Assessment Methods in Medical Education

Medical teaching has developed steeply in the past decade and had many facets being introduced to its portfolio. Assessment seems to be one such area which was scrutinized even now as a possible avenue for further development. Educational experts are of the opinion that assessment needs to be aligned with the course objectives as well as the intended outcomes and it should not only be a hurdle to complete the course but also a way of receiving feedback and further improve the student’s competencies.

Many researches has gone into identifying the best alternative for assessing medical teachings and thus none have come up with a clear cut answer. The reason for this is the different levels of knowledge and skill domains which is assessed by different types of assessment methods and assessing a medical graduate needs to be done in all facets of learning domains. Therefore, it’s important to see what the different assessment methods available for medical teachers in assessing their students.

According to the researchers there are three kinds of assessment;

1. Written assessments

2. Clinically supervised assessment

3. Multi source assessment or 360 degree assessments

Let us see different tools used in each type of assessment pertaining to medical education.

1. Written assessments

There are many assessment tools in the written type of assessments and MCQ, Short answer questions, long essay questions, structures essay questions, Modified essay questions are some of them. Each one of these tools will have its own strengths and weaknesses and will assess the competencies at different levels. For instance, the MCQ can assess lot of content area covering a whole course but it does not assess the higher order cognition of the student as it does with structured essay type of assessments.

2. Clinically supervised assessment

Oral examinations (short and long cases), global markings given at the end of each clinical rotation as well as structured direct observations with checklists and ratings are used in this type of assessment. Again the domains which were assessed vary from one test to the other and the mark that the students receive might change according to the supervisor.

3. Multi source assessment

Peer assessment, assessment through patients and self assessment comes in the form of multisource assessments or 360 degree assessments. The newer assessment variety, the portfolios is grouped into this area and is now being incorporated into many training programmes.

Apart from the above three types, another assessment type was described which is known as ‘Clinical simulations’. OSCE examinations as well as high technology simulations are used as tools in this type of assessment approach.

As you can see, the assessments in Medical Education vary a lot and a blended approach to the use of these tools will minimize the validity and sensitivity issues that could arise by using a single best approach for assessment.


Ronald M. Epstein (2007), Assessment in Medical Education, Medical Education, Volume 356:387-396.