Oral examinations in medical education

Med Educ. 1985 Jul;19(4):290-3. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.1985.tb01323.x.


A questionnaire survey was conducted on the nature of the oral examinations in different disciplines in the medical schools in Sri Lanka. A total of 352 students from Peradeniya and Jaffna medical faculties and pre-registration house officers, including Colombo faculty graduates of the two teaching hospitals, responded to the questionnaire. The results of the survey, which included twelve disciplines, reveal that the time duration of the oral encounter ranged from 10 to 20 minutes. The number of questions asked ranged from five to nine. Detailed analysis of the intellectual level of the questions showed that more than 63% of the questioning was at simple recall level and none at the level of problem-solving. These results show that the oral examination in addition to its inherent weakness of low reliability and objectivity also lacks validity in terms of content sampling. Its predictive validity of professional competence, which requires problem-solving skills, is questionable. Content analysis of the items also revealed that all the abilities tested in the orals could best be tested in a pen-and-paper examination or a structured practical or clinical examination.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Educational Measurement*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic*
  • Mental Recall
  • Professional Competence
  • Sri Lanka