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The exam skills workshop as formative assessment for medical students

Introduction: Some University of Nottingham students undertake their final year surgical placement at the Lincoln County Hospital. Each rotation has 6 students and runs over 9 weeks with an exam skills workshop being conducted in the final week of the placement as a formative assessment tool. The workshop is a 6 station OSCE conducted using real patients and a number of examiners with varying levels of experience. Candidates have 7 minutes to perform the allocated task in each station, followed by 2 minutes for the examiner to give feedback to the candidate about his/her performance in that particular station.

Objective: To assess the importance of an exam skills workshop as a formative tool for final year medical students at the end of their surgical placement at the Lincoln County Hospital. Method: All the candidates were asked to complete an anonymous post-exam questionnaire. The results were tabulated on an excel database and then analysed. Student performance in the summative (annual) OSCE was compared against those Nottingham students who had not attended the workshop (control group).

Results: 24 students attended the workshop during the course of the academic year (2010-2011). 75% of them felt that it was reflective of the summative OSCE. 16% of the students felt that the examiners were not being strict with time-keeping in the exam skills workshop, which made this less reflective of the annual OSCE where time-keeping is strict. All the students felt that this experience would help them in coping better with the summative OSCE as they now had an idea about what to expect on the day. Pass rate in the annual OSCE for the students who attended the exam skills workshop was 100% as compared to 83% for the control group (p-value 0.0197).

Limitations: The results are limited by the small number of students who were exposed to this workshop. Another difficulty is ascertaining the extent that the exam skills workshop contributed to the student’s overall success in the summative OSCE.

Conclusion: The use of a formative assessment, an exam skills workshop, is valued by students. An exam skills workshop may improve performance in summative assessment. Further research that identifies and controls for confounding factors is needed to confirm this observation

Author(s): Hashim Z, Miller A., Fahim N.

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