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Open Access Research article

Summative assessment of 5th year medical students’ clinical reasoning by script concordance test: requirements and challenges

Paul Duggan1* and Bernard Charlin2

Author Affiliations

1 Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The University of Adelaide, Frome Rd, Adelaide, South Australia 5000, Australia

2 CPASS, direction de la recherche, Faculté de Médecine, Université de Montréal, CP 6128, Succursale centre- ville, Montréal, Québec, H3C 3 J7, Canada

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BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:29  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-29

Published: 9 May 2012



The Script Concordance Test (SCT) has not been reported in summative assessment of students across the multiple domains of a medical curriculum. We report the steps used to build a test for summative assessment in a medical curriculum.


A 51 case, 158-question, multidisciplinary paper was constructed to assess clinical reasoning in 5th-year. 10–16 experts in each of 7 discipline-based reference panels answered questions on-line. A multidisciplinary group considered reference panel data and data from a volunteer group of 6th Years, who sat the same test, to determine the passing score for the 5th Years.


The mean (SD) scores were 63.6 (7.6) and 68.6 (4.8) for the 6th Year (n = 23, alpha = 0.78) and and 5th Year (n = 132, alpha =0.62) groups (p < 0.05), respectively. The passing score was set at 4 SD from the expert mean. Four students failed.


The SCT may be a useful method to assess clinical reasoning in medical students in multidisciplinary summative assessments. Substantial investment in training of faculty and students and in the development of questions is required.