Finding the ideal OSCE preparation course is not so easy. Preparing for the is definitely something you can’t do on your own. The most common are not enough for a practical exam that requires special preparation and lots of practice. The perfect prep course should include, among other things, mock OSCE stations, personalized feedback, an effective study plan, and exam-taking strategies. Keep reading if you want to know how to find the best OSCE preparation course and check out our expert OSCE study tips!
The difference between the OSCE and other important exams in your medical career, is that OSCEs are purely practical exams that test abilities beyond your theoretical knowledge, and are usually incorporated as part of other medical examinations, such as the recently cancelled , and the . Unlike theoretical examinations, which are meant to test your ability to apply knowledge, concepts, and principles to hypothetical scenarios and questions, an OSCE requires you to apply your knowledge and skills in an environment that mimics realistic cases. This also means that your traditional study techniques and materials won’t be enough to prepare for the OSCE; practicing with realistic cases and getting personalized feedback will be the key to your preparation.
The truth is that not many students know how to prepare for the OSCE. it is not enough to go through your study materials on your own or to review the content that will be evaluated. Given that this is a purely practical exam, taking a prep course will help you navigate it much more comfortably and know what to expect beforehand. Many students choose to rely on study groups to receive feedback from fellow residents, but they are unable to provide the personalized tips and observations that only a professional like a can provide.
There are many commercial preparatory courses available online, which may be excellent for becoming familiar with the OSCE format, but how can you identify a course that adjusts to your individual needs? So firstly, if you are thinking about taking an OSCE prep course, you should know what it must include.
Want to learn more about the NAC OSCE? Take a look at this infographic:
1. Mock OSCE stations
The objective of mock OSCE stations is to recreate the exact same environment of the real OSCE to help you get a realistic experience of what the exam will be like. They can help you build the behavioral skills to pass any OSCE. In real practice, doctors are not constantly narrating their actions, but in OSCEs this is a must. The habit of voicing everything you do can only be achieved by going through mock stations. Ideally, you will enter a station and follow instructions just like you would in a real test, while an expert exam advisor takes notes on your performance and observes your behavior.
Mock stations do not need to be done in actual rooms. Online mock stations will work just as fine as long as you follow the same rules, such as “entering” the station after the buzzer sounds, politely greeting the standardized patient, and voicing your maneuvers. You should always receive personalized feedback after performing any kind of practice examination, so that you know what aspects of your performance need additional work.
2. OSCE Study and Exam-Taking Strategies
There are no specific reference books about OSCE stations for you to study from. Your study materials should include your notes, sample cases, and ethical and legal guidelines for medical professionals. Keep in mind that the OSCE evaluates your practical skills and abilities, so textbooks are, unfortunately, not going to be enough to prepare for the OSCE. To ace the OSCE, you need to prepare a strategy for any possible OSCE station.
Here are some examples of effective OSCE study strategies:
3. Personalized Feedback
During your OSCE there will be an examiner in the room with you, taking careful notes of your performance, which can be extremely intimidating for some. The examiner is trained not to express any sort of reaction or hint of your performance whatsoever. During your preparation, being able to resort to someone who adopts that same role and reveals their feedback is crucial to overcoming this anxiety. Moreover, experiencing the “silent treatment” you will receive during the real exam will help you get used to this aspect of the OSCE stations. You will see that having no visible signs of approval or disapproval of your performance during the test does not indicate the quality of your performance. Learning to ignore the examiner’s presence, except for when they talk to you directly, is a great skill!
An advisor might notice things that typically go under one’s radar, such as the fact that you didn’t introduce yourself to the patient, or that you didn’t wash your hands before starting a procedure. They should also provide useful advice on what to wear, how to improve your body language and non-verbal cues, and how to manage your time more efficiently.
If you would like to hear how one of BeMo's student's aced the NAC OSCE after failing once before, check out this video:
The ideal OSCE preparation course should include a series of additional resources for you to check out in your spare time to complement your practice sessions. For example, if your OSCE advisor considers that you struggle with anxiety during your practice, they might send you videos or reading material on stress management techniques. If, on the other hand, you’re having conversational issues, such as using too many filler words, they might recommend books on how to improve your speech.
Additionally, your professional OSCE advisor should probably discuss healthy habits as part of your “homework”. Exercising regularly and working on your nutrition will have a big impact on your overall performance. Similarly, getting adequate sleep and taking breaks during the day is critical for your mental, physical, and social growth. The OSCE is a real challenge, and you must be the best version of yourself to overcome it.
5. An Effective Study Plan
Studying for the OSCE can be overwhelming if you don’t structure your study materials into manageable chunks. Every student is different, they all start at different levels, and they have different needs and study rhythms. Your OSCE preparation course should be well aware of this and help you develop a personalized study schedule.
