Mock Clinics: What Is The Medicine Challenge?

17 Jul, 2023Blog Articles, Medicine Articles

All of our summer courses here at the Oxford Scholastica Academy include a Challenge. These Challenges allow you to put everything you’ve learned over the course of the program into practice. If you’re taking part in one of our residential Medicine summer school courses, you’ll be taking part in our challenge at the John Radcliffe Hospital – the main hospital associated with Oxford University.

For the first part of the challenge, you’ll come in contact with real patients and perform your own mock-consultations. After noting down a summary of the patient’s case and working out what you think the diagnosis is, you’ll get the chance to present your findings to the rest of your group. And then you can ask questions about the findings of others.

So, how does the mock clinic challenge work? And what sort of preparation do you get for it?

What is a mock clinic?

A mock clinic, often seen in medical education and training, is a simulated environment where students interact with real or simulated patients in a controlled setting. Designed to emulate the actual clinical experience, it allows students to practice skills such as patient consultation, information extraction, diagnosis, and case presentation.

What is the purpose of the mock clinic?

The aim of the mock clinic is to interact with patients in a medical setting, and test your skills in extracting information. Your ability to present this information to fellow students, just like a doctor would present his case to the rest of the medical team, is also an important skill you’re developing here.

Medicine summer school challenge

How to prepare for the mock clinic

Throughout the medicine experience course, you will have already been introduced to a number of different diseases, including their causes, symptoms and treatments. A few days before the challenge, your tutor will tell you which diseases your patients will have. From then on, it will be up to you and your fellow students to research the diseases – both the ones you’ve covered already and the ones you may know less about. This step is very important, as the research you do will inform the questions you ask the patients. The more you know about the disease, its progression and its risk factors, the more relevant information you’ll be able to get from your patient.


Challenge day – Mock clinic

It’s the big day! You’ll arrive at the hospital with the other students, and your tutor will briefly outline the approach you should aim for with the patients. After this you’ll be split into small groups of two or three. Each of you will take it in turns to conduct a mock-consultation with different patients. During your consultation, make sure you’re noting down information with pen and paper. Laptops are handy in other situations, but you don’t want a screen between you and the patient! 

The diseases you’ll encounter are mostly chronic (long-lasting). They can be psychiatric (e.g. depression, personality disorders), neurological (e.g. multiple sclerosis), cardiovascular (e.g. coronary heart disease), or a range of others. Patients will vary not only in which disease they have, but also in their personality. Some patients will be more talkative than others, and it’s up to you to decide how you’ll approach the conversation!

There are several things you’re likely to ask your patient about. What are their symptoms? How long have they had them? What previous medical interventions (e.g. surgery) have they had? Do they have a family history of the disease? These are just some of the things you’ll need to find out. 

A student preparing for a mock clinic presentation

Challenge day – The discussion

Now that you’ve gathered your medical notes, sorted your patient’s data and information, it’s time to present what you have found out to the rest of the group. After each case is presented, a discussion will follow – some other students will have also talked to the same patient you did, and will share what they found too. A lot of the time different people will have different ideas about the same patient’s illness: this goes to show how your approach, tone of conversation and questions can affect the information you get.

To wrap it up, your tutor will then help you link the symptoms you’ve seen during the day to the underlying pathology of the disease.


What do you gain from a mock clinic?

As a doctor, it’s really important to know all of the relevant facts, but knowing how to speak to patients is also vital. This gives you a chance to develop this side of your practice. Patients are more complex than you might think; they’ll rarely give you a textbook picture of the disease they have. A patient may focus on a symptom which is not relevant to your diagnosis, simply because it’s what bothers them most. You sometimes have to steer the conversation back on track if it gets too chatty, or try to engage the patient on a personal level in order for them to loosen up and tell you more about their problems. During the challenge you will – as the name suggests – be challenged.

In many of the world’s top medical universities, actors are paid to act as simulated patients (SPs) to provide a similar kind of challenge for students, although they call them simulated patient contacts (SPCs). During SPCs medical students have to conduct a consultation with a mock-patient just like you’ll be doing, in order to work on their communication and professionalism. At Oxford Scholastica, the only difference is our patients are real!

In medical practice (and most other jobs, actually!), you rarely work alone: every case is tackled by a team from different specialties, and therefore it’s essential to be able to communicate the information you gain to others. The information you give across needs to be complete, clear and accurate to avoid complications. By preparing and presenting your case to your fellow students, you’ll get to see and overcome the challenges of conveying patient information.


Our medical challenge is also a really exciting and fun experience for aspiring medics! Getting the chance to try out exactly what you’re working towards at school is a really enjoyable experience, and is just one of the ways our summer course can be the most memorable summer of your life.


Next steps for young medical students


Up for the Challenge?

Students at Oxford Scholastica thrive in our Challenges every year, and we wouldn’t want you to miss out. The practical application of all your medical knowledge and skills is what will really make you stand out on medical school applications. Check out our Medicine Summer School!