What is an OSCE exam?

What is an OSCE exam?

Anitha Updated on - Sep 13, 2023
What is an OSCE exam? NHS Exam Guide

OSCE stands for Objective Structured Clinical Examination. It is a type of examination used in various medical and healthcare education programs to assess the clinical skills and competencies of candidates in a standardized and objective manner. The OSCE format was designed to provide a fair and reliable evaluation of practical abilities, communication skills, and clinical decision-making.

In an OSCE exam, candidates rotate through a series of stations, each representing a different clinical scenario or task. At each station, candidates encounter simulated patients or standardized patients, trained actors who portray specific medical conditions or scenarios. The candidates must then interact with these patients, perform relevant clinical tasks, and respond to various clinical challenges as they would in a real-life healthcare setting.

Enquiry Now

The examiners at each station use structured checklists or scoring rubrics to objectively evaluate the candidates' performance. They assess various aspects of the candidates' skills, such as history-taking, physical examination, communication, clinical reasoning, and professionalism.

OSCE exams are widely used in medical schools, nursing programs, and other healthcare education settings as they provide a comprehensive and standardized evaluation of candidates' practical abilities. The OSCE format ensures that candidates are assessed consistently and objectively, allowing for a more reliable assessment of their clinical skills and readiness to practice in a healthcare setting.

What does OSCE stand for?

OSCE stands for Objective Structured Clinical Examination.


Objective refers to scoring of multiple examiners in different stations resulting in a more objective score at the end of the OSCE.

OSCE scenarios and assessment forms should be standardised across multiple stations. Each station within an OSCE should focus on an area of clinical competence. Subjective scoring plus feedback takes place for each station will bring to the fore what a student does well and what areas a student has shortcomings. The overall score of multiple examiners therefore is ‘more objective’ and the feedback provided is the most powerful tool to progress student’s learning.


Structured refers to the standardised consecutive format and procedures of the time constrained station based exam. 

Students should experience the same scenario within a station and each student must perform the same task within a fixed time duration. Each student should encounter the same level of difficulty and the same assessment form is used for each student.


Clinical refers to the fact that clinical skills are being assessed during the OSCE and the encounter is very much clinically based.

An OSCE station represents clinical situations that reflect what happens within healthcare work settings. Each station should look to challenge students to apply their clinical knowledge and skills as they work through each scenario encountered.


Examination is self-explanatory.

An OSCE offers a reliable way to assess a student’s competence across a range of high stakes scenarios.

mock-osce_1694586383.jpg (1203×777)


How is an OSCE implemented?

When setting up an OSCE the following aspects must be considered:

  • The number of stations to be used across the examination to create an OSCE circuit whereby a number of 15 – 18 stations is considered as ‘objective’. Students then rotate through a series of timed stations in sequential order.
  • At each station, students will have to work on a different clinical scenario. An example scenario may be: “A 44 year old man presents himself with a complaint of headaches. Obtain a complete history of this complaint”.
  • Each station often assesses multiple aspects of a student’s clinical competence across communication, clinical examination, medical procedures/prescription, exercise prescription, joint mobilization/manipulation techniques and interpretation of results.

Many global universities have published articles on instances of successful OSCE implementation such as Kaohsiung Medical University’s 2007 article in The Kaohsiung Journal of Medical Sciences on running such an exam. 

How Much Does It Cost?

The fee for OSCE is £794, whereas the resit charge is £397. Depending on whether you have found an employer who is willing to cover the cost, you may or may not have to pay exam fees yourself. This is a benefit that many NHS hospitals and private healthcare providers offer to their internationally qualified nurses. However, if you intend to earn your license before searching for jobs, you may have to make the payment.

Where Can I Take The OSCE?

You must “sit” the OSCE in the UK. There are just five authorized testing locations. Following is a list of NMC-approved OSCE providers as of 2023:

  1. Oxford Brookes University
  2. University of Northampton
  3. Ulster University
  4. Northumbria University
  5. Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Why OSCE training is Essential?

OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination) training is essential for several crucial reasons:

  • Practical Skill Assessment: OSCE exams focus on evaluating candidates' practical skills and competencies. These hands-on assessments ensure that candidates can effectively apply their theoretical knowledge in real clinical scenarios, providing a reliable indication of their readiness to practice in a healthcare setting.
  • Realistic Simulation: OSCE exams replicate real-life clinical environments and patient interactions, creating a realistic and immersive experience for candidates. This simulation helps candidates become more familiar with the challenges they might face in their professional roles and prepares them to handle such situations confidently.
  • Objective and Standardized Evaluation: OSCE exams use structured checklists and scoring rubrics, ensuring that all candidates are evaluated using the same criteria. This standardized approach reduces bias and ensures fairness in the assessment process.
  • Focus on Communication Skills: Effective communication is vital in healthcare settings. OSCE training places emphasis on candidates' communication skills, enabling them to develop the ability to convey information clearly, listen actively, and build rapport with patients and colleagues.
  • Evidence-Based Practice: OSCEs often require candidates to demonstrate their ability to apply evidence-based practice in decision-making. This encourages candidates to stay updated with the latest research and best practices in their field.
  • Enhance Confidence: By practicing and receiving feedback during OSCE training, candidates can build confidence in their abilities. Confidence is essential for delivering patient-centered care and handling challenging situations with composure.
  • Improving Pass Rates: OSCE training significantly improves candidates' chances of passing the examination on their first attempt. Preparation and practice increase candidates' familiarity with the exam format and content, leading to improved performance.
  • Patient Safety: OSCE training ensures that candidates are well-prepared to provide safe and effective patient care. By assessing their ability to perform clinical tasks safely, OSCEs contribute to patient safety and quality of care.
  • Professional Development: OSCE training is a valuable opportunity for professional development. Candidates receive constructive feedback on their performance, allowing them to identify areas for improvement and continued growth in their careers.

OSCE training plays a vital role in preparing healthcare professionals for their future roles. Through realistic simulation, standardized evaluation, and focus on practical skills and communication, candidates can become competent and confident healthcare practitioners, ready to provide high-quality care to patients.

What if I fail OSCE for the third time?

If you fail the OSCE for the third time, it can indeed be a challenging situation. Typically, your certificate of sponsorship will be curtailed, and you may be asked to return to your home country. However, if you came to the UK and joined an employer through our services, we are here to offer further support.

fail OSCE for the third time

At our organization, we understand the importance of passing the OSCE for securing your NMC pin number and ensuring your job security and continued employment in the UK. We believe in providing a helping hand to candidates who face this situation.

Our team includes expert solicitors and legal advisors who can offer you the necessary guidance and expertise to attempt the OSCE again. We are dedicated to helping you succeed and fulfilling your dream of working as a nurse in the UK.
Don't lose hope if you face challenges with the OSCE. We are here to support you throughout the process and provide the assistance you need to overcome this hurdle. Let us work together to achieve your goal of becoming a successful nurse in the UK.

Get in touch
Need any help
Chat with us
Start a Conversation
Hi! Click one of our member below to chat on WhatsApp