Royal College Spring 2020 Exams: Frequently asked questions

Last updated September 10, 2020

We are open to other ideas for what frequently asked questions would be most helpful. Please email your suggestions to communications@royalcollege.ca.

Exam results

** New When can we expect the results of our exam?

The addition of 14 new sites within Canada and internationally provides strong contingency options, but also results in added complexity in marking the 2020 exams. Please know that we are committed to sharing results with you as soon as they are available, however we do need to allow additional time for things like the shipment and receipt of the exams from our international exam sites and to allow enough time for our volunteer examiners to mark the exam.

November 30 is the absolute latest date that all primary exam results will be posted, however, if your exam is being written earlier in the cycle, you may expect your results earlier.

** New How do I access my results?

Your results are posted on a secure, confidential server and can only be accessed using your unique identifier. If you DO NOT want your results posted on the website, you must inform the Credentials Unit (as soon as possible, and up to the day before your examination) by email at candidates@royalcollege.ca. Visit our website for more information.

** New Are exam results shared with others (e.g. my program director), or are they confidential?

Your results are confidential and will not be shared with your program. We do notify the MRAs when a candidate has been certified in the discipline.

** New Will SAQ exams be marked in a timely manner?

It is important to understand that even outside of a pandemic, not all of our exam boards do their short answer question (SAQ) marking onsite. We do have solutions in place, including having exam boards meet virtually. There will be some delays in posting results, but we want you to know that we are committed to posting results as soon as possible. We currently estimate that we will post results by end of November.

** New Given the current environment, will the Royal College use a bell curve to grade exam results?

No, the Royal College does not use a bell curve to grade exam results. Our exams are criterion-referenced, which includes an in-depth analysis of all examinations after they are written. This is something we do every year, and 2020 will be no different.

Contingency planning

** New Is there a plan in place should measures be taken regionally to enforce restrictions that could impact the ability to take an exam at the centre?

The exams have been organized so they can be delivered safely even if we are in a modified environment (e.g. the lockdown that happened last spring). We are closely adhering to the Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines, including ensuring a minimum of six feet distance between each person. No more than nine candidates and one proctor will be allowed in each room at exam centres.

** New What happens if there is an outbreak in one area, forcing lockdowns in a city or region?

We are closely monitoring the evolution of this pandemic and we all know that the behaviour of the virus is unpredictable, and our first priority remains the health and safety of all individuals involved in exams. If indicators are pointing to an impact at a specific site, we will try to adjust the exam sites, if required, and find an alternative that would allow all candidates to take the exam safely on the same day. This would help protect the validity of the examination.

** New What happens if there is a second wave and most of the country is put into a second lockdown?

The exams have been organized so they can be delivered safely even if we are in a modified environment (e.g. the lockdown that happened last spring). We are closely adhering to the PHAC guidelines, including ensuring a minimum of six feet distance between each person. No more than nine candidates and one proctor will be allowed in each room at exam centres.

In the event of catastrophic changes, we will email candidates with instructions.

** New If a candidate is exposed to COVID-19 and needs to quarantine, is there a contingency plan?

This fall, the safety of our candidates, examiners and staff will continue to be our top priority. Candidates who are in mandatory quarantine or are symptomatic pose a risk to that safety and would need to defer their exam to the next opportunity.

Candidates will be screened at registration as to their status (recent symptoms). Third party/ hotel test facilities outside Canada may require temperature screening to enter their sites, as well as additional attestations. We expect candidates to adhere to professional codes of conduct and public health directives, and not to go to the exam if they are quarantined or symptomatic of potential COVID-19.

We have looked at all contingencies. However, it is not at this time possible to provide individual invigilation for quarantined candidates on short notice; they would have to defer to 2021. We understand that this would be a disappointing situation, but we need to ensure the safe delivery of exams.

** New What happens if I am exposed to COVID-19 and forced into quarantine leading up to my exam? Could I switch from in-person to online?

For MCQ exams, the deadline for selecting online was extended to July 13, 2020. Unfortunately, our online proctoring solution requires finalization and checks weeks in advance of the exam. As such, after the July 13 deadline you will not be able to switch to the online delivery method as we would not have the appropriate proctoring and checks to facilitate any switches.

** New If an exam attempt is unsuccessful, will there be ample time to reapply?

For candidates who are unsuccessful in 2020, the current deadline for registering for the spring 2021 exam is January 13, 2021 and the deadline for registered for the fall 2021 exam is May 15, 2021. However, even after the deadlines, we will be sure to accommodate you. We do not want deadlines to create any additional stress.

** New With the applied/oral/OSCE component being cancelled for 2020, has the content of the written exam changed?

The written exam format for both the Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) and the Short Answer Questions (SAQ) exam will be unchanged and continues to be based on the objectives of training of the discipline.

You will not be asked anything that wasn’t in the original overall 2020 exam blueprint scheduled for the spring. The exam will not introduce anything new (e.g. content related to COVID-19 or recent literature). Disciplines were permitted to add critical content (e.g. images from a practical exam) that could be asked in the existing written exam format on paper without altering the length of the exam (i.e. substituted for other content). If you prepared for your exam this spring (Written and Oral/Applied), and are continuing to refresh your knowledge, you will be well prepared for the postponed exam date.

Logistical information

What are the new written examination dates?

Where will exams be offered?

The number of examination sites has been expanded so candidates can take the exam closer to work or home. All examination sites will adhere to ongoing physical distancing protocols. For candidates in specialties with only multiple-choice questions, they will have the option to write the exam online.

In addition to our regular examination sites located in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, London, Hamilton, Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax and St. John’s, we have added additional sites in Canada, the United States and internationally.

