Patient Care OSCE Student Orientation

Last updated: 5/15/24

This page is meant to provide you with some more specific information about how the Patient Care 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

Where and when do I need to arrive on my OSCE day?

Your OSCE confirmation email (and reminder) will have your start time and orientation location in it.

May 27-June 7: Student orientation takes place in room T-553 in the Health Sciences Building (HSB).

June 10-June 21: Student orientation takes place in room 215 in the Health Sciences Education Building (HSEB).

Campus buildings are locked during business hours. If you have a Husky Card, you can use that to enter the building through any door with key card access. If you don’t have a Husky Card, the easiest way to enter the HSB is through the Health Sciences Lobby on the 3rd floor of the C-Wing, where the doors will be unlocked. Once you are inside the building, you’ll need to go up to the 5th floor of the T-Wing to find room T-553. The easiest way to enter the HSEB is through the door on the northeast corner of the building (Pacific St side).

Start Times:

  • Round 1: 8:00am start time
  • Round 2: 9:55am start time

Please arrive a few minutes early to give yourself time to check-in and get ready for the exam.

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 patient write-ups that you will log into Canvas to record.
  • You will need to leave all other items, including any informational cards or notes, in the orientation room. We will provide you with a blank notepad to take notes during the exam.

What will the OSCE stations look like?

There are three different types of stations in the Patient Care OSCE:

  1. Standardized patient case with write-up
    • 14 minutes with patient for history, physical exam, and next steps
    • 9 minutes for write-up
  2. Standardized patient case with short break
    • 14 minutes with patient for history, physical exam, and next steps
    • 9 minutes of break time
  3. Clinical cases
    • Patient interview over Zoom, or
    • A simulated medical task on a trainer

How will I know where to go during the exam?

We run two parallel circuits, or tracks during each OSCE round. We use the colors Blue and Pink as the track designations. You will be assigned to either Blue or Pink track during orientation. All the Blue track stations have blue door signs; all the Pink track stations have pink door signs. Don’t jump the tracks!

We use a system of bells to signal when it is time to move to the next part of the station. You will be given 2 minutes to read the instructions on the door outside each station.

  • Bell #1: This is the signal to enter the room and begin the 14-minute patient encounter. DO NOT ENTER EARLY.
  • Bell #2: You will get a two-minute warning bell before the end of the patient encounter.
  • Bell #3: This signals the end of the patient encounter and the beginning of the write-up/break section. If you are on a station with a write-up, you should start the write-up immediately. If you are on a station with a break, you can leave the patient area but do not leave the room at this time. DO NOT LEAVE THE ROOM EARLY.
  • Bell #4: You will get a two-minute warning before the end of the write-up/break section.
  • Bell #5: This signals the end of the 9-minute write-up/break section. Time to move to the next station.

At the end of each station there are two minutes for you to move to the next station and read the next set of instructions. The proctors will tell you where to go and help keep you moving through the exam in the correct sequence.

NOTE: There are some stations where you will ignore the bells. For these stations, proctors will give you clear directions about when you’ll need to switch stations.

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. The badge will also be color-coded to let you know which track you are supposed to be on.

How will I know what to do at each station?

As mentioned above, 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. During your 2 minutes between stations, 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.

What does an OSCE write-up look like?

OSCE write-ups can take somewhat different formats but for the most common format, you’ll be asked to provide the following:

  • Relevant history (positives and negatives) 
  • Exam findings (positives and negatives)
  • Possible diagnoses with findings that support each diagnosis
  • Recommended diagnostic tests

For the format described above, here is an example of the form with instructions that you would see in Canvas.

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:

  • You may introduce yourself to the patient as either a medical student or a doctor. However, you should act as if your role is that of a resident physician with primary responsibility for caring for the patient. Do NOT defer decision-making to others (e.g., “I’m going to go talk to my preceptor now…”).
  • 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.
    • However, some vital signs will be provided.
  • 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.
  • If you do not have the specific instrument for an exam you would like to perform (e.g., ophthalmoscope), you can simulate the exam with the patient. The patient will tell you the results of the exam. 
  • You are responsible for managing your own time during each station. At the end of the patient encounter (second bell), 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.

What time will I be done with the OSCE?

The OSCE will take about two hours.

  • If you are in Round 1, you’ll be done around 10:10am.
  • If you are in Round 2, you’ll be done around 12:05pm.

NOTE: If you receive accommodations for extra time on exams, you may need to stay late to utilize your extra time to complete write-ups.

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

  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before. Just like the first day of a new rotation, 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.
  • Read and follow the directions for each station carefully. They will tell you exactly what you need to do to complete the station.
  • Relax! Most students pass this exam, so stay calm and have fun.

When will I find out how I did?

The exam runs for 4 weeks straight. We compile scores as soon as possible after all students have completed the exam on June 21st. This can take some time, so please be patient.