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July 1, 2007

Identifying Programmatic Deficiencies: The Hidden Value of the Mock Oral Examination

Arch Surg. 2007;142(7):591-592. doi:10.1001/archsurg.142.7.591

There have been many educational methods used in surgical resident education.1 The mock oral examination is an academic exercise used by many surgery training programs. Although its value has been questioned, recent surgical training graduates report that it remains an effective tool in preparing them for the certifying examination by the American Board of Surgery. It also can be used as a method of assessing the core competencies, such as medical knowledge, practice-based learning, and communication skills. Its structure encompasses predetermined, standardized questions involving the wide spectrum of case scenarios encountered in general surgery and its subspecialties. It often involves the examinee being interrogated by 2 examiners for 3 separate time-determined periods or “rooms” on a given morning or afternoon. After the meetings, faculty members who have participated assemble to discuss each resident's performance. In an effort to recreate the culture of the future certifying examination, each “room” is graded individually, and finally the examinee is determined to have either passed or failed the mock oral examination. Later, a set period is arranged for one of the faculty members to provide feedback to the examinee regarding his or her performance in responding to each clinical scenario, emphasizing gaps in knowledge, techniques for responding to questions, and professionalism during the examination. Sometimes these examinations are videotaped for more constructive and accurate feedback.2

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