In Canada, we have added sites in:

  • Kelowna, BC
  • Thunder Bay, ON
  • Sherbrooke, QC
  • Sudbury, ON
  • Victoria, BC

In the United States, we are offering sites in:

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Boston, MA
  • Dallas, TX
  • Palo Alto, CA

Internationally, we are offering sites in:

  • Sydney, AU
  • Auckland, NZ
  • London, UK
  • Paris, FR

In the US, sites were selected to balance the spread of candidates across the country and airline hubs were chosen to facilitate travel.

The addresses for exam centres are now available for spring 2020 exams. Please visit our website for more details.

** New Is wearing masks mandatory at exam centres?

It is mandatory for all invigilators to wear masks at registration desks, when distributing exams and dealing with candidates' belongings. Invigilators can remove their mask when sitting at the invigilator desk but must put on a mask when speaking to candidates.

Masks are provided to candidates if they wish to use them or they can bring their own to the exam centre. Candidates must wear masks until they get to their desks. Masks can be taken off once the exam has commenced and candidates and staff are seated. While writing, candidates do not need to wear one. Any interaction between staff and candidates must be made while wearing a mask. For example, if candidates are asking the invigilator a question, they must wear a mask. If they wish to leave their desk, go to the washroom, and are in the common areas of the exam centre, they must also wear a mask.

Candidates are encouraged to check with local public health authority guidelines and comply with any site-specific recommendations.

** New Which time zone do I use for my exam?

Your exam will be written in the time zone of your registered exam centre. Please visit the website for exact times. For example, in Canada and the United States, Session A starts at 09:00 local time and ends at 12:00 local time. For Session B, start time is 14:00 local time and end time is 17:00 local time.

** New Can I store my luggage prior to writing my exam at my registered exam centre?

Yes, please visit the front desk or the hotel bell staff upon arrival and request to have your luggage stored for the day, as you will be writing the Royal College certification exam in a hotel. Please note that a fee may apply.

** New What does my appointment letter contain?

Appointment letters were sent in early July and contained your date, time, city of registered test centre, and chosen delivery method for your specialty certification exam, along with other important information. Please retain this correspondence for your reference.

** New Will each candidate’s desk space be sanitized between the morning and afternoon sessions? What other sanitation protocols will be followed?

Hotel staff will be sanitizing meeting rooms in between exam sessions. Marriott Brand hotels, Westin Hotels, and InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) have implemented a cleanliness protocol. This involves:

  • providing dedicated staff who will clean surfaces with increased frequency
  • installing hand-sanitizing stations at hotel entrances, front desks, elevator banks, meeting spaces and other common areas,
  • having signage in public spaces to remind people to maintain physical distancing,
  • using linen-less tables for easy disinfection, and
  • sanitizing surfaces including tables, chairs, and all high-touch items between sessions, if the same room is being used for the afternoon.

** New Can I change my test centre?

No, the deadline to make changes has passed. Unfortunately, we cannot make changes after the deadline due to logistical factors that need to be put in place to prepare for the safe administration of the exams.

** New What steps are the Royal College taking to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection onsite at exams?

At the exam centre, we will pre-screen all candidates using a questionnaire. Onsite, hotel staff will be sanitizing meeting rooms in between exam sessions. Marriott Brand hotels, Westin Hotels, and InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) have implemented a cleanliness protocol, which involves:

  • providing dedicated staff who will clean surfaces with increased frequency,
  • installing hand-sanitizing stations at hotel entrances, front desks, elevator banks, meeting spaces and other common areas,
  • having signage in public spaces to remind people to maintain physical distancing,
  • using linen-less tables for easy disinfection, and
  • sanitizing surfaces including tables, chairs, and all high-touch items between sessions, if the same room is being used for the afternoon.

We are also looking to our candidates for their professional responsibility to not present if they have symptoms or have tested COVID-19 positive. If a candidate is asymptomatic and unaware that they have COVID-19, but discovers later that they were positive, we will work closely with our public health experts to help trace any contacts they think are of significance. To help reduce the risks of onsite transmission, we are closely adhering to all physical distancing guidelines.

** New Will the Royal College provide enough supplies to ensure no items are reused?

Candidates will receive a “loot bag” of supplies they need, including pen (for SAQ exams), pencils (for MCQ exams), ear plugs and a mini hand sanitizer. Individual clinical lab values and scrap paper will be included in each exam package.

Calculators will be provided for the Sessions A & B and will wiped down after each session.

** New Will calculators be provided?

Yes. There will be calculators provided for those writing paper-based exams. For those writing online, the software has a calculator.

** New Will food and drink be allowed in the exam centre?

Yes, food and drinks will be allowed.

** New Will washroom breaks be allowed?

Yes, washroom breaks are allowed for both in-person and online exams. We recognize you are professionals; you will not be followed by invigilators into the washroom.

Is the Royal College taking into consideration that some specialities and locations are being more directly impacted by COVID-19 (e.g. Emergency Medicine or Anesthesia in Montreal and Toronto), and as a result, it may be more difficult for these individuals to prepare for the exam?

Royal College has a duty to the public to assess and certify the competence of specialist physicians and surgeons, and exams play an important role in final certification. We are treating all candidates equitably and are working closely with programs to ensure candidates have as much time as possible to study leading up to their exam date.

Can I sit my subspecialty examination if I haven’t yet written my specialty exam because it was postponed (e.g. write the Medical Oncology exam prior to the Internal Medicine one)?

The Royal College has a process in place by which a candidate can appear for a subspecialty exam prior to a primary exam. Certification and Fellowship will only be conferred upon success at both exams.

