Use of Objective Structured Practical Examinations (OSPE’s) to assess science student practical skills and graduate attributes.

Activity: Disseminating Research Invited talk


Objective Structured Practical Examinations (OSPE’s) are assessments of theoretical, practical and problem-solving skills at multiple stations which are frequently used to evaluate clinical practical skills (Harden and Cairncross, 1980). Although non-clinical disciplines rarely use this successful assessment style, we have adapted this format to assess a wide range of communication, ethics, numeracy, graphic interpretation and science laboratory practical skills. This approach helps to prepare students for research projects and enhances graduate attributes and employability skills.
This presentation will discuss how we developed this idea to replace a large, traditional, all-day practical class in one course. We will then explore how the concept was refined over several years, how we overcame resistance from colleagues to try something different, and why student demand has meant its gradual expansion across multiple science degree programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate level. In addition, we will highlight how student partners have been key in helping us deliver these learning experiences more effectively, and how we are helping students use their OSPE experiences to better prepare them for the job market.
Period12 Aug 2019
Held atUniversity of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • physiology
  • pharmacology
  • OSPE
  • objective structured practical examination
  • assessment
  • student
  • medical science
  • graduate attributes
  • employability