Impact on Royal College exams

With the World Health Organization’s declaration of a COVID-19 pandemic and the rapidly evolving situation in Canada, the Royal College has made the decision to postpone spring 2020 exams to the fall. In response to these extraordinary times, and in consultation with stakeholders, the Royal College has decided that oral exams will not be required for the spring 2020 specialty exams and the fall 2020 subspecialty exams.

Update on postponed spring 2020 exams

With the World Health Organization’s declaration of a COVID-19 pandemic and the rapidly evolving situation in Canada, the Royal College has made the difficult decision of postponing the delivery of the spring 2020 written certification exams to September 2020 at the earliest.

Requirement for certification

The Royal College has a duty to the public to assess and certify the competence of specialist physicians and surgeons. Assessment within residency programs plays a significant role, but has never been the sole determinant for certification.

On March 26, 2020, the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities and its members (the 13 provincial and territorial medical regulatory authorities) announced that they require the 2020 graduating cohort to pass the pan-Canadian certification exam before they will be eligible for full, unrestricted licenses to practise medicine in Canada.

As long as exams are required, the Royal College will ensure that they are delivered fairly and safely. We stand with our academic partners and are committed to delivering the spring 2020 exams in the most responsible way possible. As certification is for life, the Royal College must balance the need to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with ensuring the ongoing safety of Canadians.

Plan to deliver the spring 2020 written exams this fall

On April 9, 2020, the Royal College announced its four-point plan to deliver the spring 2020 exams this fall, in response to these extraordinary times:

  1. Oral exams will not be required for the spring 2020 cohort. The spring 2020 candidates will not need to complete the oral component of the comprehensive exam.

    The written exam format (MCQ, SAQ) and length will be unchanged and continues to be based on the objectives of training of the discipline.

    Before the exam (requirements):

    • Signed re-affirmation from your program director that you have met the required competencies to attempt the written exam will be needed. This will be organized between the Royal College and Canadian universities for the spring 2020 candidates.

    • If you are a repeat exam taker, international medical graduate or U.S. graduate, you will have to provide the necessary documentation for re-affirmation from an appropriate supervisor.

      Write the written exam: You will then take a written exam. If you pass the written exam, you will be immediately certified.

      For those who fail the written exam: If you do not pass the written exam, you will not be eligible for certification this year and will need to apply again next year; however, you will not exhaust an attempt in sitting this exam. We have extended everyone who was exam eligible in spring 2020 an extra year of eligibility.

  2. We will inform you of the dates for the exams. We have set a goal of September 2020 for the exam, and will be in a position to give you firm dates once we have confirmed the sites where these exams will be held. We commit to providing a minimum of 6 weeks’ notice. We will be monitoring progress on COVID-19 and making the necessary logistical adjustments, if needed.

  3. Test sites will be expanded so you can take the exam closer to home. We previously had 14 test sites across the country. Together with our academic and health partners, we are expanding the number of test sites to allow residents to take the exam as close to their home or work place as possible. Test sites will adhere to ongoing physical distancing protocols. We will provide more information on test locations once we have confirmed them with our partners.

  4. Fees for the oral exam will be refunded to you. We will reimburse your oral exam fee as quickly as possible. We will expedite these refunds to get the $2,215 fee back to you within the next 60 days, which will be refunded to your credit card.

For more details, please access our Royal College Spring 2020 Exams: FAQ.

Update on the fall 2020 subspecialty exams

The Royal College has been monitoring progress of COVID-19 and making logistical adjustments to deliver exams equitably, safely and in the most responsible and valid way possible. With regard to the fall 2020 subspecialty exams, we have been concerned that delivery of an applied (oral/OSCE/practical) examination before December 31, 2020, may not be feasible or safe.

On April 27, 2020, the Royal College announced its plan to deliver the fall 2020 exams, in response to these extraordinary times:

For candidates in disciplines that have a written-only format

  • There are no changes to exam format or fees.