What is the Royal College doing to ensure that the timing of the examinations still allows for American board exams to be written?

Most American board examinations have also been postponed. As we secure dates and venues for our postponed spring 2020 written examinations, we will make every effort to avoid conflicts in the scheduling, appreciating that some of their postponed exams are yet to be rescheduled.

Format and method of exam administration

How does the Royal College know that the integrity of the exam is protected when removing the oral component, which traditionally is a significant part of the exam?

In these unprecedented times, the Royal College has released our strategic 4-point plan to deliver 2020 exams. The written exam format of Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ), Short Answer Questions (SAQ) and length will be unchanged and continues to be based on the objectives of training of the discipline. Although the oral component is not a requirement for 2020 candidates, other steps are being taken to ensure candidates have the required knowledge, such as the provision of a signed re-affirmation from program directors that a trainee has met the required competencies to attempt the written exam.

If we agree that the oral/OSCE/applied examinations are not required for licensure for this cohort of candidates, then why will they be required, ever again, for any cohort?

Given the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19 impact on spring 2020 exams, the decision to waive the oral component of the comprehensive exam is for 2020 candidates only. We have introduced the four-point plan, including signed re-affirmation from program directors that indicate residents have met the required competencies to attempt the written examination, in order to support to validity of successful candidates during these unprecedented times.

How is the integrity of exams being protected when exams are being delivered in multiple locations, including across different time zones?

The administration of valid exams requires a coordinated effort to ensure that all exams from a specific discipline are administered, across various time zones, on the same day and in the same manner. Start and end times will be adjusted to reflect the various time zones. This strict administration process also upholds the validity and reliability of the exam, and ensures the integrity of the assessment and that all content and documents are secured.

What is the proposed approach to administer the spring 2020 examinations this fall?

The Royal College has a 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 late August/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 are committed 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. 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 candidates 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 60 days (of the April 9 four-point exam plan announcement). Your refund will be in the same form of payment that you used.

Will certification of spring 2020 candidates, by written exam only, have limitations?

No. For this year only, if a spring 2020 cohort candidate meets the criteria for certification through written-exam only, the candidate will be deemed certified by the Royal College.

How will my Canadian program director re-affirm that I have met the required competencies to attempt the written examination?

All program directors will receive a letter asking them to re-affirm; no action will be required by first-time exam candidates.

If I am a repeat exam taker or international medical graduate from a residency program outside of Canada, what re-affirmation documentation is required?

You will be provided with an attestation letter to be signed. If you have recently (less than three years ago) graduated from a jurisdiction-approved or U.S. residency program, your program director can attest to your competencies. Alternatively, a recent fellowship director can serve for the attestation, or someone who has served as a supervisor and/or accountable for your practice in the last year. This attestation must be returned to the Royal College by August 1, 2020, to maintain eligibility for the postponed spring 2020 examinations.

If I am an international medical graduate, U.S. graduate or a repeat exam candidate and am in a Canadian residency program, who will attest that I have met the required competencies to attempt the written examination?

We require a signed re-affirmation from your program director that you have met the required competencies to attempt the written exam. This will be organized between the Royal College and Canadian universities for the spring 2020 candidates. This attestation must be returned to the Royal College by August 1, 2020, to maintain eligibility for the postponed spring 2020 examinations.

If I am an international medical graduate or U.S. graduate and am in practice in Canada, who will attest that I have met the required competencies to attempt the written examination?

You will be provided with an attestation letter to be signed. We will require the signature of someone who has supervision or accountability over your practice, such as a clinical supervisor, department head or chief of staff. This attestation must be returned to the Royal College by August 1, 2020, to maintain eligibility for the postponed spring 2020 examinations.

What software is the Royal College using to administer its spring 2020 exams online for the MCQ format?

We recognize that some of our healthcare partners have experienced challenges in delivering their exams online. We are using a different software platform than these partners, as well as a different invigilation company.

As we have all experienced in the past few months, technology always carries some inherent risk. We have established comprehensive, mandatory online checks with all candidates who have registered for the online exam to reduce risk leading into their exam.

The software vendor that the Royal College is using is called Practique, which is exam management software that was developed by the British vendor Fry-IT. It is already being used by a number of other colleges, including Britain’s Royal College of General Practitioners. The remote proctoring company that will proctor the exam is Examity, and we have opted for primarily one-to-one invigilation.

Why can’t the Royal College administer exams via another format (e.g. teleconference, small group, multiple days, virtual setting)?

The administration of valid exams requires a coordinated effort to ensure that all exams from a specific discipline are administered, across five time zones, at the same time and in the same manner. Variations to any part of the process could impact a candidate and their results. This strict administration process also upholds the validity and reliability of the exam, and ensures the integrity of the assessment and that all content and documents are secured. Additionally, having the exams equally available to all candidates at the appropriate time is one of our guiding principles. Were the exams provided prior to late August/September 2020 or in a different format, it is possible that some candidates would not have equal access to exams.

Why is it not possible for program director evaluations on suitability for practice and training ITERS to replace/be individually considered the “exam” for this year’s cohort?

The Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FMRAC) has indicated that residents must pass the pan-Canadian certification exam before they are eligible for a full, unrestricted license to practise medicine in Canada. Therefore, any path to certification without an exam would fail to meet the requirements for a full, unrestricted license. Please contact your local medical regulatory authority for more information.

As certification is for life, the Royal College needs to balance the need to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with ensuring the ongoing safety of Canadians. At this time, the certification exam has been deemed a necessary final step to certify candidates have all the skills and knowledge needed to be an effective specialist. Assessment within residency programs plays a significant role but has never been the sole determinant for certification. The Royal College has a duty to the public to assess and certify the competence of specialist physicians and surgeons.

