Physical examination

The conduct of a clinical physical examination is a core emergency medicine skill and as such you should expect this to be assessed in the OSCE.

This is a summary of the ACEM document “OSCE Physical Examination Station Guidelines” (August 2019). The full document is available on the ACEM website and is essential reading.



Aim of the Physical Exam station

The station assesses your ability to competently perform a physical examination to:


Format of the Physical Exam station


     The role-player does not ‘act’ any pathology, or answer questions about, or describe abnormal findings when they are examined.

     Your explanation should include:

-   What you are examining for

-   What the different potential findings might be/might look like

-   What the different potential findings would mean in terms of differential or provisional diagnosis



Example physical exam topics from last few ACEM exams:

Typical tasks

Domains that have been tested in recent OSCEs

Medical Expertise: Assessment and differential diagnosis 

Medical Expertise: History 

Medical Expertise - Physical examination

Medical Expertise: Investigation and management 

Prioritisation and Decision Making - Prioritising patient assessment and management


Scholarship and Teaching

Uses a range of adult teaching strategies from the ACEM Curriculum Framework, including: 

ACEM OSCE report feedback

Common themes for candidates who performed well:

Common themes for candidates who did not perform well:


Remember the key things the examiners are looking for:




    - "In this patient, my differential diagnoses at this stage are…", or "I am concerned about…."

    - The aims of my examination are to: