How standardised patients award global scores in OSCEs: a qualitative study

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Standardized patients (SPs) are often asked to award global scores on the humanistic aspects of a candidate’s performance in an OSCE. However, little is known about the process by which SPs arrive at their mark.
Five focus groups of SPs, using a convenience sample, were used to collect data until saturation. Thematic analysis was carried out independently by three researchers using a grounded theory approach.

Four major themes contributed to their decision-making process: environment, relationships within the exam, preparedness for the task and expectations of the student’s performance. Environmental factors included the station itself, the rating scale and examiner fatigue. Relationship factors included first impressions, the sense of purpose derived from examining and a tendency to mirror the examiner’s reaction. Factors relating to preparedness for task involved experience as an SP and technical aspects, such as the need for calibration. Lastly, expectations of performance were related to preconceptions about what makes a ‘good’ student, including their level of studies, appearance and technical performance.

In assessing students, SPs drew on their wider attitudes and experiences. SPs did not limit their assessment to humanistic traits but often included technical performance. Thus, SPs to some extent assessed a similar construct to examiners and this may help to explain the increased reliability associated with using SP scores. SP global scores are a useful adjunct but the process by which SPs award marks is complex and provides a challenge for training and standardisation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2012
EventAMEE - Lyon, France
Duration: 22 Aug 200731 Aug 2012




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