Are contingency plans being explored to address the effects of exam delays (e.g. advocacy to reduce the requirements/expedite provisional licenses, back-up options for people unable to write in fall 2020, etc.)?

All spring 2020 candidates are receiving an extra year of exam eligibility to account for any potential impacts on performance. In addition, spring 2020 candidates who wish to defer their Royal College written exam in 2020 may withdraw at any time, at no cost and for any COVID-19 related reason. In the case of withdrawal, it will not be considered as an exam attempt. Candidates who do present to the exam but are unsuccessful will not be eligible for certification this year and will need to apply again next year; however, they will not exhaust an attempt in sitting this exam.

The Royal College has been continuously working and collaborating with the medical regulatory authorities across Canada. They have been incredibly helpful and are working hard to have residents transition to practice in their specialty, so to care for patients as the most responsible physician. Additionally, they have posted information on their own websites, which will be continuously updated.

Online exams via remote proctoring

** New When will I be able to create my online profile?

In order to create your online profile, candidates will be emailed their Candidate ID and password, by specialty, on the following dates:

Psychiatry August 20, 2020
Obstetrics and Gynecology August 24, 2020
Orthopedic Surgery August 24, 2020
Diagnostic Radiology August 28, 2020
General Surgery August 31, 2020
Urology September 7, 2020
Internal Medicine September 11, 2020
Surgical Foundations September 18, 2020

If you don’t receive your email by the following morning, please check your spam and if you still cannot find the email, please contact examscovid@royalcollege.ca.

** New How does the Royal College handle my personal information needed for the MCQ online exam?

The Royal College takes your privacy seriously and for this reason, we have completed a Privacy Impact Assessment of the platforms being used for the 2020 examinations to understand all of the privacy concerns. The collection and storage of the data captured by teleconference software and stored within the Examity platform are bound by the policies posted at https://examity.com/privacy-and-security/.

For information on how the Royal College will manage your personal information, see the Royal College Privacy Policy. Audio/video recordings of interactions with the proctor, the test environment, and the examination session are kept for a maximum of six months, or until any examination appeal process is resolved, whichever is later.

** New How do I disable pop-ups in order to write my online exam?

Chrome
On your computer, open Chrome.
At the top right, click More (represented with 3 dots).
Click Settings.
Under “Privacy and security,” click Site settings.
Click Pop ups and redirects.
At the top, turn setting to Allowed.

Firefox
On your computer, open Firefox.
Open the Tools menu (the icon of three horizontal lines in the top right of the browser window).
Select Options.
Select the Privacy & Security panel.
Under the Permissions section, uncheck the box next to Block pop-up windows to disable the pop-up blocker altogether.

** New Is there a deadline for switching from online to in-person? For example, if on the morning of my exam I decide to write in person, do I need to notify someone?

There is no deadline, even on the morning of your exam, if you decide to switch to in-person. All you need to do is show up at your registered centre and there will be a seat for you. Although we are happy to hear from you (via examscovid@royalcollege.ca), there is no obligation to notify us.

** New My exam is being offered online, why can’t I switch to online even though the deadline has passed?

We extended the deadline to select the online option for the multiple-choice question (MCQ) exams to July 13, 5 p.m. EDT from the original deadline of July 3. The delivery of online exams is complex, including allowing enough time for candidates to complete their mandatory computer checks, familiarize themselves with the exam demo site, and also to secure enough proctors to deliver the exams with a candidate to proctor ratio of 1:1. As exams begin on August 26, there simply isn’t enough time to complete checks and secure additional 1-to-1 proctors. As a result, we cannot accommodate any new requests to switch to an online delivery method.

** New If I chose to write the exam online, what happens if there is an issue?

If you experience an issue, your first step should be to communicate with your proctor. We are administering our exams with a 1:1 ratio of candidate to proctor to ensure you have support in case there are issues. Each proctor has been prepared with how to deal with all potential issues, and is prepared to help you navigate through any of them. The information we posted on our website in July with an overview of the online process also outlines how to handle issues when preparing for remote proctored exams. In all situations, your proctor will be your first point of contact. In the unlikely event that they are not able to help you, if the exam has not yet started, you have one hour from the exam start time to get to your registered exam centre where a seat has been reserved for you. If you have already started the exam and are experiencing technical issues on your end, you will need to defer to the following year.

** New What do I have to do to get my exam room ready?

As you get ready to write your exam online, the proctor will ask you to use your webcam to show the entire room where you will be writing. You should be alone in the room. Your desk should not have any books, documents, electronic devices or notes (other than one blank 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper). If there are any items that the proctor needs to scrutinize more closely, s/he will ask the candidate for a closer look. For more information, you can watch this in-depth 8-minute video that includes how a candidate shows her environment to be assessed by a proctor before starting her exam.

If you are writing in a mixed-use space, the immediate environment where your computer is set up should be as clear as possible of any materials you do not need to take your exam. Any materials present in the room that could potentially be used to assist a candidate in responding to the exam should be out of the candidate’s immediate vicinity (e.g., a room with a bookcase is acceptable provided the candidate cannot access any of the material during the exam). If there are materials posted in the room, the proctor may ask for a better look using the webcam and may ask for items to be removed (e.g., a medical poster or diagram on a wall visible to the candidate, etc.)

** New For candidates writing a MCQ exam, what is the absolute deadline to change the modality of their exam?

The deadline to select the online option for the multiple choice question (MCQ) exams was July 13, 2020.

** New If I select the online option but decide to write in person, can I do this? Will I still have access to all materials required onsite, such as a calculator?

