Top Tips for OSCE

It’s that time of the year again! With the OSCEs fast approaching, we’ve decided to put together a list of top tips to help refresh your memory or give a bit of additional information for those of you who are first-timers.

The dental school uses the following format for the second years’ OSCE:


  • 14 stations in total
  • 3 bioscience stations (physiology)
  • 11 dental stations
  • A rest station for all students after the 7th station has been completed


Students get 6 minutes and 15 seconds in each station plus 45 second reading time before entering the station. The only difference in format for third years is that there are no bioscience stations – only 14 dental stations.


At any station where you are treating a patient (actor), you should use the acronym WIPE to remember steps:


Wash your hands or use alcohol gel before touching the patient

Introduce yourself and tell the patient that you are a second year dental student

Patient’s name and DOB – always confirm the patient’s details

Explain procedure and gain consent


With actor stations, it is key to try to be friendly and calm (despite being in an exam setting)! Use a ‘tell, show, do’ approach to explain procedures and always ask if they have any questions at the end.


A station that is likely to come up in an OSCE is the CPR/BLS stations. Using the acronym DRS ABC can help you remember the steps:


Danger – check for any danger around the patient or anything that could be dangerous to yourself, make sure you state this out loud so the examiner knows what you are thinking


Response – tap the person on the shoulders and speak into their ears ‘hello, open your eyes if you can hear me’


SHOUT FOR HELP – when help arrives, assess the situation and then if not breathing ask them to call 2222 and 9999 (from university phones) ask for an ambulance and state you have a non-breathing patient, you are located on the first floor of the dental hospital at the University of Manchester and ask for a pocket mask if available.


Airways and Breathing – bend your head over the patients face and turn it so you are looking down their body. You then look (for chest rising), listen (for breathing) and feel (for breath on your cheek) for no longer than 10 seconds to assess the situation. If the patient is breathing, check Circulation and put them in the recovery position. If the patient is not breathing, start basic life support (BLS) immediately.

BLS – Use the heel of the hand on the sternum, with your fingers interlocked, and lean over the casualty so you are right above their chest, press down 5-6cm (1-2 in) for a rate of 100-120 compressions a minute. If using rescue breaths, do 30 compressions to 2 breaths ensuring a tight seal over the patient’s nose and mouth. Stop only if medical help arrives and tells you to stop, to swap over with a bystander or if the patient shows signs of life.


Remember, there is a wide variety of topics and skills you have covered throughout the year that could come up. Here is a (not exhaustive!) list of possible stations:


  • Bioscience – CPR, measuring blood pressure, reflexes, cranial nerve testing, auscultation, using an inhaler, ECG
  • Dental – sharp injuries, history taking, charting, tooth morphology, LA, communication, DBOH guidelines/OHI, identifying dental instruments, setting up an ultrasonic scaler, types and parts of an articulator, denture review, sterilisation and decontamination


Top Tips:

  • Always describe what you are doing, as you are doing it. This will ensure the examiner knows you did something, even if they missed it and will help with communication stations
  • If you don’t have time to do something (washing hands) state to the examiner that if this were a real patient, you would do that
  • Remember that the 6 minutes 15 seconds is a long time so don’t rush through too much
  • If you have a bad station, keep confident and move on. You can make up the marks on the next station and you don’t necessarily need to pass every station to pass overall!

Good luck to everyone!

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