In order to enable Masters level pre-registration students to demonstrate sophisticated cognitive abilities, integration of knowledge, complex problem solving, critical opinion, lateral thinking and innovative action; an innovative assessment tool is required (Sadler, 2009). A clinical viva was devised to enable third year students in their final transitional placement prior to qualifying demonstrate both the art and science of nursing practice. The assessment combines some of the viva element of an Australian assessment model described by Levett-Jones et al. (2011), together with the think aloud approach suggested by Banning (2008); whereby the think aloud model acts as a catalyst for eliciting students' understandings and knowledge and the SOAP model is a mechanism for the assessment of students' understandings and knowledge. Rust (2002) calls for students to be afforded opportunities for regular formative feedback; therefore, the assessment includes a replica formative assessment, one week prior to the summative assessment. This formative test prevents assessment being seen as a snapshot of the student's development and encourages assessment for learning and is an approach which is suggested to discourage surface learning (Rust, 2002). A holistic rubric was developed in an attempt to capture the students' abilities against the six cognitive operators or heuristics suggested by Banning (2008). Open-ended questions were devised to be asked of the students as advocated by Levett-Jones et al. (2011), to uncover the student's cognitive abilities, integration of knowledge, complex problem solving, critical opinion, lateral thinking and innovative action. Roberts (2011) calls for new and innovative ways of assessing student learning which bridges the artificial divide between theory and practice and enables students to demonstrate both the art and science of nursing practice (p610). The clinical viva has the potential to be one such mechanism. Copyright © 2013. Published by Elsevier Ltd.