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What is the NAC Examination?

  • The NAC Examination is a one-day exam that assesses your readiness to enter a Canadian residency program. It is a national, standardized examination that tests the knowledge, skills, and attitudes essential for entrance into postgraduate training in Canada.
  • It is an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) that includes a series of stations where you are presented with typical clinical scenarios. It includes problems in:
    • Medicine
    • Surgery
    • Pediatrics
    • Obstetrics and Gynecology
    • Psychiatry
    • Preventive Medicine and Public Health
  • You are rated by physician examiners on up to seven different competencies per station. These competencies include:
    • Quality of history taking
    • Diagnosis
    • Management
    • Communication skills
    • Physical examination
    • Investigations
    • Data interpretation
  • You can take the NAC Examination in English or French at designated centres.
  • Click here for the full definition of each of these competencies.
  • To find out how to prepare for the NAC Examination, including common mistakes that candidates make, and to learn more about the exam objectives, visit our NAC Examination preparation resources page.

Why should I take the NAC Examination?

  • The NAC Examination is required to apply to a Canadian residency program. The Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) accepts NAC Examination results as part of match application packages.
  • The NAC Examination is not required to obtain the Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada, and a pass does not guarantee a residency training position in Canada.

How do I take the NAC Examination?

  • You can apply to the NAC Examination during designated application periods through your physiciansapply.ca account.
  • Your results will be accepted by residency programs directors regardless of where you take the exam.
  • You do not have to take the examination in the province where you will be applying for residency.

View the official information about NAC exam

MCCQE OSCEs (Objective Structured Clinical Examinations) orientation for candidates

  • This orientation will outline the purpose of an OSCE and the logistics behind this type of exam.
  • It will help you prepare for OSCEs, including the National Assessment Collaboration (NAC) Examination and the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination Part II (MCCQE Part 2), giving you an overview of how to demonstrate your knowledge and skills in different stations as well as useful links and resources.

The definition of an OSCE

  • An OSCE is a type of examination often used in health sciences. It is designed to test clinical skill performance and competence in a range of skills.
  • It is a practical, real-world approach to learning and assessment.
  • Objective
    • The OSCE content and scoring procedures are standardized. Each examination station is designed to focus on an area of clinical competence. A standardized scoring tool is used to record what you do or do not do well.
  • Structured
    • Every OSCE candidate experiences the same problem, and is asked to perform the same task, within the same timeframe.
    • You will be exposed to the same level of difficulty, no matter where the examination is taken, and is marked using the same marking scheme.
  • Clinical
    • The tasks in each OSCE station represent real-life clinical situations.
    • These assess your ability to apply clinical knowledge and skills when, for example, meeting with a patient, writing an admission or discharge order, conferring with a colleague, etc.
  • Examination
    • An OSCE enables a reliable assessment of a candidate’s competence.
    • OSCEs are suitable for use in high-stakes assessments, such as the National Assessment Collaboration (NAC) Examination and the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE) Part II. OSCEs are now used widely in undergraduate, postgraduate and licensing assessments.

Elements of an OSCE

  • The following are typical of the OSCE format:
    1. You will rotate through a series of timed stations
    2. Each station presents a specific clinical scenario
    3. Each station assesses one or more areas of clinical competence (for example, history taking, communication, physical examination skills, etc.)
    4. All candidates are exposed to the same clinical problems
    5. The assessment applies a standardized approach, which includes standardized patients (SPs), standardized scoring tools, and standardized exam-day logistics
  • OSCEs assess what written exams cannot
    • The daily work of physicians includes some essential skills that cannot be evaluated by traditional written examinations of knowledge. OSCEs were developed to fill that gap.
    • Multiple-choice and other written exams are very good at assessing biomedical knowledge, but they do not directly observe the candidate in practice. A different approach is needed to assess:
      • Communication skills
      • Physical examination techniques
      • Professionalism
      • Attitudes for effectively interacting with patients and health-care workers
    • These skills are best assessed during actual performance. Examinations that assess skills during actual performance are known as competency-based or performance-based assessments.  Among the various types of competency based tests, OSCEs are most widely used because they are valid, reliable, and fair.
  • OSCEs are realistic and repeatable
    • The major attraction of the OSCE format is realism. OSCEs use standardized clinical scenarios that can be repeated. This means every candidate can receive an equal and fair evaluation.
    • At the Medical Council of Canada (MCC), OSCEs are rigorously developed and managed in these ways:
      1. They are administered in highly controlled settings
      2. OSCE stations are carefully written based on specific criteria for each exam
      3. Simulated Patients, or SPs, are rigorously trained to portray a specific clinical situation within a given amount of time
      4. Examiners are rigorously trained to use the scoring tools
      5. Administrative staff ensure that everyone and everything functions on exam day so that each candidate experiences the same examination
  • In the MCCQE Part 2 and the NAC Examination, the interaction between the candidate and SP is directly observed by a physician examiner. Examiners are trained to use a scoring checklist and rating scales. This includes:
    • A content component, which assesses, for example, if you obtained adequate quantity and quality of information from the patient
    • Global ratings of the clinical process, such as your organization, communication skills and professional behaviours
  • Although OSCEs are complex to administer, many studies have shown that these examinations result in fair and reproducible scores at various levels of clinical training.

MCCQE OSCE Station instructions

  • Standard station; You will begin each station in front of the station door, where you will see instructions for that station. Read the instructions then enter the station when the signal system indicates you may start.
    • A set of instructions will also be provided inside the examination station. There is no penalty if you need to reread the instructions.
  • Paired stations: Some OSCEs include paired stations. This type of station requires you to perform two components sequentially in two separate rooms. Both components will relate to the same clinical scenario.
    • For example, you may be asked to review a patient’s chart in the first component prior to meeting with the patient in the second component. Or, you may meet with a patient in the first component then answer written questions relating to that patient in the second component.


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