Current Status of Technical Skills Assessment Tools in Surgery-A Systematic Review

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37 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Tools for assessment of technical skills are a crucial part of surgical education. They provide trainees with quantitative feedback highlighting both proficiency and areas for improvement. For this to be relevant to day-to-day practice, the tools used have to be validated and relevant to each surgical situation. This study aims to evaluate the validity of assessment tools used within surgery.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis guidelines, a systematic review was conducted searching the MEDLINE and Embase databases (International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews: CRD42018104674). Studies utilizing any assessment tool in any surgical specialty were included. Messick's criteria were used for literature evaluation, and the Modified Educational Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine was used to assess levels of recommendation.

RESULTS: A total of 303 studies and 76 tools were included. The most commonly used tool was Objective Structured Assessment Tool Skills (OSATS; n = 137, 45.2%). OSATS was used in conjunction with another tool or tools in an additional 55 studies (18.2%). Seven further tools were used in at least 3 studies. A total of five studies evaluated contained all five aspects of Messick's validity.

CONCLUSIONS: There are several widely validated tools for assessing technical skills, the most common of which is OSATS. There is an emerging trend for crowdsourcing as a quick, cheap method for assessment of technical skills. This technique has been validated using both GEARS and GOALS. Numerous tools were found to be used only once and demonstrate a tendency for units to create their own tools for a specific task or specialty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-378
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Early online date2 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • Assessment tools
  • Education
  • Surgery
  • Technical skills

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