An objective structured practical examination for laboratory skills in a pharmacy technician programme


  • Peter A C McPherson Ulster University, Coleraine, United Kingdom & Titanic Quarter Campus, Belfast, United Kingdom
  • Ben Johnston Titanic Quarter Campus, Belfast, United Kingdom



Assessment, Borderline regression model, Laboratory skill, Observation


Background: Pharmacy technician education is typically at the pre-degree level and comprises instruction in scientific and clinical disciplines. The assessment of practical laboratory skills often utilises attainment-referenced methods, which are not always appropriate for vocationally-focused programmes.

Methods: An objective structured practical examination (OSPE) was introduced to assess student competency in three key areas (accurate weighing, calibrating a pH meter and performing a dilution). Students were assessed using weighted criterion-based assessment criteria and an overall global performance rating, which allowed cut scores to be determined using a borderline regression method. Student opinions were collected using online questionnaires on a five-point Likert scale.

Results: The move to OSPEs did not significantly alter the distribution of student results from previous years (mean ± SD, OSPE vs legacy: 77 ± 19% vs 73 ± 21%), suggesting that academic integrity was maintained. There was a high level of consistency in Likert score responses (Cronbach’s α = 0.823), with students clearly favouring the OSPE approach.   

Conclusion: The move to an OSPE-based assessment was successful and provided a basis for the development of similar assessment strategies in the pharmacy technician programme.

Author Biographies

Peter A C McPherson, Ulster University, Coleraine, United Kingdom & Titanic Quarter Campus, Belfast, United Kingdom

School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Science & Belfast Metropolitan College

Ben Johnston, Titanic Quarter Campus, Belfast, United Kingdom

Belfast Metropolitan College


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How to Cite

McPherson, P. A. C., & Johnston, B. (2023). An objective structured practical examination for laboratory skills in a pharmacy technician programme. Pharmacy Education, 23(1), p. 533–538.



Programme Description