Sociolinguistic factors affecting performance in the Clinical Skills Assessment of the MRCGP: a mixed-methods approach


Background Differential performance in clinical skills assessments is a widespread phenomenon, for which there remain few explanations. Aim To better understand the conversational contexts of simulated consultations and how candidates actually behave in these consultations and to determine sociolinguistic factors for high- and low-performing candidates. Design & setting Taking the Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners' (MRCGP) clinical skills assessment (CSA) examination as a model, this research applied sociolinguistic analyses to case videos of 198 consecutive candidates presenting for the CSA examination. Method Using a mixed-methods approach, both quantitative and qualitative sociolinguistics methodologies were combined to analyse video consultations, and findings were compared with those from group discussions with MRCGP examiners. Results There is more ‘talk’ in simulated consultations than in real life. On macroanalysis, there was little difference between poor- and well-performing candidates. However, microanalysis found subtle differences in structuring consultations, metacommunication, picking up cues, and misunderstandings with and giving explanations to patients. Formulaic talk, contrary to examiners’ perceptions was more common in successful candidates, but it was personalised and sited appropriately in the consultation. Conclusion This is an interactionally demanding form of clinical assessment, that requires giving support to candidates and a more analytic approach to the development of interpersonal skills. Sociolinguistic features of consulting to help trainers and candidates prepare for the CSA are identified.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities
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College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics
Additional Information: Copyright © The Authors 2017 This article is Open Access: CC BY license (
Publication ISSN: 2398-3795
Last Modified: 06 May 2024 07:54
Date Deposited: 13 Nov 2019 11:18
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Related URLs: https://bjgpope ... gpopen17X100713 (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2017-04-04
Accepted Date: 2016-09-26
Authors: Hawthorne, Kamila
Roberts, Celia
Atkins, Sarah (ORCID Profile 0000-0003-3481-5681)



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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