Foundations OSCE Student Orientation

Last updated: 10/06/23

This page is meant to provide you with some more specific information about how the Foundations OSCE will work. You will also receive a brief orientation on the day of the exam. If you have any additional questions that you need answered prior to exam day that are not addressed here, you can consult the general OSCE information page, or email

What should I bring with me to the OSCE?

  • You should come prepared to see patients, which includes wearing appropriate attire and bringing any clinical equipment you wish to have available.
  • You will need a laptop for this exam. There will be a patient write-up that you will log into Canvas to record. You will also need to listen to sounds on your computer, so you must be able to play sounds over your computer speakers or have headphones with you.
  • We will provide you with a blank notepad to take notes during the exam.

What will the OSCE stations look like?

There are two different types of stations in the Foundations OSCE:

  1. History station (11 minutes)
    • This can be taking a straightforward history based on the patient’s presenting concern, or it may be a specialized type of history you’ve learned in your FCM workshops.
    • You will not be asked to perform review of systems.
    • You may also be asked to collect background information from the patient (see below).
  2. Physical exam station (11 minutes)
    • You will be asked to demonstrate a specific type of physical exam on the standardized patient (SP).
    • You may be asked to document your exam results as well as provide an interpretation of exam findings.
    • Please verbalize as you are performing the exam, so the SP knows what you are doing/inspecting and can record your exam accurately. It’s OK to use medical terminology as needed (e.g., anatomical landmarks).

How will the examiners know who I am?

During orientation you will be given a badge with a 3-digit number–this is your OSCE ID number. Be sure to place it in a visible position so the person scoring your exam can read the number easily.

How will I know what to do at each station?

Outside each room is a sign with information about the patient’s chief concern and a list of the tasks you are expected to accomplish at that station. You will have two minutes between stations to read the instructions. During that time, you are allowed to copy information from the door sign to your notepad to bring in the room with you.

What does “relevant medical database” mean?

You will see this phrase in the instructions for some stations. For the purposes of this exam, you should assume that you are the first person to interview this patient, and you do not have access to any previous medical records. This means that we expect you to collect pertinent background history information from the patient. This may include some/all of the following:

  • Past medical history
  • Other current health problems
  • Family history
  • Social history
  • Medications
  • Allergies
  • Health behavior history (e.g., diet, exercise, substance use, sexual history)

NOTE: You should NOT perform a review of systems for any OSCE station.

How should I “act” during the OSCE?

We know that the OSCE is an artificial situation and can be somewhat awkward. Here are some tips to help it go more smoothly:

  • Introduce yourself to the patient as a medical student.
  • For the purposes of the exam, you should assume that:
    • This patient is being seen at your clinic for the first time, and
    • The patient was NOT interviewed by a medical assistant prior to meeting you.
  • When you examine the patient, you should explain what you are looking for and what you find on physical exam, just as you would during a regular patient exam. However, remember that your examiner (either the standardized patient or a clinician observer) also needs to know what you are doing so they can record it, and they are not mind-readers! So always err on the side of over-explaining what you are doing, especially if it isn’t obvious (e.g., visual inspection). You should use technical/anatomical terms for the sake of the examiner as needed during the exam.
  • You are responsible for managing your own time during each station. At the end of the patient encounter, you will have to move to the next part of the station, and will not be allowed to continue to talk to the patient. The required tasks are all described in the instructions; if you do not complete all the required tasks in the time allotted, you may not pass the station.

Do you have any other tips for how to have a successful OSCE?

  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before. Just like for any exam, it is best to be rested and alert.
  • Treat the standardized patients like they are real patients coming to you for help. If you can immerse yourself into the clinical context and focus on helping the person in front of you, you will do well.
  • Relax! Most students pass this exam, so stay calm and have fun.

When will I find out how I did?

The OSCE takes about a month to administer to all Foundations campuses. We will compile scores as soon as possible after all students have completed the exam at the end of October. This can take some time, so please be patient.