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Decline in performance of candidates taking a postgraduate medical examination between 1997 and 2001

The performance of doctors taking a postgraduate medical exam declined between 1997 and 2001, reveals a study carried out by the Royal Colleges of Physicians and published today in the Open Access journal BMC Medicine.

After a steady increase between 1985 and 1997, the overall performance of postgraduate students taking the Part 1 examination of the Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom, MRCP (UK), which is a part of higher specialist training, showed a decline from 1997 until 2001. Performance on specific exam questions that were repeated across the years was 14.1% lower in 2001 than in 1996.

"There has been a decline in the performance of graduates from UK medical schools taking the MRCP(UK) Part 1 examination. The reasons for this are not clear, but the finding has implications for medical education, and further studies are needed of performance in other postgraduate and undergraduate examinations" write Professor Chris McManus from University College London, UK, and colleagues from the Royal Colleges of Physicians, the authors of the study.

"The role of postgraduate medical examinations is to set standards of practice and thus to assure the public and the medical profession that doctors have the knowledge and expertise required to diagnose and treat patients, and to progress in their medical careers", explain the authors.

McManus et al assessed the performance of students on 'marker questions' questions that were repeated in different MRCP (UK) examinations held between 1985 and 2001, and which allow performance to be compared from one year to another. Overall, the ability of examination candidates increased from 1985 to 1997, after which it declined sharply: on a graphical representation of the results, the curve has a clear 'dog-leg' shape, which rises until 1997 and then drops sharply in the subsequent years.

In the second part of the study, the researchers compared the performance i
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Contact: Juliette Savin
juliette.savin@biomedcentral.com
44-207-631-9931
BioMed Central
17-Jul-2005


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