Traditional finals and OSCEs in predicting consultant and self-reported clinical skills of PRHOs: a pilot study


Dr D J Cahill, University of Bristol, Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Level D, St Michael's Hospital, Bristol BS2 8EG, UK. Tel.: 00 44 117 928 5294; Fax: 00 44 117 928 5290; E-mail:


Introduction  As we move from standard ‘long case’ final examinations to new objective structured formats, we need to ensure the new is at least as good as the old. Furthermore, knowledge of which examination format best predicts medical student progression and clinical skills development would be of value.

Methods  A group of medical students sat both the standard long case examination and the new objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) to introduce this latter examination to our Medical School for final MB. At the end of their pre-registration year, the group and their supervising consultants submitted performance evaluation questionnaires.

Results  Thirty medical students sat both examinations and 20 returned evaluation questionnaires. Of the 72 consultants approached, 60 (83%) returned completed questionnaires. No correlation existed between self- and consultant reported performance. The traditional finals examination was inversely associated with consultant assessment. Better performing students were not rated as better doctors. The OSCE (and its components) was more consistent and showed positive associations with consultant ratings across the board.

Discussion  Major discrepancies exist between the 2 examination formats, in data interpretation and practical skills, which are explicitly tested in OSCEs but less so in traditional finals. Standardised marking schemes may reduce examiner variability and discretion and weaken correlations across the 2 examinations. This pilot provides empirical evidence that OSCEs assess different clinical domains than do traditional finals. Additionally, OSCEs improve prediction of clinical performance as assessed by independent consultants.

Conclusion  Traditional finals and OSCEs correlate poorly with one another. Objective structured clinical examinations appear to correlate well with consultant assessment at the end of the pre-registration house officer year.