Medical Council of Canada

Moving through the OSCE stations

Moving through the OSCE stations

After receiving the candidate orientation, you will be escorted to your exam track. Signs throughout the examination track will help you navigate through your stations. For example:

  • You will see sequential station numbers at OSCE station doors
  • A signal system will guide you through each station – it will tell you when to enter and when to leave a station
Time allotments

Each OSCE station is allotted the same amount of time at each exam site. Depending on the physical layout of the site, not all stations will be equidistant; this is accounted for in the standardized allotted time given for candidates to move between stations and read the instructions.

A copy of the candidate instructions will be provided inside each station for you to refer back to, if necessary. There is no penalty to review this information during the course of the station.

Station rotations

You and other candidates will rotate through all the stations on the track. Each candidate is pre-assigned to start at a specific station. For example, if there are 10 stations, you might start at number 1, and rotate through to number 10.

Wait stations may be used to accommodate the number of candidates in your track. For example, if there are 10 stations, but 11 candidates to accommodate, one candidate will sit at the wait station for the duration of one station before moving on.

Conflicts of interest

Occasionally, a candidate-examiner relationship may constitute a conflict of interest in a station. This could be an examiner or SP who is:

  • A relative
  • A person with whom you have a financial or business relationship
  • A close friend or spouse

Simply knowing a PE or SP, or having had a previous student/supervisor relationship with them, is not considered a conflict of interest.

If you have a close relationship with a PE or SP, you should immediately stop the station and notify staff of the conflict. You will complete that station with another PE or SP when time allows.

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Physical arrangement of stations

Each examination station is unique. The equipment, setting, and SP in the station will vary depending on the purpose of the station. For example, if a physical examination is part of the station, you can expect to find:

  • An exam table, sometimes with the patient already sitting on it or in a chair. To save time, the patient will already be in a hospital gown if the examination requires it.
  • A kit of tools for you to use. You will have to bring your own stethoscope and reflex hammer for the exam.
  • Hand sanitizer within reach. If you forget to use it before you start a physical examination, the examiner might remind you.

A copy of the candidate instructions will be provided inside each station for you to refer to, if necessary. There is no penalty to review this information during the course of the station.

If the station requires other materials, such as a growth chart, lab results or other relevant information, these will be in the station, and sometimes posted outside the station as well. At times, the props will only be available upon request or if you indicate the need for them, such as information about a patient’s vital signs.

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Interacting with an examiner

PEs will be observing, assessing and recording your performance while you interact with the SP. You do not need to introduce yourself to the PE. The PE may move to the examining table to better observe your skills.

Candidates have reported feeling nervous about an PE’s facial expression or making marks on the score sheet. Do your best to focus on the patient and demonstrate your clinical competence without focusing on the examiner.

There are some situations in which you will interact with the PE. For example:

  • If you forget to offer a label to the PE, the PE will ask for it
  • If you misinterpret the task in the instructions, the PE may redirect you by saying something like, “Please reread the instructions”
  • The PE may tell you it is OK to not complete a time-consuming examination component, such as taking a blood pressure reading, or a procedure that is not appropriate to perform on an SP (such as a genital, rectal, or breast examination). When you verbally and/or physically indicate your intention to do the manoeuvre, the PE may then intervene by saying, “Noted, please move on.”
  • After indicating that you do not need to perform a manoeuvre, the PE may provide the results of the manoeuvre as if you had completed it. For example, after indicating that you do not need to perform a pelvic exam, the PE may then say, “The patient has tenderness in the right adnexal area”, or “the blood pressure is 180/95”. If no information is provided, move on. Do not look to the PE for information or ask if they have information for you.
  • During physical examination and acute care stations, your primary attention should be on the patient. However, you are expected to briefly explain what you are doing and what your findings are, including pertinent negative findings, so you are properly assessed in the station.
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What happens after the examination

When you are finished the OSCE, you will return your examination notebook with all pages intact, your candidate badge, and pencil.


To maintain fairness and to ensure the security of examination content, you may be sequestered for a period of time after the exam. During that time:

  • You will not be able to use phones or any other communication device
  • You will not have access to your personal belongings
  • You will not be allowed to talk with other candidates

On occasion, sequestering takes place at the beginning of an exam. If sequestering is lengthy, refreshments and access to washrooms will be available.

Once you are released, you will be signed out of the examination centre, given your personal belongings, and escorted outside.

Test security

Candidates who take an MCC examination have legal and professional responsibilities. The MCC also has a responsibility to candidates and to Canadians to ensure the integrity of its examinations. Candidates may not discuss, copy, reproduce or share examination content in any way, at any time before, during, and after the exam.

Additional information on test security can be found on the following page.