What happens on the day of an OSCE
How to prepare for OSCE day
Before your examination date, you will receive a candidate information sheet through your physiciansapply.ca account. The information will tell you:
- The location, date, and time of the OSCE
- The duration of the examination, and how long you will be sequestered before or after the examination
- Parking details
- What you can and cannot bring to the examination
- Other important details
Resources for the examination
On the day of the examination, you must bring:
- Your entrance card as your identification
- A white lab coat
- A stethoscope
- A reflex hammer
You cannot bring these items into the examination:
- Watches (clocks will be available in the examination rooms)
- Phones or communication devices
- Examination study materials
- Paper and pen (these will be supplied)
- Food and drink (these will be supplied)
- Allow for adequate travel time to avoid traffic or parking issues. To maintain the integrity and standardization of these examinations, the staff is not able to admit candidates who arrive late.
- Minimize the number of personal items that you bring. All coats, purses, backpacks, and other personal belongings must be checked at registration.
- Storage space at exam sites is minimal
- You will be able to access your personal items only after you have been signed out of the examination
- While every effort is made to keep personal belongings secure, it is wise not to bring valuables
- You must inform the MCC well in advance of the exam
- Any special arrangements must be granted by the MCC
- This includes the need to have access to medication during exam day
More information about exam special requests can be found on our Test accommodations page.
- Practice with others
- Write sample stations and checklists
- Use a timer and practice time management according to time allotted for different tasks
- Review exam-specific orientation materials and pre-exam instructions (such as what time to arrive, what to bring to the exam, location, etc.)
If you are well prepared, you will be confident and able to perform at your best. Practice is essential as well as thinking ahead about what is likely to be tested.
Once you arrive and register at your assigned examination centre, you will be given these items:
- A pencil and notebook in which you can make notes
- A set of labels to give to the examiner for identification of your exam sheets
You will then attend an orientation session. The presenter will:
- Explain exam behaviour and security
- Provide important information regarding acceptable exam behavior and security of examination material
- Explain the number and length of examination stations, the time between stations, and the signal system used to keep time
- Show you where you can find the instructions for each station and other important information
- Explain the roles of the people you will encounter throughout the OSCE
- Answer any questions
Once the examination begins, washroom and other breaks are not provided.
If you need to use the bathroom during the exam, the staff will escort you to a washroom. Keep in mind that you will not be given additional time to complete the examination if you do take a break.
It takes many different people to develop and deliver an OSCE. On the day of the exam, you will meet several people, each with different roles and responsibilities.
These administrative staff members are responsible for:
- Guiding candidates between stations
- Responding to concerns or issues that candidates may have while moving through the stations
- Distributing and collecting examiner test sheets
- Ensuring that the stations adhere to the time allotments
- Reporting any exam-day issues to senior staff
These individuals oversee the examination process and personnel. Their responsibilities include:
- Review and approve the readiness of SPs for the examination
- Orient examiners on exam day
- Answer examiner questions and advise on exam delivery issues as needed
Visit Moving through the OSCE stations to get an understanding of the structure of the examination.
Candidates will interact with standardized patients (SPs) in most stations. SPs learn a role and are trained to standardize their responses to questions or to physical exam components.
SPs do not evaluate the candidates. The SP’s role includes:
- Train to a standardized clinical role for each OSCE station
- Remain standardized to that role throughout the examination
- Report any exam-day concerns to staff
In some stations, you may also encounter a standardized colleague (for example, a nurse, physiotherapist, physician, etc.), or standardized family member(s). For simplicity, we will refer to any standardized role as an “SP”.
The physician examiners (PE) that you will encounter in the OSCEs are practising physicians, including senior residents who have experience at the level of the OSCE. For example, examiners for the NAC Examination or MCCQE Part II are physicians with a licence for independent practice in Canada.
Typically, PEs focus on one exam station for the whole day. The examiner’s role includes:
- Train as an examiner
- Train to use the scoring tools
- During the examination, observe and assess candidate performance with standardized scoring tools
PEs are rigorously trained prior to the start of each OSCE. On examination day, they also conduct a run-through of their specific exam station with the SP to familiarize themselves with the content and portrayal of the role.
PEs will often be asked to complete different types of assessments on their scoring sheets, including:
- Global ratings to assess overall performance in specific competencies
- Checklists to assess the process
- Select scoring items to assess critical elements of the patient case