The new focus on competencies puts practical examinations at center stage. They, more than any other form of examination, give students the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and abilities in action. Initial experiences with practical exams at the TUM show that, though they require more time and effort, they provide reliable evidence of students’ acquired competencies and effectively focus the learning process. Moreover, practical exams are instructive and often even fun for both students and teachers.
To test students’ competencies, they must be given the opportunity to put their knowledge, skills, and abilities into action in the most realistic problem-solving situations possible. Creating such situations for the purpose of an examination is complex, requiring the organization of activities such as:
Medical students, for example, might complete the “Objective Structured Clinical Examination” (OSCE), a parcours consisting of various standardized stations where students are required to apply their training on actor-patients, classmates, or dummies by performing such tasks as setting a cast, inserting a catheter, explaining a diagnosis, etc.). Students are observed and evaluated by examiners who designate a grade according to a simple scale. For 100 students to undergo this kind of examination can take an entire day and require up to 20 examiners and assistants.