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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 and practice based assessments are conducted only on the basis of alleged significant procedural irregularities in the assessment process, not because of alleged errors in content. The exclusion of errors in content applies to allegations of errors in either the questions and structure of the examination, or the evaluation and content of the responses provided by the candidate.

The review process is not a re-grading or re-scoring exercise. This scope of review is designed to act as a safeguard for the validity of the examination and assessment process.

The distinction between content reviews and process reviews is of the utmost importance. Requests for reviews based on alleged errors in content will not be processed. A request for a formal review will only be considered in the event of a procedural irregularity serious enough to affect materially the candidate's performance.

Examples of potential issues that do NOT constitute process irregularities include:

  • Disagreements or concerns regarding the content and/or structure of the examination or practice based assessment;
  • Disagreements or concerns regarding the grading of the examination or practice based assessment;
  • Concerns regarding the extent of post-examination or post-practice based assessment feedback provided to candidates;
  • Requests for disclosure of Royal College documentation and/or records;
  • Mere fact of repeat examiners;
  • Requests for the Royal College to consider information not normally considered as part of the evaluation process, such as FITERS (for non-borderline candidates) and reference letters.

II. Purpose

Formal reviews of examinations and practice based assessments 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 or practice based assessment administered to one or several candidates, and to ascertain whether the process was carried out under conditions appropriate to the conduct of an examination or practice based assessment as determined by the Discipline Specific Examination Boards and approved by the Examination Committee of the Royal College. Formal reviews of examinations and practice based assessments involve candidates, Royal College examiners, the Examination Committee, the Assessment Committee and the Office of Specialty Education in an effort to identify any significant irregularities in the conduct of the examination process and any procedural unfairness materially affecting one or several candidates.

III. Principles

  1. Examiners in a given specialty are authorities on content. Their judgment 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. An examiner’s decision with respect to the correctness or completeness of a response and their assessment of a candidate’s knowledge and/or skills is final. While a candidate may disagree with their decision, such disagreement 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.