Update on Royal College exams for the spring 2020 cohort

April 13, 2020 | Author: Dr. Susan Moffatt-Bruce

Dear Fellows,

It’s been about a month since we made the difficult decision to postpone the Royal College’s spring 2020 exams, given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Since that time, we have been working with university partners, resident groups and many others to reschedule these exams so to minimize the disruption to residents. We know we have disrupted plans and for that we apologize. Last Thursday, we shared some important news with our spring 2020 exam candidates and members of our postgraduate medical education community. Today, I would like to personally share this same news with all of you: the Royal College’s four-point plan to deliver the spring 2020 exams this fall, in response to the extraordinary circumstances we are all currently living in.

Firstly, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to everyone (including many of you) who wrote in with their concerns and ideas for how we could find an alternative solution for the format of these exams, while keeping everyone’s safety and future success in mind. We deeply regret the incredible stress that the postponement of the spring exams has caused. Our team worked in close collaboration with our academic partners, the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada and the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada to come up with this solution.

Our four-point plan to deliver the spring 2020 exams this fall

  1. Oral exams will not be required for the spring 2020 cohort. Spring 2020 candidates will only be required to take a written exam (to be held in fall 2020) for specialty certification. 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 program directors that indicate residents have met the required competencies to attempt the written examination. This will be organized between the Royal College and Canadian universities for the spring 2020 cohort.
      • Repeat exam takers, international medical graduates and U.S. graduates will be requested to provide the necessary documentation for re-affirmation from an appropriate supervisor.

Write the written exam: Residents will then be required to take a written exam. All residents who pass the written exam will be immediately certified.

For those who fail the written exam: If a resident does not pass the written exam, the resident will not be eligible for certification this year. Residents who fail will need to apply again next year; however, the resident 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.

  1. We will inform candidates of the dates for the exams. The Royal College set a goal of September 2020 for the exam, and will be in a position to give residents firm dates once we have confirmed the sites where exams will be held. We commit to providing a minimum of 6 weeks’ notice. This will allow us to monitor progress on COVID-19 and make the necessary logistical adjustments, if needed.
  1. Test sites will be expanded so residents 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 test 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.
  1. Fees for the oral exam will be refunded. We will reimburse oral exam fees as quickly as possible. We will expedite their refund of the $2,215 fee within the next 60 days.

After a great deal of discussion and consideration, we believe this plan helps to balance the needs of residents and the health care system in the midst of this extraordinary crisis, while upholding our duty to maintain public trust in our national standards and assessment for specialist certification. The disruption to our residents is very real and we hope to help address some of this in this articulated plan.

We are still evaluating the fall 2020 subspecialty cohort exams and no decisions have been made as of yet.

Please accept my sincere thanks to all of you for your patience as we navigate this new exam process together and for your work on the front lines of this health care crisis.

Should you like any additional details, please visit our website or refer to our Exam FAQ [PDF].

Stay well,


Susan D. Moffatt-Bruce, MD, PhD, MBA, FACS, FRCSC
Chief Executive Officer