Medical Council of Canada

OSCE tips and resources

Some tips for navigating an OSCE

Other tips

Do not be tempted to do MORE than what the station instructions require. For example, if the instructions say to “take a focused history”, then do exactly that – do not complete a full patient interview covering issues that may not be relevant.

Do be guided by the information that the patient tells you. Apply your clinical reasoning to the patient’s pertinent ‘positives’ and ‘negatives’.

Do not make assumptions about the purpose of the station. You may think, for example, “Oh, this must be the depression station”, but keep an open mind. You are being assessed on your active clinical skills. Be guided by the patient’s responses.

Do communicate with the patient well. The examiners will assess you, not only on what you say and ask, but on how you communicate with the patient.

  • For example, do not reel off a series of closed-ended questions to show thoroughness or because you hope that some of them will be on the checklist. This interrogation-style approach will not score well in the global assessment, which looks at your organization, attitude, and genuine connection with the patient.
  • Instead, demonstrate your ability to use appropriate questioning techniques, both open and closed questions, as well as other communication skills.
  • We recommend reviewing the examination Objectives to get a better understanding of the attributes expected of medical graduates entering supervised and independent practice in Canada. This document is the MCC’s guide when developing questions for its examinations.
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Do manage your time well. Because OSCE stations are usually only a part of what would be a typical physician-patient encounter, time management is crucial.

While there is a warning signal before the end of each station, you should keep track of time. For example, in a station in which you are asked to do a focused history and verbalize your physical examination maneuvers, you must divide your time between the two tasks. In this example, it is permissible to continue to gather information after you have received some physical examination findings, as you would in real life.

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Avoid these common mistakes made on OSCEs:

  • Not reading the instructions carefully
  • Asking too many questions
  • Misinterpreting the instructions
  • Using too many directed questions
  • Not listening to patients
  • Not explaining what you would do and what you would look for in physical examination stations
  • Not providing enough direction in management stations
  • Missing the urgency of a patient problem
  • Talking too much
  • Giving generic information

These common mistakes are explained in more detail on the following web page:

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The following may be helpful in your preparation for an OSCE: