Home page of The Scottish Doctor comment on the SDMEG

Assessment Tools and Methods

Although we were interested in the possibilities of new methods of assessment it is clear from the groups’ reports that the majority of assessment tools currently in use do have a major role to play in assessment of outcomes. Most of these are common to all Scottish schools, e.g. MCQ, OSCE and have already been rigorously evaluated with regard to reliability and validity. However, there were some examples of tools that are specific to only one or two schools, e.g. MILE (Glasgow), portfolios (Dundee, Edinburgh)


In the search for new methods of assessment it was clear from a number of the working groups that there are examples of alternative methods of assessment available in other "vocational" training such as law, dentistry and veterinary medicine. However, there still remain similar issues and difficulties with assessing attitudinal outcomes in these educational programmes. Other professions such as the Police and the Armed Forces may also provide ideas for assessment, but these tend to be resource intensive and dependent on better staff: student ratios

A number of existing methods of assessment, not currently widely used in undergraduate medicine, were suggested by the working groups as worthy of further consideration (see reference document for details). These included:

  • assessment by portfolio

  • diagnostic thinking inventory

  • simulated wards and mock computerised patient information systems for informatics and computing outcomes

  • European Computer Driving Licence

  • defining issues test

  • taking part (or not) in learning opportunities should be considered to be a valid form of assessment for some of the outcomes

Although, in general, existing methods of assessment are relatively robust, the working groups found on closer scrutiny that the validity, reliability, feasibility and potential for feedback of individual assessment tools varies according to which outcomes they are applied to. We would therefore advocate the process of triangulation (using several different tools to assess performance) as it increases the validity and reliability of the results of assessment.