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

n an examination that took place in 1996 and another one that was held in 2001. The results show that fewer candidates who passed the examination in 2001 gave correct answers than had equivalents in 1996 and the candidates' mean score decreased from 69.4 in 1996 to 59.6 in 2001.

"The 'dog-leg' in performance [in] 1997 was not an artefact of changed Examination Regulations, mix of UK and overseas candidates, or time from qualification until taking the Examination", write the authors. "Study 2 confirmed that performance in 2001 was significantly worse than in 1996, that the poorer performance was found in graduates of UK medical schools, and that candidates passing the Examination in 2001 performed less well than those passing in 1996."

Reliance in the past on 'norm-referencing' for setting the pass mark, when a fixed proportion of candidates was allowed to pass at each examination, meant that candidates passing the examination at the end of this period had a somewhat lower standard. Norm referencing was abandoned by the MRCP(UK) in 2002 in favour of 'criterion-referencing', in which examiners determine the pass mark by assessing the desirable knowledge based on individual questions. Thus the standard required to pass all components of the examination is now fixed and independent of the standard of the candidates sitting at that diet.


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Contact: Juliette Savin
juliette.savin@biomedcentral.com
44-207-631-9931
BioMed Central
17-Jul-2005


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