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14 Mar 2018

The AMA successfully 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 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.

The AMA reports that discussions with the RACP were positive.

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.

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.

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.

The AMA is making a comprehensive submission to the review, using extensive feedback given by its members.

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.

The exam cost each trainee about $1800.

The RACP advised that if a trainee did not pass the resit or alternative resit exam, it would not be counted as one of three attempts at the examination that trainees are allowed. Similarly, the cancelled exam will not count as one of the three attempts.


Published: 14 Mar 2018