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Policy and procedures for the formal review of Royal College exams

This document outlines the policy and procedures for the formal review of Royal College exams. It is intended for candidates, chairs and members of examination boards (including invigilators appointed by the Royal College) and Royal College staff.

I. Policy

Formal reviews of examinations are conducted only on the basis of alleged significant irregularities in the evaluation process, not because of alleged errors in content. This course of action is consistent with that adopted in other organizations as a safeguard against undermining the whole examination process.

The distinction between content and process is of the utmost importance, and must be addressed first by all concerned. Council of the Royal College has also specified that for review purposes, process irregularities are considered relevant only when serious enough to affect materially the candidate's performance.

II. Purpose

Formal reviews of examinations are part of the evaluation and quality improvement system used by the Royal College to grant specialist certification. They provide a means to investigate the circumstances of the written, oral or other type of examination administered to one or several candidates, and to ascertain that the process was carried out under conditions appropriate to the conduct of an examination as determined by the examination board and approved by the Evaluation Committee of the RCPSC. Formal reviews of examinations involve candidates, examiners, the Evaluation Committee, and the Office of Education in a cooperative educational effort to address significant irregularities in the conduct of the examination process and any procedural unfairness materially affecting one or several candidates in order to improve the system of evaluation, and to enhance the quality of the certification process.

III. Principles

  1. Examiners in a given specialty are appointed as authorities on content. Their judgement relative to the correctness of a candidate's answers is not open to challenge, otherwise the review would become a content-oriented discussion between experts.
  2. When the examiners rule that a candidate did not answer correctly a sufficient number of questions, and therefore did not achieve the objectives being tested or reach the required standard of competence, the candidate may well disagree with their decision, but that belongs in the realm of content and does not constitute grounds for review.
  3. On occasion, deviations from the stated format or conduct of the examination may be unavoidable and irregularities may occur that do not result in any unfairness or significantly affect the performance of the candidate.