Yes, if you choose to write your exam in-person, even if you decide at the last minute, please be assured that there will be sufficient space for all candidates to write paper-based exams at their registered test centre. Candidates will be provided with all required materials. Candidates will receive a “loot bag” of supplies they need, including pen (for SAQ exams), pencils (for MCQ exams), ear plugs and a mini hand sanitizer. Individual clinical lab values and scrap paper will be included in each exam package.

** New What happens if there is a technological failure with the online exams or I experience a technology challenge?

We are confident in our tested online solution. In the unlikely event that our online solution goes down or you experience an individual technology challenge, we have reserved seats for all candidates to write in one of our physical test centres. This is why we are strongly recommending that online exam takers are located in the same city as the written exam.

As part of the process for onboarding to an online exam, you will be asked to conduct systems checks and verifications well in advance to identify any potential issues that may prevent you from completing an online exam. These steps will be required to minimize the risk of technological issue that may impact your exam.

** New What happens if internet and/or power go down in one region (e.g. due to inclement weather)?

We are preparing for all possible situations. If an event, such as a power outage, impacts the ability to write online, we have seats for all candidates to write in one of our physical test centres, prior to the start of your exam.

Candidates are advised to test their system, once again, an hour in advance of the exam, to allow them ample time to present to a test centre, in the case of failure or an outage.

When writing your exam online, the software downloads the exam to your computer at the beginning and then uploads your exam at the end. If you are writing your exam online from a laptop and there is a power outage/loss of internet, in an emergency situation only, you may be able to use your phone as a hotspot to upload the exam.

** New In the event of a power outage or a computer crash, is our exam saved as we progress so we could log back in after power is restored and complete it?

The progress you make in the examination is saved in real time. In the event of a temporary loss of power or a computer crash, you will be able to log back into the system and pick up where you left off.

If the power outage or computer crash are not resolved quickly, the examination may be terminated and you will have to sit the exam in a later year at the regular scheduled session, adhering to the exam format of that year. If this happens, it will not count as an exam attempt and will not alter your exam eligibility.

** New Does the software allow us to temporarily use a cell phone as an internet hot spot to restore an internet connection and complete the exam?

In an emergency situation only, you may be able to use your phone as a hotspot to submit the exam if writing your online exam. If this is not feasible based on cellular reception, you will be required to sit the exam in a later year at the regular scheduled session, adhering to the exam format of that year. If this happens, it will not count as an exam attempt and will not alter your exam eligibility.

** New In the event of a power outage/loss of internet/computer crash, is our exam saved as we progress so we could log back in after power is restored and complete it? What will happen if any of these issues arise?

The progress you make in the examination is saved in real time. In the event of a temporary loss of power or a computer crash, you will be able to reconnect to the proctor, log back into the exam and pick up where you left off before the connection was lost.

If you experience a computer crash, and are not able to restart your computer, and do not have a secondary computer that meets the technical requirements readily available to you in your testing location, then you will be required to sit the exam in a later year at the regular scheduled session, adhering to the exam format of that year.

If you lose your internet connection briefly, the system will automatically reconnect. If you lose your internet connection for a prolonged period of time, the proctor will contact you with the phone number you included in your profile. If you are unavailable by phone, then the you will be required to sit the exam in a later year at the regular scheduled session, adhering to the exam format of that year.

If you are reached by phone, the situation will be escalated to the Royal College to determine next steps. If the examination is near its conclusion, you may be allowed to complete the examination offline and allowed to attempt to submit the exam via cellular hotspot. If this is not possible, then the you will be required to sit the exam in a later year at the regular scheduled session, adhering to the exam format of that year.

** New What software is the Royal College using to administer its spring 2020 exams online for the multiple choice question format?

The Royal College is using Practique, which is exam management software that was developed by the British vendor Fry-IT. It is already being used by a number of other colleges, including Britain’s Royal College of General Practitioners. The remote proctoring company that will proctor your exam is Examity.

** New If I switch from writing my spring 2020 exam from online to in-person at the last minute, will I still have access to all materials required onsite, such as a calculator?

Yes, if you choose to write your exam in-person, even if you decide at the last minute, please be assured that there will be sufficient space for all candidates to write paper-based exams at their registered test centre. Candidates will be provided with all required materials. Candidates will receive a “loot bag” of supplies they need, including pen (for SAQ exams), pencils (for MCQ exams), ear plugs and a mini hand sanitizer. Individual clinical lab values and scrap paper will be included in each exam package.

** New When is the exam demo site available?

The exam demo site has now launched. Please visit the Practique exam demonstration site to familiarize yourself with the interface and functionality. You can access this site as many times as you would like to practise.

On the initial log in screen, the candidate ID number and password for all eight examinations is 1001. Click on the blue bar to see the full list of exam demos. You will then be required to use the PIN below to access your examination:

  • Diagnostic Radiology PIN: 318429
  • General Surgery PIN: 136713
  • Internal Medicine PIN: 296708
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology PIN: 969945
  • Orthopedic Surgery PIN: 173271
  • Psychiatry PIN: 527655
  • Surgical Foundations PIN: 065707
  • Urology PIN: 866748

If updates are made to the exam demo site, updated PINs will be posted on the website, under “Getting ready for your online exam.”

Please note the platform works best using Google Chrome. It is recommended that after completing an exam demo, you log out of the demonstration site completely (both the exam, as well as the exam selection screen). It is also recommended that you clear your browser data after completing the demo to facilitate returning at a later time. Once you return to the initial log in screen, and use 1001 as your candidate ID and password, you can access the demonstration site again and repeat any of the exam demos.

