The RACGP has definitely been subject to widespread criticism of its 3 Fellowship exams.
Doctors who sit the exams feel they are at times unfair, irrational and more like a “Guess the Examiners Mind” than an actual exam.
The RACGP hold that the exams are validated and fair and access the competency for doctors to be recognized to be able to work independently as a GP in Australia.
Now any doctor who passes tends not to question the process.
“Ok, that was pretty fucking horrible, but I made it through. Thank God and now I can get on with the rest of my life as a GP”.
But for those that fail, what awaits them is a whole different experience.
And here is where the real problem actually lies.
For doctors that fail, they get two major pieces of feedback.
1. The exam report.
These are released after each exam and have common errors for questions.
They are definitely helpful.
They point out the mistakes that could have been made by the failed candidate.
2. There is a group call that talks through the exam and provides general feedback.
Again, helpful to a degree.
I have not been on a call like this so I do not have the first-hand experience however what I am told is that again the feedback is again around mistakes that the doctor could have made.
Answer the question asked.
Read the question carefully.
Read the stems carefully.
Be specific in your examples.
Don’t give examples unless asked for.
This material is covered by the RACGP’s own exam prep course and it would probably be better for doctors to take this course rather than the actual exam to find out such info.
The exams themselves are 10x more expensive and as there are now limits on the times you can take the exams - it makes a lot more sense to take the course beforehand!
Even with all these pieces in place, there is the one CRITICAL factor that makes it all feel like doctors who fail are just making donations to the College.
And that is…
The lack of SPECIFIC FEEDBACK to that specific candidate.
Perhaps it happens after the 3rd time of failing… I have heard rumors of this.
But, by that stage, many will have paid over $8000 to the College just to get their first experience of personalized feedback on what they need to change in their exam preparation.
The problem with not getting any personalized feedback for so long is that it leaves doctors wondering where do they need to improve…
Do they need to improve their knowledge?
Do they need to improve their clinical reasoning?
Do they need to improve their test-taking technique?
Do they need to improve… ah… something else?
Without any personalized feedback, they may be working on areas that they are already at the required standard at yet leaving the actual problem areas untouched.
They repeat the exams, but because they have no idea on where to improve, they are left struggling with how do they actually change their approach in order to actually pass.
Even if the college decided to charge an additional fee for personalized feedback - this investment into finding out what is the actual problem that needs to be corrected before sitting again would prevent much of the anger and rage directed at these exams.
Up until that point, the criticism of the exam process is likely to continue.