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Cervical screening (previously known as a smear test) frequently appears in OSCEs. You’ll be expected to competently perform the procedure and demonstrate appropriate communications skills with the patient or mannequin. This cervical screening test OSCE guide provides a clear step by step approach to performing the procedure. Check out the cervical screening OSCE mark scheme here.


Wash hands

Introduce yourself

Confirm patient’s details – name / DOB

Ask if the patient could currently be pregnant

Explain the procedure – as shown below

  • Wash hands


Assess the patient’s current understanding:

“I’ve been asked to carry out a cervical screening test.”

“Do you understand what this procedure involves?”


Explain procedure:

“What the procedure will involve is me inserting a small plastic device called a speculum into the vagina.  This will allow me to visualise the neck of the womb.  I will then place a very small brush into the vagina and take a sample of cells from the neck of the womb.  The procedure shouldn’t be painful however it will feel a little uncomfortable.  If at any point you want me to stop the procedure, please let me know. You may also experience some light vaginal bleeding after the procedure.”


Explain the need for a chaperone:

“For this examination one of the female ward staff will be present acting as a chaperone”


Check understanding and gain consent:

“Do you understand everything I’ve explained”  

“Do you have any questions?”

“Are you happy for me to perform the procedure?”

Ask if the patient would like to go to the toilet to empty their bladder before the examination.

Gather equipment

  • Gloves
  • Lubricant
  • Speculum (warm speculum if possible)
  • Light source for speculum 
  • Endocervical brush
  • Sample pot (liquid based cytology)
  • Gather equipment


The patient should be positioned supine on a bed with their underwear removed and their abdomen exposed (modesty cloth should be provided):

“I need you to go behind the curtain and remove your underwear. Could you please then get onto the bed and cover yourself with the cloth provided.”


Position patient in the modified lithotomy position:

“Bring your heels towards your bottom and then let your knees fall to the side.”


Don gloves

Inspect the vulva

  • Ulcers – e.g. genital herpes 
  • Discharge / bleeding
  • Scars – previous surgery (e.g. episiotomy)
  • Atrophy – postmenopausal 
  • Masses – e.g. Bartholin’s cyst
  • Abnormal hair distribution
  • Varicosities – varicose veins
  • Don gloves

Cervical screening test

Inserting the speculum

1. Warn the patient you are about to insert the speculum

2. Use your left hand (index finger and thumb) to separate the labia

3. Gently insert the speculum sideways (blades closed, angled downwards and backwards)

4. Once inserted, rotate the speculum back 90 degrees (so that the handle is facing upwards)

5. Open the speculum blades until an optimal view of the cervix is achieved

6. Tighten locking nut to fix the position of the blades

  • Gently insert the speculum sideways with the blades closed

Inspect the cervix

  • External os – open/closed
  • Cervical erosions – ectropion
  • Masses
  • Ulcers – e.g. genital herpes 
  • Discharge – e.g. bacterial vaginosis
  • Inspect the cervix

Obtaining the sample

1. Insert endocervical brush through speculum into the endocervical canal

2. Rotate the brush 5 times, 360 degrees, in a clockwise direction

3. Remove endocervical brush, avoiding touching the speculum as you do so

4. Deposit the tip of the endocervical brush into the liquid based cytology container

5. Loosen the locking nut on the speculum and partially close the blades

6. Rotate the speculum 90 degrees, back to its original insertion orientation

7. Gently remove the speculum, inspecting the walls of the vagina as you do so

8. Re-cover the patient

9. Dispose of the speculum and gloves

10. Wash hands

  • Gently insert the endocervical brush into the external os

To complete the procedure…

Thank patient

Allow the patient time to get re-dressed

Label the sample

Document the procedure in the medical notes

Summarise findings

“On examination of Mrs Smith, a 29 year old female, there were no abnormalities of the vulva noted on inspection. Speculum examination revealed a healthy cervix, with the external os closed and no abnormal masses or discharge present.”


Suggest further assessments and investigations


Mr Isaac Magani

Consultant Obstetrician