OSCEs in Psychiatry

Sanju George

The Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), in which candidates go through a series of ‘stations’, each testing a range of clinical, communication and practical skills, has been in use in medical examinations for over 40 years. The Royal College of Psychiatrists last year incorporated the OSCE into the MRCPsych Part I Examination, replacing the traditional ‘long case’. The utility, reliability and validity of OSCEs in testing undergraduates in psychiatry are well established.

This book is intended to help candidates preparing for the MRCPsych Part I Examination. It contains 60 OSCE stations in psychiatry. Each station follows a similar format: a construct, instructions to the candidate and a checklist – all presented in an easy-to-read ‘bullets and boxes’ style. Examples of suggested questions (often verbatim) and some theoretical discussion of the topic should help sustain the reader’s interest. The stations discussed present the right mix of various psychiatric subspecialties and cover a wide range of situations intended to test the candidate’s clinical, communication and practical skills.

From the trainee’s perspective, the introductory chapter is particularly important, as it gives practical tips on how to prepare for the OSCE. The ‘how to fail an OSCE’ section in the same chapter also demands careful reading. This book can be used by trainers who themselves may not be familiar with OSCEs, and some examples can be incorporated into clinical ‘mock examination’ scenarios. The timing of the publication is excellent, given the recent inclusion of an OSCE in the MRCPsych Part I Examination and the current gap in the market.

My only criticism is that the editor has probably been over-ambitious in stating that the book is also aimed at ‘medical students, postgraduates and practitioners in other clinical specialties’. There are similar OSCE guides in other medical specialties and hence the impact of this book beyond its remit is limited; a more apt title would have been OSCEs for MRCPsych Part I.