The Exam Format document will detail the exam components, process and timing, reference materials and practice questions, if applicable.
To access this document, visit the Information by discipline webpage. Choose your specialty or subspecialty from the dropdown menu. Click on the “Exam Format” document.
Written exams could refer to a Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) exam and/or a Short Answer Question (SAQ) exam. For information about the format of your specialty or subspecialty examination, review the Exam Format document.
As the training programs across Canada move towards a Competence by Design (CBD) format, exams with multiple components will be de-coupled – the written and the oral/applied exam will be treated as separate exams (eligibility and registration will be distinct for each component) and success at the written exam will be required before the candidate has eligibility to sit any subsequent exam component.
If a candidate is successful at the written component, they will not be required to sit that component again, and in the case of a fail or inability to sit the oral/applied component, they will only be required to register for the oral/applied component in any subsequent years. In other words, the successful result at the written component will carry forward to subsequent years and it will not be required to be completed again.
Multiple-choice question exam information
The Royal College's examinations are used to determine if a candidate has reached an acceptable level of competence based on the objectives of training of their specialty. Multiple-choice questions are used to assess candidate's knowledge and ability to apply this knowledge over a wide range of content areas.
What should you expect? A description of RCPSC Multiple-Choice Questions
Royal College multiple-choice questions consist of a stem and four options. Of these options, there is only one correct answer and three distractors.
Typically, the questions conform to a format similar to that of Example 1 below:
Which of the following pulmonary function tests is increased in patients with advanced pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema?
- Vital capacity
- Maximum breathing capacity
- Tidal volume
- Residual volume
(Correct answer is 4.)
Each page of the multiple-choice question booklet consists of both English and French versions of the same questions.
Short answer question exam information
The Royal College’s examinations are used to determine if a candidate has reached an acceptable level of competence based on the objectives of training of their specialty.
What are Short-Answer Questions (SAQs)?
Many Royal College specialty examinations have an SAQ component. SAQs are questions that can be answered in a few short words or phrases. Typically, these questions contain words such as ‘list’ or ‘name’ suggesting that a series of short responses are required.
Each SAQ will usually consist of the question, a space where the candidate can provide his or her answer as well as the mark allocation for the question.
Different Kinds of SAQs
Short-answer questions can vary in terms of complexity. For example, the following question requires recall of factual knowledge at a low level of complexity:
|List THREE medical specialties with Royal College certification exams.||Total Marks|
More complex questions are usually based on case scenarios (sometimes called clinical vignettes). These questions can elicit application of knowledge or clinical reasoning. As well, a series of questions may be based on these scenarios building on case information.
|51 year old man is diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus.||Total Marks|
|a) What is the BEST treatment option that should be pursued?||2|
|b) List 4 steps in the pathogenesis of Barrett’s esophagus.||4|
|c) List one ongoing clinical issue that needs to be addressed pertaining to the long-term health of this patient of enrolling him in a surveillance program.||2|
How are SAQs marked?
Each short-answer question is created with a list of anticipated ‘model’ responses. This list is used to guide the markers as to the value of the responses when scoring the question. Partial marks may be allocated for some responses.
Example 3 below contains a question with a model response list.
|Question: You see a 45-year-old man in your office for headaches. The headaches started one year ago and have been increasing in frequency. They now occur four to six times per month. With each headache he misses three to four days of work. You suspect he suffers from migraine.||Total Marks|
|a) List FOUR clinical features of migraine.||2|
|List TWO prophylactic medications for migraine.||2|
|Model responses for Example 3:|
a) One-half mark for each (maximum two marks)
b) One mark for each (maximum two marks)
- associated with nausea/vomiting
- associated with photo/phonophobia
- hemicranial pain
- preceding aura
- inability to continue with daily activities
- relieved by sleep
- valproic acid
The use of a model response list helps guide the markers to assess the responses with little or no interpretation. With this in mind, candidates should provide the answers that are most obvious and correct.
Applied (Oral exams)
Applied exams take place in 17 hotel exam sites across Canada. Applied exams are sometimes referred to as “live exams” and may include an oral examination.
For information about the format of your specialty or subspecialty examination, review the Exam Format document found on the Information by Discipline webpages.
|Applied exam information||What happens at a typical applied examination?|
- All electronic and recording devices, including cell phones and digital/smart watches, will be collected during registration and are not permitted in the exam rooms. If you wish to wear a watch for your own timekeeping purposes, please wear an analogue watch.
- Personal belongings are not allowed in your exam hotel room but they can be left in a designated area. Electronic devices will be supervised at all times and will be returned to you at the end of the examination or sequestering period.After registration, you will be directed to your exam room. Staff will give you a 5-10 minute warning before orientation is scheduled. Washrooms will be available at this time.
- A candidate orientation information session will be provided on a virtual platform before the start of the exam.
- All personal belongings will be returned to you upon completion of the exam or at the end of the sequestering period, if applicable.
When is sequestering required?
Sequestering may be required following the examination in order to ensure that candidates do not communicate the content of the examination to others preparing to take the examination.
Please note that all personal belongings including electronic devices will not be accessible until the sequestering period is finished. Respect the sign-in times on the appointment letter to ensure the sequestering period is as short as possible for all candidates.