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Objective structured practical/clinical examination

In this type of assessment students visit different control points/stations, where they have to carry out or do different tasks/explanations/identifications. For this reason, this type of assessment can be used to test a wide range of competences and knowledge.

Objective structured practical exam is often used in courses, where skills practice, diagnosing, conversations, or identifying certain elements from the curriculum (such as species, names, types, procedures) are considered very important.

As the exam requires several control points, it is an expensive type of assessment in terms of time. At the same time, it can be very authentic if for instance performed in an authentic environment.  

Examples from AU

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (formerly): Field course in Eucaryotes - Plants

Faculty: Science and Technology (formerly)
Department: Department of Bioscience
Course: Field course in Eucaryotes - Plants
Place: June/July after 1st year
Course responsible: Anders S. Barfod

HEALTH: Family - Society

Faculty: Health
Department: Department of Clinical Medicine
Course: Family - Society
Course responsible: Ulla Breth Knudsen

A 110 minute practical examination without aids (books and internet).

The test format is the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). The test consist of 11 physically separated examination stations (see picture below) each manned with its own 1-2 examiners, who passes a score which is independent of performance in the other tasks on the other stations. OSCE stations are particularly useful for assessing skills, and manikins, simulated patients (actors) or authentic patients may be part of the tasks to be solved. In addition to practical skills such a palpating a patients abdomen or measuring her blood pressure etc., the test format may also be used to assess interpersonal skills such as communication with patients.

Important ‘take home’ principle: Rater biases (‘horn’ or ‘halo’ effects) can be minimized by horizontal scoring (each rater is nested in one station) rather than vertical scoring (each rater rates all tasks in the entire exam). Reduction of rater biases is always important for test reliability and validity.

Example of an OSCE station task

You are a resident at the department of obstetrics and gynaecology. You are asked to attend to a 29 year old female who is pregnant with her second child, in order to assess whether she has gone into labour or not. The patient has just arrived at the maternity ward.


1) Talk to the patient and take the relevant patient history
2) Examine the patient (manikin), and explain what you are looking for

(The station is manned with an actor for task 1, a pregnant manikin/phantom for task 2, and 1 examiner to judge overall student performance).