Coming up with an effective study plan will play a big role in your OSCE preparation. Make sure to set attainable goals and a detailed schedule during the six months prior to the test. This study plan might have to be modified several times as you go, since you will realize that some cases or maneuvers need further preparation or more dedication than expected.
To start developing your study plan you should first establish objectives. Start by identifying the kinds of tasks that you will have to perform, and the core areas of knowledge. Make sure to leave no gaps in any area and go back to the basics if you think you need to review some concepts before moving on to more complex subjects. Creating a checklist and identifying key orders is a great technique to create your study plan. Make sure to have it in a notebook, or somewhere where you can easily access it at any time, since you will resort to it constantly throughout your preparation.
Interested in some more OSCE prep tips? This infographic is for you:
Prepare for your OSCE with Others
Studying in groups will allow you to discuss learning objectives, maximize your retention, and stay on track more easily. Practicing for the OSCE is not really something that should be done entirely on your own, as it involves lots of different forms of interaction. If you study with other test-takers, you will be able to assess each other and create a more realistic atmosphere than if you are by yourself trying to imagine OSCE scenarios in your head.
A good tip for your group study sessions is to get each member of your study team to come up with common patient presentations that they understand well and test each other. Being able to explain something in detail is the ultimate proof that you fully understand it, so these kinds of active learning techniques are ideal for a practical exam like the OSCE.
You should start preparing for your OSCE at least six months in advance, the sooner the better. The more time you have, the more changes you will be able to make in your study schedule. Starting early will also give you the advantage of testing different study techniques and reviewing complex subjects more than once, but most importantly, it will give you time to practice as much as possible. Given that the OSCE is a practical exam, practice is absolutely essential and the key to achieving your desired score.
Practice with Mock Cases as Much as You Can
There’s the myth that you can’t really prepare for the OSCE. Some students think that if you review the content that’s part of your medical training, complete rotations and interact with patients on a regular basis, this means that you already have the required exam skills and knowledge, and that there is not much else to do. But the truth is that you need to experience the test first-hand in order to understand whether you are truly ready. Adequate preparation can only be achieved through intensive practice using realistic OSCE simulations and personalized feedback.
Need more OSCE prep help? This video will guide you through how to prepare effectively:
You will hardly be able to have an outstanding performance in your OSCE without the help of others. Whether it is with a study group or with an expert OSCE advisor, proper practice and feedback is the key to achieving your desired score. Practicing in the right environment and receiving personalized feedback are also essential to spot your weaknesses and become aware of little details that might have gone under your radar. Your OSCE prep course should offer you the possibility to work one-on-one with an expert advisor that can give you accurate advice, homework, and help you develop an efficient study plan. With the right help, the OSCE will feel just like any other exam!
1. Do I need an OSCE preparation course?
Given that receiving personalized feedback is extremely important when it comes to preparing for your OSCE, taking an OSCE preparation course is highly recommended. While it is great to form study groups with test-takers who have similar backgrounds and objectives, they cannot be responsible for your success as much as an OSCE prep advisor.
2. Are there any books that can help me prepare for the OSCE stations?
There are no specific reference books about the OSCE stations that are approved by official bodies. However, the Medical Council of Canada has compiled a list of reference books and online resources that have been used to validate the exam’s questions and content. Whether you are taking an OSCE in Canada or the United States, you can check out this list and learn what kind of materials have been used to create your upcoming OSCE stations.
3. What is being assessed during an OSCE exam?
OSCEs are competency-based exams that assess your clinical proficiency and how well you can apply theoretical medical knowledge to real cases. Additionally, OSCEs generally assess your patient-interaction skills and your preparedness for independent practice.
4. How long in advance should I start preparing for the OSCE?
Starting to prepare for the OSCE at least 6 months in advance should give you enough time to get enough practice, although each student has different study rhythms and might need more or less time.
5. What is the best way to prepare for the OSCE?
Being a practical exam, practicing with realistic cases will be the key to success. Receiving personalized feedback during your practice is also of major importance since you will be able to identify and work on your weaknesses.
6. What else can I do to prepare for my OSCE outside of the prep course?
In addition to your OSCE preparation course, you can form study groups with your classmates and colleagues. Additionally, you can practice on your own by asking your family and friends to be the standardized patient.
7. How much time do I have to complete each station? Will it be enough?
Each OSCE exam will have its own time limits but usually you have from 10 to 15 minutes per station. The station instructions would have been reviewed by many physicians and the tasks would have been deemed appropriate for the time provided. Most candidates finish the stations on time or ahead of time. If you are organized and complete the tasks as asked, there should be enough time to complete each station.
8. How important is having a study plan?
Planning your exam preparation should be the first item on your to-do list. An effective study schedule will allow you to cover every subject you need to cover and still have enough time to review and practice as much as you need. Time management is essential for your success on the test.