June 25, 2021 | Student | Optometry | Pre-reg

Independent Optometrist Jason Searle shares his top tips on preparing for your OSCE exam – great advice if you’re a pre-reg optom heading to complete your OSCE exam

OSCE exam preparation (Quick navigation)

Top Tips for the OSCEs (2022 Update)

Congratulations! If you are reading this blog post, it is likely that you have passed your Stage 2 assessment and are about to undertake the OSCEs. This article will hope to provide some tips to help you successfully prepare for the final challenge during the Scheme for Registration. Once you have passed, you will be ready to start your first optometry job as a qualified optometrist!

For those of you who do not know what OSCE stands for, the acronym stands for Objective, Structured Clinical Examination and is a relatively modern type of assessment that features in many medical and healthcare fields. The overall assessment is split into multiple stations that test your overall skill as a practitioner across a whole range of optometric topics. It is designed to test your competence in communication, clinical skill, and management in a way that a written and theoretical scenario cannot and as such are a remarkably effective way to see if you are ready for the life of a qualified optometrist.

How to prepare for your OSCE exam

As your time as an undergraduate and pre-registration optometrist, you will already know the importance of preparing for exams and your visits. The OSCE is no exception – and by reading this post, you are showing you are preparing for the assessment seriously. Be sure to practice your clinical examination technique, revise clinical management guidelines and know your material inside and out as anything relating to your role as an optometrist may be featured in the OSCE.

Take an early night before and eat breakfast on the day so you are mentally prepared to undertake the exam. I would also recommend that you talk to other optometrists that have been through the OSCEs before you – as many will have pearls of wisdom to share with you!

The College of Optometrists’ website has a video showing what to expect on the day – this can help put you at ease as knowing how the test will flow will give you one less thing to worry about!

I would also like to mention that many pre-registration optometrists use social media. I personally follow many on Instagram such as Optoms.In.Training – where revision notes and helpful tips are shared between users. This can be a good way for you to inject some fun, by collaborating with other pre-registration students and implementing it into your revision and preparation routine.

How to practice for your OSCE exam

Where possible, set some time aside with your supervisor to undertake some mock-OSCEs. Set the timer for 5 minutes and have your supervisor set a few tasks for you. These tasks could include – performing a cover test on them, working out a contact lens specification or explaining to them in lay terms about a clinical disease you are referring them for. The more you practice OSCE scenarios, the more at ease you will find them when you do them for your qualifying exam. Be sure to ask them for feedback – as this will help you grow.

Practice for your OSCE exam image

OSCE training course

Unfortunately when I undertook my OSCEs, I was not able to book on to an OSCE training course, but many colleagues of mine were able to and informed me how great they were. If you can obtain a place on a course, their focused and experienced trainers will guide you through the OSCE experience and provide numerous stations for you to sit. The more experience you have, the more confident your will feel on the day. If you’re unsuccessful on obtaining a place, don’t worry – I am proof it isn’t compulsory to do them to succeed!


Slit lamp binocular indirect ophthalmoscopy will occur on your OSCEs. It is such a key skill that it must be there. This is good news as you know it will be a station and you can prepare for it! Given the coronavirus pandemic and ways of examining patients, most attending the OSCEs should be quite experienced in this aspect already. But if you still are not comfortable – practice the skill at every safe opportunity.

OSCE communication skills

It is important to remember that OSCEs are trying to recreate a real-world situation. When communicating with patients in the OSCE, speak to them as you would a patient in your chair in your testing room. Introduce yourself, be courteous and polite whilst remembering to speak clearly. The examiner and patient will need to know what you are saying so make sure they can understand you!

Developing your Patter

Once you are qualified and have seen several hundred patients, you will quickly realise that you say a lot of the same words and phrases repeatedly. Therefore, you will develop a natural way of describing a test or a condition and often will reel off the information without having to think about it. Find a non-optical friend and ask if you can spend some time describing conditions and tests to them in lay-terms and see if you can develop your own patter. This will be incredibly useful in your OSCE as you will soon find yourself describing things without having to stop to remember bits – helping the station run smooth.

Hygiene during your OSCE exam

This is an important tip. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, examiners were hot on hygiene. Whilst I am unsure of the specific set up for OSCEs set around the pandemic. I strongly suspect they will be even more so now. Wash your hands thoroughly on entering. Wipe the points of contact thoroughly with the wipes provided. If you are wearing a mask – make sure not to nervously fiddle with it and contaminate your hands.

Hygiene during your OSCE exam

Enjoy your OSCE exam

You may be thinking “why would I enjoy the OSCE”? I would have thought the same before mine too! After the anxiety of my first two stations, I quickly realised that everything will be as routine or as close to a textbook presentation as it could be. Patients are (usually) cooperative, have only one chief-complaint/condition that they are wanting you to discuss, and the management should be familiar to you. I want to stress that they are not trying to catch you out!

The reason I say enjoy is… the patients and cases are not necessarily as straightforward in the real-world. Nevertheless, As stressful as exams can be, this will probably be one of your easiest workdays – so you should enjoy!

For this reason, the OSCEs are really nothing for you to be worrying about. Providing you have prepared and spent time learning how to be an optometrist, the OSCEs should be a breeze. Although disaster can strike, if you need to resit them then it is not the end of the world. Take the first try as experience and go for it the second time. When you pass, be sure to check out Prospect Health’s Optometry Jobs for your first fully qualified role.


June 25, 2021 | Student | Optometry | Pre-reg