Med School Tips - How to Pass your OSCEs

One of the main hurdles of getting through Phase 1 of the MD program at UQ is to pass the second year objective structured clinical examination (OSCEs). Sure it’s a little daunting but it’s also the perfect reminder of just how far we’ve come on our journey towards becoming doctors.

The five stations in the test will challenge your knowledge of clinical reasoning and medical examinations. But they will also make you to realize how much knowledge and content you’ve learned in such a short time. Think about where your medical knowledge was prior to commencing the course! The following are a few tips and steps for passing the OSCEs.

1. Don’t rush: When going through clinical practice during first year, just absorb as much as you can. You might feel like you’re just learning a script without knowing exactly what you’re doing. This is totally normal. Once the rhetoric is down pact, you'll start to associate the pathologies seen in clincal science and relate them to the exams in clinical practice.

2. Understand what you’re doing: As you advance in the program, start trying to link ideas of why you’re examining a patient for certain findings. For example, when examining a cardiovascular patient, think about why you’re stating that there are no splinter hemorrhages, no clubbing, no Janeway lesions, etc. A great resource for this is Talley and O’Connor and your clinical practice handbook.

3. Practice among colleagues and friends: Although you might watch the UQ videos 100 times on 2x speed, nothing beats actually creating muscle memory by performing exams on your friends, partners or family members. Some might get annoyed after the umpteenth time and might even be able to cite your findings themselves by the end of it! But be confident that they’ll usually be more than happy to help.

4. Put it into practice: In second year, you start going into the wards and seeing actual patients. This gets you used to seeing people, and developing appropriate clinical and history taking skills. So don’t be afraid to jump in and practice what you’ve learned! Most patients are happy to be a part of medical education and trust me, it is better to work out the kinks and develop your own style of clinical communication early instead of having to do this during fourth year or your internship.

5. Be proactive: Don’t be afraid to volunteer to perform an exam on a patient in front of your clinical coach. If you do something wrong, they will mention it. This is what Phase 1 of the program is for – to make mistakes, to re-evaluate, and to retry. If nothing else, give yourself a pat on the back for having the confidence to try while your colleagues were too shy.

6. Attend mock OSCE’s: Organizations such as UQMS will usually hold mock OSCE exams. These are always good chances to get the feel of the examination conditions, so put yourself in as many of these situations as possible.

7. Enjoy the process and don’t forget these are only second year OSCEs: There isn’t much pressure on second years. We’re not expected to know everything just yet! Think about it. We still have two years of school to go through before being let loose in the wards as interns. Recognize the privilege of being able to study medicine and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

Good luck to everyone and see you on the wards!

Alain Humblet

Alain is a 2nd year MD student from Canada. When he’s not studying he likes to workout, explore or chill with a book and some coffee. Before starting his medical career Alain was a professional tennis coach, coaching at Wimbledon and the Aussie Open to name a few.

Last updated:
21 June 2024