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Acad Med. 2004 Jun;79(6):597-601.

The influence of testing context and clinical rotation order on students' OSCE performance.

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Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Missouri, USA.



To investigate the influence of testing context and rotation order on third-year medical student performance on a common objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) station in both obstetrics-gynecology (ob-gyn) and psychiatry rotations.


Archival OSCE performance data (in the form of a 25-item binary content checklist) from one class of third-year medical students (n = 141) at Saint Louis University (2002-03) were aggregated and analyzed.


Despite the fact that the station was identical in both OSCEs, students were, in general, less likely to inquire about ob-gyn issues on the psychiatry OSCE and less likely to inquire about psychiatric issues on the ob-gyn OSCE, regardless of order of rotation. Order did have a positive effect on some results, such that students were more likely to mention menopause and vaginal dryness on the psychiatry OSCE if they had already had the ob-gyn rotation.


The testing context may influence student approaches to patients in ways that bias their collection and interpretation of information. OSCE evaluations may better approximate true clinical context and complexity by presenting case scenarios that reflect a broader range of diagnostic possibilities than those limited to the recently completed rotation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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