IV. Process of a Formal Review
There are three pathways to initiate a formal review
- Immediate notification of the local examination authority by the candidate If one or several process irregularities as defined earlier are found to occur in the course of an examination, they should be brought immediately to the attention of the responsible local authority (i.e., the chair of the examination board (or a delegate), an invigilator, or the local coordinator). Examiners and staff of the Office of Specialty Education, as well as candidates, may initiate such action. The person in charge may then contact the Office of the Director of Specialty Education for immediate advice, who is empowered to take immediate measures to correct the irregularity, whenever possible. In any such case, a written report must be sent as soon as possible to the Office of the Director of Specialty Education. When that step is taken as early as possible in the course of events, this affords an opportunity to resolve most concerns or irregularities to the complete satisfaction of the candidate(s). This does not preclude further requests for review on the part of the candidate concerned.
- Reviews originating within the Office of Specialty Education Council has also stipulated (April 1992) that if the Office of Specialty Education becomes aware of any irregularity, it will initiate the appeal mechanism on behalf of one or several candidates. In such a case, the procedure described in this document shall be adhered to, but no fee shall be required from the candidate involved. The Office of Specialty Education may initiate a formal review at any time, even beyond the deadline stated for candidates. Whenever possible and desirable, the candidate or candidates potentially affected by such a review should be notified by the Director of Specialty Education at the most opportune time. Under exceptional circumstances where an obvious and manifest error in the procedure has occurred, the Director of Specialty Education will initiate a review and make the appropriate recommendations to the Chair of the Examination Board, which may include awarding a pass standing to a candidate.
- Reviews initiated by a candidate submitting a written request A candidate wishing to request a formal review must notify the Office of the Director of Specialty Education of the Royal College in writing within 30 business days of the date appearing on the letter of notification of examination results (not the Summary of Performance). Before submitting a request for formal review, the candidate must ensure that it is a process irregularity, not a content issue. Types of procedural allegations may include: insufficient time allotted for examination, delay in examination start time, disruption during examination, faulty examination equipment, etc. The request must explain, completely and in detail, all of the circumstances surrounding the alleged process irregularity, and an administration fee of $500, by certified cheque or money order, payable to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, must accompany it. The Director of Specialty Education shall acknowledge receipt of the request and deposit the fee. A request for a formal review that does not include the required administration fee in the prescribed form within the time set out above shall not be processed or considered.
Performing reviews initiated by candidates submitting written requests
Step I: Review by the Director of Specialty Education:
Within 30 business days of receipt of a request for a formal review, the Director of Specialty Education shall evaluate the request and conduct any enquiries that he or she may deem useful, and provide a non-binding written opinion to the candidate as to whether or not the grounds for a formal review alleged by the candidate are founded and, if so, what remedy should be accorded, if any.
Within 14 business days of the date appearing on the non-binding written opinion letter referred to above, the candidate shall advise the Director of Specialty Education, in writing, whether or not he or she wishes his or her request to be considered further by a Formal Review Panel.
If the candidate advises the Director of Specialty Education that he or she does not wish the matter to be considered by a Review Panel, the request for formal review will be considered withdrawn. In such circumstances, the Director of Specialty Education shall reimburse half the required administration fee and may, in his or her sole discretion, decide to also reimburse any additional portion of the administration fee.
Step II: Paper review by a Formal Review Panel
If the candidate advises the Director of Specialty Education that he or she wishes the matter to be considered further by a Formal Review Panel, a Review Panel consisting of three members from the Evaluation Committee shall be appointed. These may NOT be members of the examination board in the candidate's specialty, nor faculty members in the candidate's residency program, nor certified in the candidate's specialty (as determined by RCPSC Council, April 1992). One of the Review Panel members will be designated as its chair.
The Review Panel shall obtain, receive, and consider the request for review and the written opinion of the Director of Specialty Education as well as all the available and relevant documents and information pertaining to the review. The Director of Specialty Education, in consultation with the Review Panel, shall set a date for consideration by the Review Panel of the requested formal review.
The Panel's deliberations are carried out under conditions of strict confidentiality.
Following its review of the matter, the Chair of the Review Panel shall issue in writing is decision and any other relevant information or recommendation to the Director of Specialty Education, who shall in turn inform the candidate of the result.
The available decision options are as follows:
- no process irregularity has occurred; or
- there was a process irregularity, but NOT of such a magnitude that it could affect materially the candidate's outcome of the examination, or
- there was a process irregularity of sufficient magnitude to affect materially the candidate's outcome of the examination, and
- a repeat examination is allowed at the next examination session of the specialty, or
- a repeat examination is allowed at a special session held for one or several candidates, if such an examination is deemed feasible and valid.
