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What is an objective structured practical examination in anatomy?



Assessing teaching-learning outcomes in anatomical knowledge is a complex task that requires the evaluation of multiple domains: theoretical, practical, and clinical knowledge. In general, theoretical knowledge is tested by a written examination system constituted by multiple choice questions (MCQs) and/or short answer questions (SAQ). The assessment of practical knowledge (three-dimensional anatomical concepts) involves oral, spot, or objective structured practical examinations (OSPE). Finally, the application of anatomical knowledge to patients is tested mainly through objective structured clinical examinations (OSCE). The major focus of this study is the OSPE. Although many schools challenge students using this tool in practical examinations in the early phase of the curriculum, the true meaning of OSPE is frequently forgotten and it becomes, in reality, a spot examination. This article, for the first time, describes how the concept of the OSPE has evolved and is currently being used to assess the practical domain of anatomical knowledge in a problem-based curriculum at Alfaisal University College of Medicine. In addition, it describes the main differences from the spot examination, which is normally used in traditional medical curricula. The authors believe that the OSPE remains the most efficient tool to assess the practical aspects of anatomical knowledge in a system where basic knowledge is integrated with the clinical or functional part of anatomy. However, this contention only holds true if the OSPE process revolves around structured objectives. Anat Sci Educ 6: 125–133. © 2012 American Association of Anatomists.

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