Revision hints and tips for medical students . Part II.
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by David Brill

In this special three-part blog, to coincide with Osler’s Room revision courses in London, we’ll look at techniques to ace your OSCEs from year 3, 4 and 5 through to finals.

In part I, we covered some of the key theoretical points you need to understand to maximise your success in OSCEs. Now we’ll look at specific things you should do to get in the right mindset as the day approaches, and some strategies for the day itself.

Part II: Getting in the zone in the run-up to medical school OSCES


·      A few weeks before your OSCE, start practising in threes, where the third student is an observer/examiner. Give each other constructive feedback and take it on board.


·      Practise under strict timed conditions, allowing 1-2 minutes at the end for summarising and presenting your findings. Get in the habit of ALWAYS doing this after an examination so it becomes second nature. There are lots of marks available for this in real OSCEs so you don’t want to miss out!

Get in the habit of standing up tall and presenting your findings clearly out loud during practice sessions. 

·      Try to practice in cubicles or dedicated clinical skills rooms as much as possible. The more you can emulate the real OSCE setting, the more comfortable you will feel with it on the day.



·      Gradually increase the frequency of your practice sessions as OSCE day approaches. Like training for a marathon, the key is to reach peak performance on the day itself: don’t tire yourself out too early, or leave everything too late.


·      Do mock OSCEs with your friends or student societies. These are absolutely invaluable practice! Take it seriously: replicate the number of stations and timings that you will face on the day and use proper mark schemes. This will get you accustomed to the time pressure and rapid changeovers between stations, greatly increasing your confidence on the day.


·      It’s okay to be nervous! Think of OSCEs like an audition for the role of doctor in a TV show. You need to inhabit this role by dressing, behaving and speaking like a real doctor, to deliver a convincing performance for the examiner. It doesn’t matter how scared and very-very-far-from-being-a-doctor you feel on the inside – just channel your efforts into acting calm and confident on the outside, and if you do a good enough job they won’t know the difference!

 I found it easier to deal with OSCE nerves by imagining I was auditioning for a role of doctor in a TV show. 
By pretending to be cool and confident on the outside, your examiner will never know what's going on inside.


·      Maximise first impressions: it’s essential for your image as an aspiring doctor that you are clean, dress smart, smell nice, stand up straight, smile, be polite, make eye contact and speak loudly and clearly. Try to look like you’re cool, composed and have done this before. Try to get a good night's sleep before so you look and feel fresh.

·      Use Osler Room’s four questions at the start of any clinical history. These give you loads of useful information and I found them extremely helpful for getting quickly to a diagnosis. Make sure you practise in advance so you look comfortable using them!


1.    Have you had this before?


2.    Did it come on suddenly or gradually?


3.    Is it getting better, worse or staying the same?


4.    What were you doing at the time?



·      Ask for a time out. If you feel a station is going badly, there is absolutely no harm in asking for a short pause to think and run through things in your head to consider what you might have missed. I did this many times and it often helps you turn a station around.


·      Know when to wrap it up. When the buzzer goes to tell you there is one minute remaining, force yourself to stop whatever you’re doing and move immediately to your summary and closure. That’s an entire section of marks you might miss if you don’t get around to it.


·      Put the last station behind you. No matter how it went, you simply cannot afford to dwell on it when you’ve got more stations to get through. Draw a line under it and move on, otherwise you risk one bad station becoming two bad stations, and before you know it you’re in a downward spiral of doom.

Tanked on the last station? PUT IT OUT OF YOUR MIND and move on!

I'm David Brill, author of Making a Medic: The Ultimate Guide to Medical School (special offer below). In a series of blogs on Remarxs, I'll be sharing helpful hints and tips on how to conquer medical school, including honing your study skills and getting the most out of clinical placements. As someone who's just been there and done it myself, I'll show you how I studied effectively, saved time, got top marks (and won a prize!) and landed my pick of jobs in one of the UK's most competitive deaneries, all whilst maintaining a healthy work-life balance, raising a young family and keeping up with various sports and hobbies. 

For loads more advice on how to ace OSCEs and the rest of medical school, check out my book Making a Medic: The Ultimate Guide to Medical School. It covers everything from preclinical years to finals, including written exams, the SJT and PSA.






Click on 'Look inside' from this Amazon link to buy the book or preview more pages






Special offer



And as a special offer for Remarxs readers, you can now buy Making a Medic for the bargain discount price of just £10. Available at:  

Originally published 20 November 2019 , updated 28/02/2020

About the Author

FY2 junior doctor in North London and author of Making a Medic: The Ultimate Guide to Medical School. Sharing regular tips on how to survive medical school without going insane in the process. Graduated St George's, University of London 2018 with three distinctions, one merit and the Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics prize. Remarxs blogger since Oct 2019.

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