** New What are the important milestones/deadlines for the MCQ online exam process?

Step 1: Review process

Step 2: Complete exam demo

  • Exam demo available
  • Familiarize yourself with the Practique interface, including how to flag items, answer questions and submit the exam demo

Step 3: Complete signoff

  • Consent and acknowledgement signoff which is available Aug. 19, 2020 and due Aug. 24, 2020

Step 4: Create profile

  • Create your profile to prepare to write your exam
  • After Aug. 19, 2020 you will receive an email to create your profile in the exam system required for ID verification on exam day

Step 5: Take exam

  • Review pre-exam and exam day checklist on website, including conducting system check an hour before your exam
  • Log in and take the exam

Can I still register for the online exam, or switch my sites?

The deadline for registering for the online exam was July 13, 2020 and no additional requests will be accepted beyond that deadline. This is because of the complexity of delivering exams online, including ensuring we have finalized numbers for our invigilation supplier.

The deadline is also past for switching sites. Due to the logistical complexity of managing tests for 68 specialties across multiple sites and in both languages, we need to adhere to those guidelines to ensure a safe and valid delivery of exams.

Which specialties can write an exam online?

At this time the Royal College has the capability to deliver specialty certification exams that are in the multiple choice question (MCQ) format both online via remote proctoring and at test centres as paper-based exams. The MCQ specialty exams that can be delivered online and at test centres are:

  • Internal Medicine
  • Surgical Foundation
  • Diagnostic Radiology
  • General Surgery
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Orthopedic Surgery
  • Psychiatry
  • Urology

Why can’t all exams be administered online or in person?

We appreciate that this change to the administration of an online exam via remote proctoring for a select set of exams seems unfair. Based on requests from candidates to have some exams delivered online, we have accelerated the implementation of the computer-based platform from our vendor. At this time, the current platform only supports the delivery of MCQ exams. The administration of short answer questions (SAQ) exam was not an option given the current timeframe.

So if you are administering my exam online, why can’t I take it before July 1?

Two issues prevent us from delivering any exam before July 1. First, as previously communicated, we committed to delivering exams in a safe manner based on Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines. And following consultation with postgraduate deans, the medical regulatory authorities, Resident Doctors of Canada and Fédération des Médecins Résidents du Québec, the decision was to move the written exams to late August/September 2020.

Second, the exams are delivered in a synchronous fashion, meaning that the exam for a given specialty needs to be delivered on the same day. By adding an online administration, the online exam has to be delivered on the same day as the written paper-based exam.

What happens if the date of the exam in a test centre is not convenient to me but there is an online exam available? Can I write my exam online on a different day?

Exams are delivered in a synchronous fashion and exam and content security is critical. So exams for a specialty, regardless of delivery methods, must be written on the same day so that only one version of the exam is available at any given time.

What is remote proctoring?

Remote proctoring enables candidates to write an exam online in a location, such as their home or office, through virtual monitoring, while maintaining the integrity of the exam. Remote proctoring also allows an exam to be conducted in the same manner as an exam being written in a test centre using invigilators. This ensures consistency and fairness in that a standardized process was used for all candidates.

What does remote proctoring involve?

If you chose to do your exam online, specific instructions on the process of remote proctoring will be sent to you. During a remote proctored exam, a virtual proctor will be signing you in and performing various security and identification checks prior to giving you access to your exam. During the course of the exam, a proctor can observe you (not visible to the exam taker) and also provide assistance in case issues arise.

Prior to writing a remote proctored exam, you will need to validate that your computer system or tool meets the technological requirements to be able to host the proctoring system. These will include adequate bandwidth on an internet connection, access to a web camera and adequate system capabilities. That process will be explained to you in separate communication.

What language will proctoring services be available in?

Due to the accelerated timeline to implement online exams, proctoring services for the 2020 exam will be offered in English only. The preparatory material (except for the proctoring videos) will be available in French and English. Additionally, francophone Royal College staff members will be available on exam days to provide limited assistance to any French-speaking candidates who need help with the ID verification process and room scan instructions. French-speaking candidates who may need assistance creating their profiles and conducting exam day activities are strongly encouraged to consider going to their registered test centre on exam day where full support will be offered in French.

If my exam is administered online, do I have to take it online or can I still write my exam in a test centre?

Exams that are administered online will also have a written paper-based version available. A candidate can choose which method suits them.

If my exam has an online version, when will I be able to choose the online exam versus the paper-based one?

Our goal is to have registration for online exams available in late June 2020. This will not influence published exam dates.

If I chose to write my exam online, will I have a chance to use the system before I take my exam?

Yes, our goal is to have practice exams available to online test takers in July 2020 to allow candidates to familiarize themselves with the system.

Can I change my mind after doing the practice online exam and go to a test centre to write the paper-based exam?

Yes, we have reserved seats for all candidates to write a paper-based exam in their registered exam centre.

If I chose to write the exam online, what happens if there is an issue?

The online instruction package you will receive in July will outline how to handle issues during the remote proctored exams. However, if an issue occurs while logging in or you are able to get to your registered exam centre safely within one hour of the start time, you will be able to complete your exam at the test centre. We have reserved seats for all candidates to write in one of our test centres.

Is there an advantage to taking the exam online versus the written, paper-based one?

There are no advantages between taking an exam online versus written paper-based examinations. Both exams will be the same. The choice will be up to a candidate based on which modality of exam suits them best.

What happens if I fail using the online exam system?

The same policies apply for both an exam taken online or at a test centre. If a candidate does not pass the written exam this fall, they will not be eligible for certification this year and will need to apply again next year; however, they 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.