  • We have set a goal of September 2020 for the exams, and will be in a position to give you firm dates once we have confirmed the sites where these exams will be held. We commit to providing a minimum of six weeks’ notice. We will be monitoring progress on COVID-19 and making the necessary logistical adjustments, if needed.

  • Test sites will be expanded so you can take the exam closer to home. Test sites will adhere to ongoing physical distancing protocols. We will provide more information on test locations once we have confirmed them with our partners.

  • If you do not pass the written exam, you will not be eligible for certification this year and will need to apply again next year; however, you will not exhaust an attempt in sitting this exam. We have extended everyone who was exam eligible for fall 2020 an extra year of eligibility.

For candidates in disciplines with a comprehensive exam (written and applied components)

The Royal College will extend its four-point plan from spring examinations to the fall 2020 comprehensive subspecialty exams. This decision applies to all candidates in the 11 affected subspecialties who are eligible for the fall 2020 exams, regardless of training (i.e. international medical graduates and U.S. graduates for the subspecialty examination affiliate program (SEAP) designation).

  1. Applied exams will not be required for fall 2020 candidates who are in disciplines with a comprehensive exam. You will be required to take only the written component.

    We will require:

    • Signed re-affirmation from your program director (or supervisors of practice eligibility candidates) that you have met the required competencies to attempt the written exam will be needed. This will be organized between the Royal College and Canadian universities for the fall 2020 candidates.

    • If you are a repeat exam taker, international medical graduate or U.S. graduate, you will have to provide the necessary documentation from an appropriate supervisor.

    • This attestation must be returned to the Royal College by August 1, 2020, to maintain eligibility for the fall 2020 written exam.
    • Write the written exam: Written exams for the 11 affected subspecialties will be modified to augment essential content that was originally blueprinted to the applied components. If you pass the written exam you will be immediately certified.

      For those who fail the written exam: If you do not pass the written exam, you will not be eligible for certification this year and will need to apply again next year; however, you will not exhaust an attempt in sitting this exam. We have extended everyone who was exam eligible for fall 2020 an extra year of eligibility.

  2. We will inform you of the dates for the exams. We have set a goal of September 2020 for the exams, and will be in a position to give you firm dates once we have confirmed the sites where these exams will be held. We commit to providing a minimum of six weeks’ notice. We will be monitoring progress on COVID-19 and making the necessary logistical adjustments, if needed.

  3. Test sites will be expanded so you can take the exam closer to home. Together with our academic and health partners, we are expanding the number of test sites to allow residents to take the exam as close to their homes or work places as possible. Test sites will adhere to ongoing physical distancing protocols. We will provide more information on test locations once we have confirmed them with our partners.

  4. Fees for the oral exam will be refunded. For those who have already registered and paid, we will reimburse your oral exam fee as quickly as possible. We will expedite these refunds to get the $2,215 fee back to you within 60 days (of April 27, 2020). For those who have not yet registered, the equivalent reduced fee for written only exams will be applied.

For more details, please access our Royal College Fall 2020 Exams: FAQ.

Registration for the subspecialty fall examinations

Registration for the subspecialty fall examinations is currently open. Candidates who are eligible for both the primary and subspecialty examinations of 2020 may register for both.

Registration for the fall exams has been extended to June 15, 2020.

Provisional licensing for the 2020 graduating cohorts

We anticipate that as this pandemic evolves, the care residents provide will be essential. Provincial regulatory authorities have confirmed they have mechanisms to provide graduating residents with provisional/temporary/restricted licenses to practise, given the unexpected and necessary postponement of exams and certification.

Graduating residents will be eligible for a provisional/temporary/restricted license in a Canadian province provided that

  1. they have confirmation that they completed their postgraduate training program in Canada;
  2. they have received notice of eligibility to take the certification exam (from the College of Family Physicians of Canada or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada); and
  3. they understand that they must take the certification exam at the earliest opportunity.

Provisional and restricted licensing will vary by location. Please contact the appropriate medical regulatory authority for more details.