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Peer assessment of competence


John J Norcini PhD, Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER®), 3624 Market Street, 4th Floor, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA. Tel.: 00 1 215 823 2170; Fax: 00 1 215 386 2321; E-mail:


Objective  This instalment in the series on professional assessment summarises how peers are used in the evaluation process and whether their judgements are reliable and valid.

Method  The nature of the judgements peers can make, the aspects of competence they can assess and the factors limiting the quality of the results are described with reference to the literature. The steps in implementation are also provided.

Results  Peers are asked to make judgements about structured tasks or to provide their global impressions of colleagues. Judgements are gathered on whether certain actions were performed, the quality of those actions and/or their suitability for a particular purpose. Peers are used to assess virtually all aspects of professional competence, including technical and non-technical aspects of proficiency. Factors influencing the quality of those assessments are reliability, relationships, stakes and equivalence.

Conclusion  Given the broad range of ways peer evaluators can be used and the sizeable number of competencies they can be asked to judge, generalisations are difficult to derive and this form of assessment can be good or bad depending on how it is carried out.