I live and practice in a country and city that is not listed as a written exam site. If my specialty exam is available online, can I take it from another location than those listed?

At this time, the Royal College can only offer remote proctored exams in the countries and cities where the written exams are taking place. This is part of our risk mitigation strategy in case some technical issues would prevent a candidate from accessing their exam online due to geopolitical IT constraints that exist in some countries.

Refunds, withdrawals and deferrals

Can the Royal College reimburse candidates full fees until the exams are rescheduled?

The Royal College will not be refunding the written exam fees as the Royal College still intends to administer the written exams this fall.

Will I be refunded any of my examination fees?

We will be issuing a refund of $2,215 for the oral exam within 60 days per our April 9, 2020, four-point exam plan announcement. If, for whatever reason, you are unable to attend your exam on the rescheduled date or decide to withdraw this year for any COVID-19 related reason, you will be offered a FULL refund.

Do I have to apply to receive my refund for the oral examination component?

No, all candidates who were registered for the spring 2020 exams will be automatically refunded.

When can I expect the refund for my oral examination component and how will it come?

The refunds are expected to be completed within 60 days of our April 9, 2020, four-point exam plan announcement. Your refund will be in the same form of payment that you used. If you paid via a credit card, the refund will be processed using that same credit card number.

What happens if I withdraw from the spring 2020 examination process?

If you decide to withdraw from the spring 2020 exam process for any reason related to COVID-19, including feeling too overwhelmed by the situation, you will be granted a FULL refund. This withdrawal will not count as an exam attempt and will not alter your exam eligibility.

If I don’t elect to defer my written examination and I am unsuccessful at my final attempt, will the Royal College grant me another year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Spring 2020 candidates wishing to defer their Royal College written exam in 2020 may withdraw at any time, at no cost and for any COVID-19 related reason. In the case of withdrawal, it will not be considered as an exam attempt. Candidates who do present to the exam but are unsuccessful will not be eligible for certification this year, and will need to apply again next year; however, they 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.

Do candidates have to be sick or quarantined to be able to defer the examination?

No, spring 2020 exam candidates do not have to be sick or quarantined to be able to defer the exam. If, for whatever reason, candidates are unable to attend their exam on the rescheduled date or decide to withdraw this year for any COVID-19 related reason, they will be offered a FULL refund.

Licensing, training and pass/fail considerations

** New What happens if someone can’t write because of COVID-19? How does this affect their licensing?

Throughout this pandemic, we have been in close contact with the medical regulatory authorities, who recognize your cohort’s unique situation. If you are unable to write because of a COVID-19 diagnosis, the Royal College will advocate on your behalf to ensure your licence can be extended so you are able to continue to provide care.

How will a postponed examination impact candidates’ license to practise?

We have been working with the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada to understand how candidates can extend their licenses and continue to care for patients without interruption. Graduating residents will be eligible for a provisional / temporary / restricted license in a Canadian province provided that they have (1) confirmation of completion of postgraduate training, (2) notice of eligibility to take the certification exam and (3) understand that they must take the certification exam at the earliest opportunity. Learn more: https://fmrac.ca/licensing-the-2020-graduating-cohorts/

For specific information on any other requirements or conditions, all trainees are invited to consult the website of their provincial or territorial medical regulatory authority. Visit www.fmrac.ca/members for contact information.

Will spring 2020 candidates be able to get a special license to practise?

We anticipate that as this pandemic evolves, the care candidates provide will be more and more 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. Provisional and restricted licensing will vary by location. Please contact the appropriate medical regulatory authority for more details.

How will postponed examinations impact subspecialty training/fellowship placements?

Starting subspecialty or fellowship training should not be dependent on the successful completion of the Royal College exams and related certification. Subspecialty exams will be granted in the same year as primary exams, if necessary.

How will this postponement impact candidates who will be going to the U.S. in June/July to pursue additional training or to work (where Royal College certification is required)?

We suggest that all trainees contact their planned training programs for direction on process and the right authority with whom to discuss their options.

If a candidate passed the written but failed the oral exam last year, do they still need to go through this process again if the oral is dismissed for 2020?

Given the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19 impacting spring exams, the decision to waive the oral component of the comprehensive exam is for spring 2020 candidates only. In 2019, the Royal College exam was developed and delivered as a whole with a comprehensive blueprint; decisions were based on the total performance between the written and the oral. For 2020 spring exam candidates, the written exam will stand alone; candidates who pass the written exam will be immediately certified. As this decision only applies to spring 2020 candidates who pass their written exam, it does not apply to previous exam years, which means that we are unable to count the success on your 2019 written exam.

What if the spring 2020 examinations cannot be given this fall or what if a candidate fails? How does that impact their provisional six-month licence?

If the COVID-19 crisis escalates, making it impossible to safely administer the exams in September (with our candidates, examiners, staff and public in mind) we will work with our university partners to develop an alternate plan.

If a candidate does not pass the written exam this fall, they will not be eligible for certification this year and will need to apply again next year; however, they 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.

Extension of provincial licensure will vary between provinces. We are working closely and in collaboration with the medical regulatory authorities so they are updated as to our dates and the impact of COVID-19. The medical regulatory authorities have been very engaged and helpful amidst this crisis.

Special accommodations

** New For candidates who are quarantined, a delay in writing the exam impacts licensing. How can the Royal College support them?

In this event, we would work with the medical regulatory authorities to extend the candidates’ licensing. We would certainly support that extension.

Will there be special accommodations provided to candidates who are pregnant?

