Systematic Reviews of Diagnostic Studies

“The topic was very interesting, so for me was the most enjoying part, but also the debate between the…”
Marco Magaletti, Switzerland

The number of primary studies evaluating diagnostic tests is rising. Critically summarizing such studies in a systematic review is beneficial for health care professionals seeking the best evidence about the use of diagnostic tests. Reviews of diagnostic studies are more challenging because of more variation in questions & designs, specific sources of bias & variation, and the need to use more complex statistical approaches to meta-analysis. Several advances have recently been made in the methods to perform such reviews. In this course we discuss and practice the methods to assess the methodological quality of primary diagnostic test accuracy studies (QUADAS-2 instrument), the statistical models to meta-analyze the paired measures of test accuracy (bivariate meta-regression model of sensitivity and specificity), and how to critically read and interpret the findings of systematic review of diagnostic studies. The course consists of plenary presentations, small-group discussions, and computer exercises using the statistical software package R. It is one of the online medical courses that is part of the MSc Epidemiology Postgraduate Online Program.

Learning Objectives

At the end of the course, you'll should be able to:

  • Appreciate the diversity of test usage and study designs
  • Understand potential risk of bias and concerns regarding applicability
  • Understand the concept underlying approaches to meta-analysis
  • Explore heterogeneity and compare test accuracy
  • Create different types of analysis
  • Summarize results and draw appropriate conclusions

Course Deadlines

Week 0
Sunday before start date - introduce yourself

Week 1
Sunday – hand in group assignments
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 1 and 2

Week 2
Wednesday – Peer feedback group assignment I
Friday – Hand in multiple smaller group assignments
Sunday – Hand in group assignment II
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 3 and 4

Week 3
Wednesday – peer feedback group assignment II
Sunday – complete Learning Unit 5 and 6

Week 4
Monday – take-home exam


This course includes an exam, which is the only part of the course that is not online. At this moment, there is no new startdate and therefore no new exam moment known. We will communicate this as soon as possible.

If you are able and willing to take the exam in Utrecht, the Netherlands, we are available to proctor the exam for you without any costs. If you have to take the exam from a different location, you need a proctor. This proctor may ask you to pay for their expenses. Please read more about proctoring on our specific webpage.

The exam is not compulsory. However, if you want to receive the Course Certificate and the credits, it is obligatory to take the exam. You are allowed to redo the exam once. 

It might be that, due to a force majeure situation, you cannot be present during the first exam moment. You must then, preferably prior to the first exam option, ask the academic counsellor for permission to be absent. Please note that the academic counsellor can ask for some form of proof of your absence (e.g. in case of illness) to establish if you are applicable for authorized absence. Jaco de Fockert-Koefoed, MSc is the academic counsellor you need to turn to

In short, as of now, it is no longer possible to skip the first exam option and -automatically- enrol in the second (re-sit) exam. Unauthorized absence during the first exam period results in no longer being able to finish the course that college year.


As this is a university course, it is covered by academic accreditation. Upon passing the final exam, you will receive a recognized certificate from Utrecht University and the UMC Utrecht.        

Entry Requirements

To enroll in this course, you need:

  • A BSc degree in biomedical sciences, pharmaceutical sciences, medicine or veterinary medicine, or a comparable degree in medical education
  • Access to the program R
  • To have participated in the course Advanced Diagnostic Research    
  • Sufficient proficiency in English reading and writing

Please note
This is an online course, so you need access to an internet connection in order to be able to follow lectures, complete assignments and communicate with fellow participants. The only part of the course that is not online is the final examination. This course is offered through the MSc Epidemiology program developed by the UMC Utrecht and Utrecht University.

The entire course is also available face-to-face.  For more information about this option, please visit the MSc Epidemiology website.

Course staff

Quick overview

  • 27 Jan 2020 – 16 Feb 2020
  • 3 weeks
  • 14 hrs/wk
  • Academic Certificate
  • 1.5 EC
  • Online learning with guidance and support
  • English
  • Weblectures, individual assignments, group assignments
  • Desktop, Laptop, Smartphone, Tablet
  • 785

Request more info