2021 Exams Update: Introducing online exams for all

November 12, 2020 | Author: Royal College Staff

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada has listened to the feedback received from 2020 exams candidates and the postgraduate medical education community, and is introducing updates to its plans for the 2021 certification examinations while continuing to ensure a safe, flexible and reliable delivery.

What we heard and observed

  • Technology: Most candidates are familiar with computer-based exams but opted to write in-person paper-based exams as our online platform was new, and there was less comfort with remote-proctoring without “hands-on” staff support/back-up for technology issues.
  • Success rate: For those that opted to write the exam online, there was a 100% success rate for onboarding all online exams.  The assigned invigilator immediately addressed any issues that did arise.
  • Results: Paper-based exams at 29 different locations had a significant impact on the tabulation of results for candidates.
  • Safety: While we followed, and even exceeded Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines, candidates were looking for even more rigorous safety measures.

These key learnings were taken into account in our plans to maximize safety and enhance the exam experience for the 2021 exams:

WHAT: All written and applied exams will be delivered online

  • Written exams, both multiple-choice and short-answer formats, will be online.
  • No paper-based exams in 2021.
  • Applied/oral exams will be delivered virtually.

WHERE: In individual hotel rooms at 17 exam centres across Canada OR remotely online

Candidates will be able to take their exams at their registered exam centre and will be assigned to an individual hotel room for both written and applied exams.  This will allow flexibility in delivery as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, while providing onsite hardware and software support to ensure successful completion of the exam online.

In terms of contingency planning, if candidates cannot travel to one of our centres or are concerned about COVID-19 transmission, they can choose to take their exam online with remote proctoring/invigilation.

A mandatory survey will be sent to candidates on Dec. 15, 2020, which must be completed by Jan. 4, 2021 indicating their city and time zone where they plan to write their exam, and if they will write at a Royal College exam centre or at home.

WHEN: Our 2021 exam dates

  • 2021 spring and fall exam dates and times.
  • Confirmation of written appointment will be sent via email two months before exam date.
  • Confirmation of applied exams will be provided in the candidates’ appointment letter approximately one month before exam date.
  • Deadline to register:
    • December 4, 2020 for spring 2021 exams
    • May 15, 2021 for fall 2021 exams

HOW: An online platform

  • Using a laptop, candidates will log into Fry-IT’s Practique, an online exam platform, to take their written exams.
  • Onsite invigilators will be on hand at exam centres to provide support for technological issues (hardware and software).
  • For the applied component, the candidate and examiners will interact on a virtual platform. More details to come in the next few months.
  • As paper-based exams will be eliminated, it will reduce the need to ship and scan paper exams and electronically send them to examiners.

Special accommodations

If a candidate requires an accommodation to write an exam, please contact examaccommodation@royalcollege.ca by the deadline of December 4 for spring exams or May 15 for fall exams.

For candidates outside of Canada

Candidates outside of Canada who wish to write their exam online must get an approved accommodation, as noted above. Please be aware that technical support will be limited for those writing outside of Canada.


For all exam inquiries, please contact us at exams2021@royalcollege.ca