Exams update following UK lockdowns

The New Year is already bringing new challenges and the latest national lockdowns across the UK have meant that the College has spent the last few days considering the feasibility of our MRCGP examinations and the implications for GP training.

The decision to cancel or continue with exams is not a simple one and it cannot be taken quickly or lightly without careful consideration of all the options.

The feedback we have received from trainees indicates no single approach which would work for everyone, but please be assured that we have listened to all perspectives and understand the concerns raised.

We’re operating in a fast-moving and ever-changing environment, so here are the arrangements to get us through the next couple of months.

Recorded Consultation Assessment (RCA)

The closing date for applications for January is today (8 January) and the January diet will go ahead as planned. While the mandatory requirements will remain in place, we recognise that there might be some challenges in meeting these and we will endeavour to take these into account when marking.

However, we would advise candidates that following the mandatory criteria remains the best way to demonstrate the skills needed to pass the exam. We will monitor the situation and government guidelines for the March diet.

Workplace Based Assessment (WPBA)

As trainee supervision continues for now, currently there will be no change as a result of this lockdown. The new lighter touch WPBA requirements (310 KB PDF) will remain in place.

Applied Knowledge Test (AKT)

  • The January diet will go ahead for those who feel comfortable to attend a test centre. This is in line with the current Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ position on exams and will be held under the current socially distanced procedures in place at Pearson Vue test centres.
  • We advise all candidates who need only the AKT to CCT to discuss cancellation with your deanery before you do so.
  • We are sorry that Shielding candidates will be unable to access this sitting and advise you to discuss this with your deanery.
  • The College has asked Pearson Vue to arrange an AKT ‘contingency’ date and this is likely to be after March, given the likely length of lockdown. We will let you know as soon as this has been confirmed.

We have heard the challenge for online testing, but this is still a developing technology and we know from discussions with other Colleges that it is not without issues. Also, the lead-in time does not make it a viable option for this exam diet.

We understand the added pressure and anxiety that the current situation is causing and, thank you for your patience and professionalism.

Thanks also for your significant contribution to general practice and the care of patients during the pandemic.

About the writer

Dr Michael Mulholland, RCGP Vice Chair (Professional Development)

Michael Mulholland is a GP at Unity Health, a five-site practice for 22000 patients across the Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire border where he has practised for nearly 20 years.

He also works for Health Education England with roles in GP training, Quality Improvement and workforce planning. Within the RCGP he has been part of the GP at Scale programme and a GP Forward View Regional Ambassador.

He was elected to the post of Vice Chair (Professional Development) in November 2018.