Objective structured clinical examination: Challenges and opportunities from students' perspective

PLoS One. 2022 Sep 2;17(9):e0274055. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0274055. eCollection 2022.


Background: Objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) has been used in evaluating clinical competence in health professions education around the world. Despite its implementation in Iraq for around a decade, limited studies investigated the challenges and opportunities to improve the standard and quality of this examination from student's perspective.

Methods: This qualitative study was based on an online open-ended questionnaire survey that was carried out in the College of Medicine, Hawler Medical University, Iraq at the beginning of the 2018-2019 academic year. A convenience sample of 180 students in the clinical phase (4th, 5th, and 6th) year of study were invited to participate.

Results: A total of 141 students responded to the online questionnaire. The participants were generally happy with the OSCE, and they recognized many positive aspects, including the role of the OSCE in increasing confidence, engagement and motivating learning, the role of the OSCE in achieving a higher level of learning, the content validity of the OSCE, and the quality of the OSCE. The main weak points of the OSCE identified by the students included unfairness, gender discrimination, duration of the OSCE, and the behavior of the examiners. Suggestions to improve the OSCE examination included improving the examiners' behavior, with the focus on the training of the examiners, and avoiding discrimination among students.

Conclusions: Most of the students were generally satisfied with the current OSCE examination. The main concern of the students was related to the organization of the OSCE. Valuable suggestions were raised to improve the OSCE quality including examiners' and simulated patients' training.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Educational Measurement*
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Physical Examination
  • Students, Medical*

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.