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Int J Med Educ. 2018 Sep 29;9:255-261. doi: 10.5116/ijme.5b96.17ca.

Faculty perspectives on the use of standardized versus non-standardized oral examinations to assess medical students.

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Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, Harvard Medical School, USA.



To determine if faculty perceive standardized oral examinations to be more objective and useful than the non-standardized format in assessing third-year medical students' learning on the obstetrics and gynecology rotation.


Obstetrics and gynecology faculty at three teaching hospitals were sampled to complete a survey retrospectively comparing the standardized oral examination (SOE) and non-standardized or traditional oral examinations (TOE).  A Likert scale (0-5) was used to assess satisfaction, objectivity, and usefulness of SOE and TOE.  Wilcoxon signed rank test was performed to compare median Likert scale scores for each survey item. A Spearman's correlation coefficient was used to investigate the relationship between the perceived level of objectivity and SOE characteristics. For qualitative measures, content analysis was applied.


Sixty-six percent (n=25) of eligible faculty completed the survey. Faculty perceived the standardized oral examination as significantly more objective compared with the non-standardized (z=-3.15, p=0.002). Faculty also found SOE to be more useful in assessing overall clerkship performance (z=-2.0, p<0.05). All of the survey participants were willing to administer the standardized examination again.  Faculty reported strengths of the SOE to be uniformity, fairness, and ease of use. Major weaknesses reported included inflexibility and decreased ability to assess students' higher order reasoning skills.


Faculty found standardized oral examinations to be more objective in assessing third-year medical students' clinical competency when compared with a non-standardized approach.  This finding can be meaningfully applied to medical education programs internationally.


assessment; obstetrics and gynecology; standardized oral examination

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