Assessment Information

Students are assessed in different ways throughout the MD program. It is important to understand both the purpose and expectations for competence for each assessment. If the student has any questions about an assessment, please contact the UGME office ( or the Phase Lead.

Assessment Plans and Procedures
The Undergraduate Medical Studies (UGMS) Committee, a standing committee of Faculty Council, has responsibility for: “the overall policy of evaluation and the planning of the programs of studies leading to the MD degree,” including assessment. They are advised in this area by the Student Assessment Sub-Committee (SAS), which includes student representation. The conditions and procedures for assessment in the undergraduate MD program are governed by University Regulations, Faculty of Medicine regulations and by Faculty of Medicine Policies & Procedures.

Assessment plans for each course of the MD program are reviewed by SAS and then brought forward to the UGMS Committee for final approval. The assessment plan outlines the assessment requirements, re-assessment details as well as success criteria for each course. The assessment plans can be found on the respective phase pages:

Phase 1 assessment plans
Phase 2 assessment plans
Phase 3 assessment plans
Phase 4 assessment plans

The process for collecting and reviewing exam questions (e.g. creation of exams, challenge cards) is outlined in the Assessment Question Workflow.

Types of assessment used in the MD curriculum

Formative Assessment
Formative assessment is used to monitor and support learning progress during instruction. It facilitates continuous feedback to the student and instructor concerning academic strengths and weaknesses, in preparation for the summative assessments administered during each course and rotation. The Formative Assessment Policy outlines the conditions of formative assessment in the undergraduate medical education program. This type of assessment is mandated for any course/subject or Phase 4 clinical block of four weeks duration or longer. It is most important in clerkship, where a formal process for formative assessment and feedback occurs midway through each rotation.

Multiple-Choice Examinations
Examinations featuring multiple-choice questions (MCQs) are used extensively in the MD program, especially in courses within Phases 1, 2, 3, to assess students’ knowledge of the course content. They are also used in Phase 4. The most important of these are discipline examinations, developed by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME exams), and a content exam developed specifically for the Rural Family Medicine clerkship rotation. Multiple choice examinations are developed by course or clerkship faculty with expertise in the appropriate content, and are marked by computer.

Short-Answer Questions
Short-answer questions assess the student’s understanding of the topic and ability to reason through a clinical or other problem. They are used in all levels of the undergraduate program, often in combination with multiple choice questions. They are usually developed and marked by a faculty member with specific expertise in the content.

Written Assignments
Written assignments are used as assessment methods in many areas of the curriculum. The specific requirements for such assignments vary according to the objectives of the course. However, they share the purpose of assessing the student’s ability to communicate effectively and clearly in writing, using a logical and well-organized structure to present findings and support conclusions. Some examples include collection and presentation of community health data, reflections on the student’s personal experiences in clinical settings during the first and second year rural experiences, and responses to literature about medicine and health. They are usually created and graded by course/subject faculty and preceptors in Phase 4.

Oral Presentations
These are a key component of small-group learning in Phases 1, 2, 3, in particular for Community Health and Humanities courses. Students also make presentations to their teachers and peers in other settings such as PBL (problem-based learning) tutorials in Phases 1, 2, 3 courses, although these activities are not always graded. Oral presentations are generally marked by the student’s tutor, using criteria established by the course committee. Students also get an additional opportunity to enhance their presentation skills during Research Day when faculty members assess the students' presentations of their research projects.  

Clinical Oral Examinations
Oral exams are a component of Phases 1, 2, 3 clinical skills courses and some clinical rotations in Phase 4. Generally, the student will interact with a selected patient or standardized patient, (i.e., an actor playing a patient) for a period of time, obtaining a history and physical examination, and present this to the examiner(s). The student is then asked questions about the case and other pertinent details, based on the course or assessment objectives. Clinical oral examinations are designed as a formative or summative assessment of a student’s acquisition of the required skills. The specific expectations are set by the course and clerkship committees, and marking is conducted by the student’s tutor.

OSCEs (Objective Structured Clinical Examinations)
OSCEs are station-based clinical skills examinations used in clinical skills courses and in clerkship. Students rotate through a series of rooms, and in each one are required to simulate a real clinical encounter with a Standardized Patient who is assigned a particular case, while being observed by a faculty examiner. The student is expected to complete specific tasks and, towards the end of each station, may be asked a small number of questions by the examiner. Students are given a global rating on each OSCE station, and examiners may also be asked to complete a checklist documenting the student’s performance on all aspects of the station (for instance, their skills on certain maneuvers, their communication with the patient, etc.). OSCEs are considered to be more reliable than simple clinical oral examinations because they present each student with identical cases, and because the number of stations translates into assessment of a broader array of tasks and scenarios. In all cases, stations are carefully developed by a committee of faculty. Examiners may be recruited from the existing teaching pool in a course, and/or at the discipline level, and are given orientation prior to the exam.

For information about assessment tools used in Phase 4, refer to the Assessment during Core page.