Is the OSCE a feasible tool to assess competencies in undergraduate medical education?

Medical teacher

PubMedID: 23521582

Patrício MF, Julião M, Fareleira F, Carneiro AV. Is the OSCE a feasible tool to assess competencies in undergraduate medical education?. Med Teach. 2013;35(6):503-14.
The Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) was introduced by Harden et al. (1975) trying to answer the problems regarding the assessment of clinical competencies. Despite increasingly widespread use of OSCEs, debate continues with arguments as 'why using such a demanding format if other methods are available?'

To review and synthesize evidence on technical and economic feasibility of OSCE in undergraduate medical studies.

Best Evidence Medical Education methodology was applied by two independent coders to 1083 studies identified by literature search from 1975 until the end of 2008.

The OSCE is a feasible approach to the assessment of clinical competence for use in different cultural and geographical contexts; to assess a wide range of learning outcomes; in different specialties and disciplines; for formative and summative purposes; to assess students a curriculum or an educational intervention; in the different phases of education including the early and later years of the undergraduate curriculum; and in different health care professions.

Despite being an expensive test format, evidence suggests that the use of OSCE produces reliable results. The study also suggests that one reason for the wide-scale adoption of the OSCE and the feasibility of its use in different contexts and situations is its inherent flexibility in terms of the number of students that can be assessed, the number of examiners included, the type of patients represented and the format of the examination itself, including the length of the examination, the number and duration of stations.