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02 Mar 2018

The AMA has intervened on behalf of trainee doctors around the country, following the distressing mid-test crash of the computer-based Royal Australasian College of Physicians examination. 

Following strong interventions from AMA President Michael Gannon and Chair of the AMA Council of Doctors in Training John Zorbas, the RACP has agreed to fully refund the exam fee, to release the questions from the computer-based exam to ensure that no participants were disadvantaged, and to offer a paper-based exam.

Dr Gannon wrote to all State and Territory health departments asking them to accommodate the more than one thousand trainees who had to sit the test again.

“This is a high-stakes examination that trainees spend months preparing for and involves sacrifices in their personal and family lives,” he said.

“The decision by the RACP to call off the exam has caused enormous distress for participating trainees who now face the daunting prospect of having to re-sit the exam.

“While the AMA is very concerned that trainees find themselves in this position and is seeking answers from the College, our main focus at the moment is to ensure that trainees are properly supported and have every chance of participating in and passing the scheduled exam.”

Dr Gannon asked the health departments to allow the trainees extra time for study and revision, and to the sit the rescheduled exam. The dramatic episode had a huge impact on hospital rosters and leave entitlements.

Dr Gannon asked the trainees’ bosses to be understanding of their predicament.

“While some health services may find this challenging, these are unusual circumstances that require a very sympathetic response,” he said.

“I hope you will commit to supporting these trainees, including by directing local health services to do everything possible to help them at this very difficult time.”

About 1200 trainee physicians in Australia and New Zealand had to re-sit the RACP Basic Exam on March 2, after a massive IT failure caused the computer-based written test to be cancelled while they were sitting it last month.

IT company Pearson Vue was employed to conduct the exam on February 19.

A technical fault left a significant number of candidates locked out of the computer based system and unable to complete the second part of the examination after their scheduled break.

Even though some trainees had completed the test, the RACP insisted that all candidates resit the exam and that the cancelled test will not count as an examination attempt.

The Adult Medicine and Paediatric Written Examinations are one exam in two papers. The final score relies on completion of the whole exam, and the complex calculation of pass marks is dependent on this, the College said. 

RACP President, Dr Catherine Yelland, apologised to the trainees for the “stress and disruption” caused by the cancellation of the exam and vowed to release findings of an investigation into it.

“We understand that this has been unexpected, stressful and distressing. We have and continue to apologise for this. We encourage all trainees to talk with their supervisors, colleagues, family and friends,” she said.

An RACP panel was established to review the issue, including the technical failure of the exam, the College’s response, and the impact on trainees – including incurred travel costs, cancelled holidays, and other expenses.

“Many of you have had to make other arrangements when you were looking forward to family events, a holiday or a short break from study,” Dr Yelland said.

“We are also aware of the financial implications for trainees.”

Dr Zorbas said the system failure had caused enormous stress throughout the medical profession.

“This is an exam that some people have been studying for years for, and for it to come apart at the last minute because of a technical glitch without a backup system in place is incredibly distressing for these trainees,” he said on the day.

“Any trainee who finds themselves in distress, any doctor who is just not coping with the situation should contact the Doctors’ Help Advisory Service for support.

“And secondly, we want to reassure these doctors that we’re speaking to RACP to find out exactly what’s gone wrong and make sure there’s an open, fair, transparent system in place.”

The exam cost each trainee about $1800. The College vowed none would be financially disadvantaged for travelling to the rescheduled test.

A supplementary examination time was also promised also for those who could not sit the test on March 2.









Published: 02 Mar 2018