Purpose: advances in the assessment of clinical competence have prompted medical schools and licensing authorities to complement written and oral tests with practical ones. The purposes of this project were to (1) determine how clinical competencies not effectively addressed on the present swiss federal examinations can be assessed adequately on a standardised patient-based practical examination (sce) and (2) evaluate the sce validity, reliability and feasibility. Method: a bilingual, three-hour standardised patient-based clinical examination was pilot tested in 2003 with 48 volunteered fifth and sixth-year students from the five swiss medical schools. All students took the same eight 15-minute patient cases. To ensure the test content validity, test cases were selected by a multi-disciplinary and -institutional committee of clinical faculty on the basis of predefined exam blueprint criteria and in reference to the swiss catalogue of learning objectives. Results: moderate correlations between the sce and the existing federal final written examinations (0.46) And the newly pilot-tested structured oral examination or soe (0.56)  Suggested that they were complementary to one another and that each might emphasise aspects of the clinical competence which others might not. The reliability (a coefficient) of the sce scores ranged from 0.73 To 0.77. Conclusions: limited experiences gathered throughout the sce pilot project demonstrated its feasibility. Preliminary results suggested that sce scores had a good level of construct validity and reliability and seemed to complement scores obtained on the final certification written examinations and the newly tested soe. These results, however, need to be further confirmed with larger samples studies.