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Practical Essentials for Passing the OSCE

16 September 2018 - Dr Allison Miller

The best way to prepare for the OSCE is to view every patient you see between now and then as an opportunity. Then, keep the following practical tips front of mind for every patient you see … practice makes perfect.

Start with Open Questions

Most OSCE stations have marks for communication skills. The examiner has a story that they want to tell you. Success starts with an open question. If you start asking closed questions too early, you may miss out on important information. Practice with your own patients by opening with “How can I help you today?” Wait until they have finished speaking, then follow with something like, “Can you tell me some more about that?” You may be amazed at what you learn with very little effort.

A Full Examination

Commit to doing one complete physical examination on a patient every session between now and the OSCE. If a patient comes in for a blood pressure script, do a complete cardiovascular examination. If it’s a sore knee, do a complete knee examination. This way, you’re giving your patients a great service, they’ll think you’re wonderful, and you’re getting to practice at least two physical examinations every day.

Develop a Sense of Time

There are no clocks or watches in the exam. You need to get a sense of how long eight minutes is. When you call in your next patient, put your phone in your pocket and turn the timer on for eight minutes (on silent and vibrate mode). After a while you’ll get a sense for how fast you need to move.

Differential Diagnosis

Write a differential diagnosis in your notes for every patient you see. Think about red flag diagnoses. Writing it down makes sure you do it.

Appropriate Tests

Are you ordering appropriate tests? Check the guidelines for all tests that you order.

Be Organized

Practice being organized with your management. These are the things you should think about: Pharmacological management, non-pharmacological management and a handout. Do they need a Referral to a specialist or Allied Health. Can they safely drive? Have you adequately safety netted. Think in terms of short term and long term management. Do this with every patient between now and the exams.


Smile. No matter how stressed you are, or how bad the previous patient was, walking into the consultation with a smile on your face will make the patient feel special. This is a great skill to practice for exam day.

So, in summary: start with a smile; ask open questions; do a full exam while considering differential diagnoses; check guidelines, be organized and remember the time. Good luck!

OSCE Preparation Course

Medcast has an OSCE Preparation course that helps registrars prepare for the OSCE Exam.  The course includes live practice webinars, that provide participants the opportunity to practice cases and receive feedback from our experienced Medical Educators. Read more about the course here.

Dr Allison Miller
Dr Allison Miller

Allison is a GP with over 20 years experience. She is a Medical Educator (ME) for a GP Training Provider and has been an OSCE examiner with the RACGP since 2010. Allison is one of the expert MEs that co-facilitate the Medcast exam preparation courses.

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