How I Passed The NMC OSCE First Time | Tips & Tricks


Last year I wrote a blog post on How I Passed the NMC CBT Test Tips & Advice and much to my surprise it ended up getting a lot of readers and people emailing thanking me for the help! So I thought I would follow through and do an update on how I passed the NMC OSCE first time. I'm guessing there's a lot of international readers so hey! Grab a cup of tea or coffee and let's break down the OSCE and how to pass it.

Firstly...THERE IS GOOD NEWS. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in recent months have begun to review the international registration process and since have done a number of things to make it easier. This includes things such as reducing the waiting times on taking the exam, offering training to OSCE trainers so they're able to teach the relevant content, and not setting up as many traps in the exam and failing people on little things.

What I want to say is that this exam isn't horribly hard. It really isn't.

Why the NMC does the OSCE is to ensure you're practising safely. They aren't going to set up super complex scenarios and include things which are at a specialised level, but rather keep things basic making sure the nurses are being safe. For example - washing hands, checking expiry dates, checking the patient details etc.

Before I did the OSCE I had read forum after forum about how difficult this exam was and how most people failed the first attempt. Safe to say I was completely freaked out. I was so sure I was going to be someone who failed first go (particularly as I was an operating theatre nurse and hadn't given an injection for years since my uni days!) so I did everything in my power to try pass first go.

So are here is some information about the OSCE and tips I have to passing it!

1. What is the OSCE and what's included?
The OSCE stands for Observed Structured Clinical Exam.
You are tested on assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation. There are also two clinical skills you must perform.
The University of Northampton (one of the three testing centres) goes into all this more in detail here. Essentially it is just a exam where you have to act in scenarios and deliver nursing care that is up to standard.

**update** After the 7th of October 2019 there has been a change in the registration process so now people who take the OSCE have 3 patient scenarios and 3 skills.

2. How is best to prepare?
Once you have passed the documentation stage and you've received your decision letter you will gain access to the universities website where it gives you a bunch of information - things like what you'll be tested on, what to read up on, and common mistakes. This is a great resource and in recent years they have added more and more information so test-takers aren't so left in the dark. Make sure to read these documents thoroughly.

3. My biggest tips..

  • Book an OSCE course! If you really want to pass first go then an OSCE course if the best way to go. Only downside is the cost and gosh they can be pricey. For me personally it was 100% worth it as I passed first time and felt SO much more confident going into the exam knowing exactly what to expect. The one I went to was by Health Skills Training. I booked in for the 3 day course and it was intense, tiring, but so worth it. The trainer (Gilbert) was so clued up with everything OSCE and gave great confidence to whether you will pass or not by the end of the 3 days. But also! They also boast a 99% pass rate for first time. At first I couldn't believe it but then one by one every one I did the course with passed first go, and we were all of different countries, age, experience which just shows how great the course was.

    I probably sound like i'm paid the way i'm going on about this course but I really do think that passing first go was down to going to this course. First day we went over basic skills, second day went over scenarios, and last day went over other bits and did a mock exam. Not going to lie after the first day I went home in tears to my mum being like "oh my gosh i'm going to fail it's sooooo hard" but by the last day I was like "let's. do. this. exam!".
  • Find online resources. There are websites that give you resources for the OSCE. I actually paid extra to get the OSCE related videos from Healths Skills Training (you can get these without actually doing the full days course) and I just watched these over and over. In these videos they cover all the necessary skills/scenarios and how exactly to do them.
  • Practice, practice, practice! You may feel like a lunatic for being in your bedroom talking to a pretend patient but that's what you'll have to do in the OSCE. Practice introducing yourself, asking consent to do your cares, taking observations etc. The more you practice the more natural it will come when you do actually do the exam.
  • Correct yourself in the exam. When you feel as if you have made an error verbalise this to the person undertaking the exam. Something my trainer told us was to just say "i'm aware I have made an error, this is what I would do instead in a real life situation" just so you are acknowledging you have made an error. The NMC want safe practice so they would rather you acknowledge when/if you make a mistake rather than brush past it.
  • Read the Royal Marsden as this gives you the policies and ways to do everything. In all honesty I actually didn't really read it as my OSCE course covered it all, but this is a great reference when you need to double check things. I'd recommend this for if you're someone who isn't going to do an OSCE course.
  • Lastly...the late evening before or the early morning of the exam just relax. Harder said than done. But if you have studied up enough and have a rough idea of what the exam will contain (as stated on the university websites for the OSCE) then you should be fine. It's all about practising safely. Have a decent breakfast, listen to relaxing music, and get yourself in a chilled head space for the exam. I believe the more chilled you are the better you will do.

I hope this has given people more confidence for the OSCE. If I passed first go then so can you!  Of course I can't give any details of my exam due to signing a contract before taking the test but there is a lot of information from official websites (NMC, test centre university websites) on what exactly the test contains so give those a read.

Note - this was written early October 2019, I took my exam April 2019. Since then the OSCE may have changed slightly so look on the NMC website for any changes. From the sounds of things it still sounds very similar.

Holly xx

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  1. Holly thanks so much for writing this! I am taking my OSCE next Monday, so this gives me hope! I have found it so hard to figure out exactly what will be on the test, and I am studying here in Scotland, so there are no nearby training courses. I am going to try out the online course that you suggested! Fingers crossed that it all goes well next week!

    1. I was wondering where did you see that now you have to take three skills stations? it still says on the learning platform I have that I will only be tested on two skills plus the APIE section