Student perceptions of Objective Structured Practical Examination (OSPE) assessments

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Background and aims
Objective Structured Practical Examination (OSPE) assessments of theoretical, practical and problem-solving skills at multiple stations have been used to examine skills in physiology, anatomy and sports science to enhance employability and prepare students for research projects.
The aim was to discover whether the OSPE assessment used for physiology and anatomy student cohorts could be successfully adapted for pharmacology students, and to obtain student feedback regarding the experience.
Summary of work and outcomes
Students were assessed at six stations each focusing on different pharmacological principles or laboratory skills.

Figure 1: OSPE assessment stations used for pharmacology students.
Students had access to revision videos, written material and Quizlet revision exercises. Anonymised student feedback was sought via a questionnaire. 20 of the 22 students responded.
90% (n=20) of students preferred the OSPE to a “traditional” practical with 85% (n=20) stating that the OSPE made them consider skills, other than scientific skills, that employers expect them to possess. Most rated the non-technical aspects of the stations more difficult than the scientific aspects (see Fig. 2).

Figure 2: Student response to “Did you find the science aspects or the non-technical aspects of the stations (i.e. time management, organisation, communication skills etc) harder? 1 = science skills, 5 = non-technical skills”.
The OSPE engaged students more effectively than a traditional practical and focused their attention on generic/transferrable skills that are required to excel in pharmacology and other areas.
Feedback from staff and students was positive, and almost identical to feedback from previous physiology and anatomy cohorts, suggesting that the assessment was successfully adapted. To continue to improve teaching of lab skills, mobile-friendly videos are being developed to help visual learners better review the tasks/material outside the lab. Several students stated that ‘it’s not the science that’s hard, it’s organising yourself, planning what you do, and working within time constraints that’s the hard thing’. Results have been fed back to the wider staff community to consider whether staff need to enhance what is provided for students to improve their non-technical skills.
Adapting the OSPE for pharmacology students gives an opportunity to practice and learn practical skills as well as implement in practice pharmacological principles. Staff have a more detailed understanding of students' capabilities and graduate attributes. The successful adaptation of the OSPE shows that this form of practical teaching and assessment can be adapted for other institutions and medical science disciplines.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2018
EventPharmacology 2018 - QEII Centre, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 18 Dec 201820 Dec 2018


ConferencePharmacology 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • objective structured practical examination
  • OSPE
  • practical skills
  • Students
  • pharmacology
  • physiology


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