An objective structured practical examination for laboratory skills in a pharmacy technician programme

Peter A C McPherson, Ben Johnston

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Background: Pharmacy technician education is typically at the pre-degree level and comprises instruction in scientific and clinical disciplines. The assessment of practical laboratory skills often utilises attainment-referenced methods, which are not always appropriate for vocationally-focused programmes. Methods: An objective structured practical examination (OSPE) was introduced to assess student competency in three key areas (accurate weighing, calibrating a pH meter and performing a dilution). Students were assessed using weighted criterion-based assessment criteria and an overall global performance rating, which allowed cut scores to be determined using a borderline regression method. Student opinions were collected using online questionnaires on a five-point Likert scale. Results: The move to OSPEs did not significantly alter the distribution of student results from previous years (mean ± SD, OSPE vs legacy: 77 ± 19% vs 73 ± 21%), suggesting that academic integrity was maintained. There was a high level of consistency in Likert score responses (Cronbach’s α = 0.823), with students clearly favouring the OSPE approach. Conclusion: The move to an OSPE-based assessment was successful and provided a basis for the development of similar assessment strategies in the pharmacy technician programme.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-538
Number of pages6
JournalPharmacy Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 16 Sept 2023

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  • Assessment
  • Borderline regression model
  • Laboratory skill
  • Observation


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