Delivering Spring 2021 Exams online: A major milestone for the Royal College
For the first time in its 92-year history, the Royal College successfully administered all of its spring 2021 written and applied exams on a computer-based platform.
“Pre-COVID-19, the plan was to transition from paper-based exams to a computer-based platform over a five-year period because of the sheer complexity of the logistics. With the pandemic, we executed this in a matter of months,” said Viren Naik, MD, FRCPC, director of assessment at the Royal College.
“One hundred per cent of our candidates who successfully started the exam completed the exam. I think this is a testament to the unbending commitment and sheer will of the 1,300 volunteers and staff to deliver the exams safely and securely.”
Using Royal College laptops, candidates took their exams at one of 17 exam centres across Canada with technical support available onsite. Candidates were also given the option to defer exams and be issued refunds if they were experiencing COVID-19 stresses and challenges due to regional, specialty or personal factors.
Due to COVID-19 related clinical demands, there was not a sufficient number of examiners to safely administer the Internal Medicine applied exam, so this applied exam was cancelled for Spring 2021 only.
By the numbers
- 0 specialty/subspecialty exams were administered
- 0 candidates wrote their written exams onsite
- 0 candidates wrote their written exam remotely
- 0 candidates took their applied exams onsite
- 0 candidates were granted special accommodations to take their applied exam remotely
- 0 examiners administering onsite and 0 remotely
- 0 exam volunteers across 0 specialties/subspecialties developed the exams
Pre-exam planning and training played a key role
The Royal College provided training to volunteer examiners across 31 specialties/subspecialties over 11 weeks so they could become adept at using the computer-based platform; volunteer examiners were also trained on how to mark exams in real time over 10 weeks.
Over the 36-day exam period, there were minimal technical issues; those that occurred were addressed immediately by the exams team or remote proctors.
“The exam team’s ability to efficiently train our board and troubleshoot the technological issues that arose was impressive. As a direct result, we were able to complete the exam fairly for all candidates,” said Darren Beiko, MD, FRCPC, co-chair of Urology Examination Board.
“The exam essentially went without a hitch in 17 centres with over 200 candidates [in Psychiatry] and almost 100 examiners. Throughout the process all those supporting us from the Royal College and at the local level were professional and instilled a sense of calm,” said Kim St. John, MD, FRCPC, chair of the Specialty Committee in Psychiatry.