Between fairness and fear—Dental undergraduates’ attitudes towards objective structured clinical examinations

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Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) are an established method of assessment for dental undergraduates. There is little published dental education research exploring the views of undergraduates towards OSCEs.


To explore and describe the views of dental undergraduates towards OSCEs.


A sequential mixed methods design was applied. This included a cross‐sectional survey of all 204 dental undergraduates in Years 2, 3 and 4 within a UK dental school using an anonymous self‐report online questionnaire (response rate 57%), which was followed by two focus group interviews of n=10 Year‐2 students.


Most students gave positive views regarding the OSCE form of assessment. Questionnaire data highlighted that students felt that the OSCE tested their diagnostic, clinical and communication skills, and covered a wide range of skills and disciplines. Students also generally saw them as a useful educational exercise that went beyond testing recall of facts. Most students thought that the OSCEs were ‘fair’ assessments. Negative views focused around student lack of preparation for them, especially in earlier years. Focus group data explored further these concerns but also emphasised the need for more student‐centred support pre‐OSCE.


OSCEs can be an anxiety‐inspiring form of assessment for students in the early years of the programme. Dental educators need to be more aware of these concerns to develop strategies to increase student preparedness for OSCEs without increasing stress.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-331
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Dental Education
Issue number3
Early online date12 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


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