Assessments are used to test student's knowledge, skills and abilities; as a learning tool for students; to help instructors see where students are failing to understand material or concepts; and to make sure learners have achieved necessary competencies to help them move to the next level. Below is a description of various types of assessment tools including various forms of multiple-choice questions, with descriptions of pros and cons of use of each. Instructors should choose a tool that permits them to determine if students are meeting learning objectives, and are learning at the depth intended. For example, many multiple-choice questions ask only for recall of facts and are, therefore, testing very low-level learning (knowledge). Multiple-choice questions asking for interpretation of presented data are examples of assessment of higher-level learning (analysis, synthesis, evaluation). A manuscript describing alternate types of assessments is included, as is a document describing how and why instructors should evaluate student performance on multiple-choice examinations. An article describing a systematic review of the literature to help guide decisions about open-book versus closed-book examinations is below. Finally, there is a more general article about assessment in medical education. 

For specific information about writing test questions, please click here.

Some competencies or tasks are not easily assessed by written testing. Examples of authentic assessments for clinical training include:

  • Oral examinations - These can include a set of questions posed by an examiner for oral response, a learner's description of case management, or a mini-clinical exercise (CEX) in which a student is tested on specific components after seeing a case
  • Video assessments - With client permission, students are videotaped while seeing a case and that tape then reviewed with the student after the encounter.
  • Observations - Direct observations may be made of students performing any variety of authentic tasks. This may take place in a clinical setting or in a simulated setting.
  • Clinical simulations - Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) are realistic encounters using actors as standardized clients. Students may be evaluated using simulators of varying fidelity. 
  • Portfolios - Students may be graded on collections of information and artifacts that demonstrate development or evidence that they have mastered certain outcomes or competencies. 

Rotations are authentic learning experiences. Most students will be assessed using the online collegiate rotation assessment tool. When assessing students on clinical rotations, it is imperative that students receive informal feedback throughout the rotation and receive a formal mid-term evaluation; the mid-rotation evaluation form can be found here or on this site under Forms and Policies.