Per our deferral policy, any exam withdrawals that need to be made (e.g. due to pregnancy or childbirth) will be honoured, without any impact to a candidate’s eligibility or counts against their attempts at certification. All exam fees will also be fully reimbursed. To request a refund of exam fees, please contact us at candidates@royalcollege.ca.

Will protections/accommodations/alleviation of clinical duties be given for 14 days prior to the examinations so that candidates don't get quarantined?

Candidates who are still in training will need to work with their programs to arrange for appropriate relief from clinical duties based on the clinical situation in their institution. Restrictions may vary by jurisdiction. Candidates in practise will need to assess the risk in their clinical practice, to inform their presentation for the exams.

Will I be able to sit my written examination if I am self-quarantined or quarantined?

This fall, the safety of our candidates, examiners and staff will continue to be our top priority. Candidates who are quarantined pose a risk to that safety and would need to defer their exam to the next opportunity. Candidates will be screened at registration as to their status (including recent symptoms, travel history and care of COVID-19 related patients without personal protective equipment). We expect candidates to adhere to professional codes of conduct and public health directives, and not to present for the exam if they are quarantined or symptomatic for potential COVID-19.

Will personal protective equipment (PPE) be available at my written examination?

Some PPE equipment and sanitizer may be available to candidates at their exams for use at their discretion, recognizing the ongoing supply and availability challenges. Candidates are welcome to bring any personal PPE they may wish to wear for the exams.

Can immunocompromised candidates write in a separate room?

Arrangements are always offered to candidates requesting appropriate accommodation.

All candidates will be appropriately physically distanced for the sitting of their exam, as per public health guidelines. Candidates are welcome to bring any personal PPE they may wish to wear for the exams.

Will examinations take place during major religious holiday periods?

As best we can, we will avoid scheduling exams on major religious holidays coming up in late August/September (e.g. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur).

Can I breastfeed while participating in a Royal College exam?

The Royal College recognizes how challenging it can be to balance new parenthood responsibilities with the examination schedule. While you cannot bring your baby to the examination, we will work to find a private space at the examination centre where you can pump milk before/after your exam. Please contact examaccommodation@royalcollege.ca if you have further questions about your individual situation.

Travel

** New I am concerned about facing possible travel restrictions when crossing a border. What happens if I run into issues?

In most cases, physicians and health care providers are deemed essential workers and able to cross borders. If you are crossing a border, we have drafted a letter explaining that your travel is essential. Please contact us at examscovid@royalcollege.ca to request a copy of this letter.

We do recommend allowing yourself grace time, in case you experience issues. Although this letter will support your crossing, the final decision regarding crossing the border and quarantine requirements is in the hands of the border agent.

** New Where can I find information about travel restrictions in Australia and the United States?

This situation continues to evolve rapidly, and border restrictions vary by state, province, territory and country. We encourage you to check the latest information about travel restrictions.

Note: Candidates are responsible for confirming any travel restrictions pertaining to their specific situation. We have provided the links below for your convenience only. We do not represent or warrant that the links provided are comprehensive, or include all information about border restrictions. In addition, the Royal College is not responsible for the content on any third party websites.

Australia:

United States

International medical graduates

What are the options being considered for international medical graduates? Many are applying from another country and don’t have program directors in Canada to validate their work in other places.

We are reviewing the challenges that international medical graduates are facing, including their ability to secure the appropriate documentation and the impacts of potential travel restrictions. There is no single answer to this question, since each individual situation may differ and need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. We will continue to work with our stakeholders to support international medical graduates through this situation, and to help minimize the impact to them.

If I am a repeat exam taker or international medical graduate from a residency program outside of Canada, what re-affirmation documentation is required?

You will be provided with an attestation letter to be signed. If you have recently (less than three years ago) graduated from a jurisdiction-approved or U.S. residency program, your program director can attest to your competencies. Alternatively, a recent fellowship director can serve for the attestation, or someone who has served as a supervisor and/or accountable for your practice in the last year. This attestation must be returned to the Royal College by August 1, 2020, to maintain eligibility for the postponed spring 2020 examinations.

If I am an international medical graduate, U.S. graduate or a repeat exam candidate and am in a Canadian residency program, who will attest that I have met the required competencies to attempt the written examination?

We require a 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. This attestation must be returned to the Royal College by August 1, 2020, to maintain eligibility for the postponed spring 2020 examinations.

I am an international medical graduate, and live and practice in a country and/or city that is not listed as a test centre. If my specialty exam is available online, can I take it from another location than those listed?

Given the recent surges of COVID-19 cases in these host countries, we now strongly recommend that you should take your online exam in the city of your registered exam centre. While we have confidence in our online solution, taking your exam in your registered city provides the security of a paper-based exam in the case of a technology failure on the day of the exam. If you experience technical issues while logging in, you can make the decision to complete the exam at your registered exam centre, but only if you’re able to reach it within one hour of the start time of the exam.

If there are travel restrictions in place in late August/September, what alternatives will be available for international medical graduates?

If you are writing a paper-based exam: If you are not able to get to your test centre because of travel restrictions within your country, unfortunately you will then have to defer your exam until 2021.

If you are in a specialty that has an online MCQ exam: We strongly recommend that you to write your exam at a location no further than one hour from one of our designated exam centres located in Canada, United States, France, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Our system meets the privacy and security requirements in these countries. If you experience technical issues while logging in, you can make the decision to complete the exam at your registered exam centre, but only if you’re able to reach it within one hour of the start time of the exam. A paper-based delivery ensures the least amount of disruption on your exam day. If you unfortunately experience a technology failure on the day of the exam, and cannot reach your registered exam centre within an hour, your next opportunity to sit your specialty exam will be in 2021. This attempt will not impact your exam eligibility.