RACP to review specialist exam retake policy


Junior doctors are pushing for RACP fellowship exams to be staged twice a year instead of once.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians holds its written exams for Adult Medicine and Paediatric & Child Health each February, one of two exams candidates in the basic training program need to pass to become advanced trainees in a chosen discipline.

The approximately 25% of candidates who fail the written exam must wait a year for a second or third attempt, and the AMA Council of Doctors in Training says this is too long.

The group wants the test offered twice a year, arguing this would be more supportive for trainees who have typically spent the previous 18 months studying between 10 and 20 hours a week to prepare for the exam, on top of working a 40-hour clinical load.

“Trainees effectively have to place other aspects of their life on hold whilst studying,” said the group’s deputy chair, Dr Chris Wilson, a WA-based physician trainee.

Trainees effectively have to place other aspects of their life on hold whilst studying, says Dr Chris Wilson, Chair of the AMA Council of Doctors in Training

Trainees effectively have to place other aspects of their life on hold whilst studying, says Dr Chris Wilson, Chair of the AMA Council of Doctors in Training

“If you have to wait 12 months (to attempt it again), you have to start your study all over again, rather than build on what you have already done.”

“I think it would significantly reduce the stress attached to the written exam for basic trainees and give people an opportunity to improve on areas of deficiency rather than start fresh with their studies.”

The second exam is a clinical test held each July, and candidates must pass the written exam to attempt it.

Allowing candidates who failed the exam in February to sit it again the same year would not accelerate their timeline to become advanced trainees.

However, it would allow them to have it out of the way well ahead of the clinical exam the following July, he said.

“They may even find some people prefer to sit the written [exam] in the second half of the year and give themselves more time to prepare for the clinical.”

This year the RACP reduced the number of times a candidate is allowed to sit the two exams from five to three.

The change includes ‘grandfathering’ for past candidates, so as not to disadvantage current trainees.

The RACP said the move is broadly in line with systems used by other medical colleges.

While the change was fair, Dr Wilson said it was important the RACP provided adequate support for those who are knocked out after three attempts.

This year, 74.1% of candidates passed the Adult Medicine written exam held in Australia, up from 70.6% in 2016. The exam is also held in New Zealand.

A spokeswoman for the RACP said the college’s board is considering the request.

“We will determine what actions need to be taken, if any, once the board has considered this issue,” she said.

“We are aware of trainees’ wishes.”

Do you think the RACP should stage its written exams for Adult Medicine and Paediatric Health twice a year?


Yes – it would better support doctors in the basic training program
No – it wouldn’t make any difference


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