miller School of Medicine at the U of Miami

How do medical students learn the art and practice of medicine, especially clinical skills? Many medical schools integrate clinical work within the first two years of a medical education to help students learn clinical skills early.  But how do medical schools assess whether students learn clinical skills appropriately?

One tool used to assess students’ mastery of clinical skills is the Objective Structured Clinical Exam, otherwise known as the OSCE (pronounced os-ki). This exam is designed somewhat similarly to the Multiple Mini Interview in the medical school application process. Students go from station to station, each lasting from 5-15 minutes, performing clinical tasks on either real or standardized patients. Each station presents a different situation and has a different individual assessing each student’s facility and skill in the clinical environment. Each student is evaluated on the same basis as they all go through the same stations, one by one. Thus the name Objective Structured Clinical Exam represents the objectivity and structure of this method of assessing students. The exam is more objective than subjective in that each examiner has a checklist of skills that students should have mastered. The stations are highly structured in that the circumstances of each patient are the same and meant to measure specific learning milestones of the students.

To learn more about the OSCE there are many resources available. There is information about OSCE station categories and schools usually have an explanation of the OSCE on their website. For example, here are descriptions from Indiana University, the University of Washington, the University of Nebraska, and the University of Miami.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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