In cases when a repeat examination is granted, the examination subjected to review is to be considered null and must not be counted in determining the candidate's eligibility for certification, but such eligibility remains subject to confirmation by the Credentials Unit.
The Evaluation Committee has also specified that, a repeat examination shall include all components of the original examination, in those specialties using comprehensive objective (COE) examinations, in which success on one component is not a prerequisite for passing the other component or components, nor for achieving certification.
The Review Panel shall in all cases set the candidate's fee for the formal review to equal the actual costs incurred by the Royal College in connection with it. The minimum fee shall be $500.00, but the Panel may, at its discretion, waive review fees altogether. The Panel shall also automatically waive the examination fee for a repeat examination.
The amount of the fee charged will reflect the cost of the review. The Review Panel, in its decision, may recommend a refund of the examination fee, the appeal fee, or both fees.
Step III: Oral Hearing by the Formal Review Panel
If the candidate is not satisfied with the decision of the Review Panel, the candidate may request a re-consideration of the matter, at the expense of the candidate, by way of an oral hearing before such Review Panel, or such other Panel as may be convened if it is impossible or impractical to reconstitute the original review Panel. Such a request must be made in writing, addressed to the Director of Specialty Education, and be received within 14 business days of the date appearing on the letter from the Director of Specialty Education advising the candidate of the decision of the Review Panel. Such a request for an oral hearing must also be accompanied by a processing fee in the amount of $1,000, by certified cheque or money order, payable to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. In addition, the candidate must outline the reasons for requesting an oral hearing and the basis upon which the candidate disputes the decision of the Review Panel.
Except under exceptional circumstances, the Review Panel will not consider additional information that was not previously provided, or could not reasonably have been provided, to the Review Panel prior to its initial consideration of the matter.
The Review Panel shall set a date and place for an oral hearing and, through the Director of Specialty Education, advise the candidate. The candidate may attend such a hearing, with or without counsel or another personal representative, and shall be entitled to make oral submissions at the hearing, and/or have oral submissions made on behalf of the candidate by the candidate's counsel or other personal representative. If the candidate is to appear with counsel or another personal representative, the candidate must so advise the Director of Specialty Education at least three weeks prior to the oral hearing date.
In the event of an oral hearing, normal deadlines will be waived; the meeting with the candidate will be carried out in the manner that the Panel considers proper.
Requests for adjournments will not be granted as of right and will only be granted in exceptional circumstances. A request for adjournment must be made as soon as possible to the Review Panel, and shall include the reasons for the request, and the amount of time needed for the adjournment. The Review Panel may decline to accept the candidate's convenience or that of its representative as a sufficient reason for adjournment.
The Panel will not be bound by the rules of law concerning evidence applicable to judicial proceedings; the candidate may be given information pertaining to the Review, at the discretion of the Panel. The Review Panel may order that information provided by the Director of Specialty Education not be disclosed to the candidate if, in the opinion of the Review Panel, such disclosure might undermine or otherwise impinge upon the integrity of the examination process.
Following the oral hearing, the Review Panel shall, within 30 business days of the oral hearing, issue its decision in writing. The decision, along with any other relevant information or recommendation, shall be forwarded in writing to the Director of Specialty Education who shall in turn inform the candidate of the result.
The decision options of the Review Panel following an oral hearing are as follows:
- The Panel may confirm its original decision; or
- The Panel may revise or amend its decision or issue a new decision from among the available decision options described above.
The Review Panel at an oral hearing shall in all cases set the candidate's fee for the oral hearing to equal the actual costs incurred by the Royal College in relation to the oral hearing, including but not limited to legal fees incurred by the Royal College. The minimum fee shall be $1,000. The Review Panel may, however, in its entire discretion, waive the review fee or any portion thereof and/or, in exceptional circumstances, order that the Royal College pay the candidate's reasonable expenses in relation to the oral hearing, including travel and accommodations.
Among the factors to be considered by the Review Panel, in exercising its authority and discretion, are whether or not the grounds for seeking an oral hearing were objective, reasonably based and whether or not the alleged matters raised issues of credibility that warranted an oral hearing as opposed to a paper review.
Where a repeat examination is recommended, the Panel shall waive the examination fee.
THERE IS NO PROVISION FOR FURTHER REVIEW BY THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF THE DECISIONS OF THE REVIEW PANEL AFTER THE ORAL HEARING, WHICH ARE CONSIDERED FINAL.
Reporting the Review Panel's decision (paper review or oral hearing)
The deliberations of the Review Panel and the documents used in the formal review are strictly confidential. The Director of Specialty Education shall forward to the candidate a confidential letter stating the decisions of the Review Panel and the amount of the fee set by the Panel.
A report of all the cases reviewed will be presented once a year to the Evaluation Committee, together with the actions taken as a result of the reviews.