Primary and Final FRCA examinations regulations

Published: 29/07/2019

Appendix 7: Misconduct policy

The integrity of FRCA examinations is fundamental to the values promoted by the College. It is important that all candidates are judged on their ability, and no candidate be allowed to gain an advantage unfairly over others. By virtue of entering to sit an examination, candidates are deemed to have understood and agreed to abide and respect all examination regulations and policies.
Any aspect of misconduct at FRCA examinations will be investigated and acted upon in accordance with the following misconduct policy. With the exception that, where non-compliance of College regulations is cited due to the use of electronic devices or mobile phones, then these matters will proceed in accordance with the policy set out at Appendix 6 of these regulations.

1.1 Misconduct includes, but is not restricted to:

(a) failure to abide by the reasonable instructions of an invigilator, 3rd party proctor, examiner or college officer;
(b) the introduction or/and use of any materials or documents other than those specifically permitted for the examination;
(c) any attempt to gain access to or read the work of another candidate;
(d) any attempt to communicate with another candidate;
(e) unacceptable or disruptive behaviour during the examination;
(f) removal by a candidate, of material or content from an examination, other than those documents specifically permitted.
(g) the release of content from an examination to a third party without the expressed permission of a college officer.
(h) reproduction and/or distribution of exam material, by any means, including accurate reconstruction of questions through memory for release to a third party without the permission of the College.
(i) falsification or alteration of eligibility or identification documents.
(j) impersonation of a candidate.
(k) any other form of cheating, deception, fraud or conduct that is likely to give an unfair advantage to a candidate or candidates.

2. Reporting misconduct:

2.1 Under normal examination conditions suspected misconduct should be reported to the College through the submission of ‘an Incident report form’  Incident report forms can be completed by examiners, invigilators, college officers and any other such person who becomes aware of any incident that may affect the examination processes or its regulations.  All forms must be completed as soon as possible with full details of fact, they must be signed and dated and given to the College officer. Full instructions for completion of incident report forms are set out on the back of the form.

2.2 Invigilators, college officers or examiners who reasonably believe that there are materials not permitted as part of the exam will request that the item(s) is removed. The exam will not proceed until the candidate has removed the item(s).

2.3 Where misconduct is suspected after an examination or outside examination conditions, such as where a candidate is suspected of passing on or unauthorised use of examination content that has not been released into the public domain, then a written report of the incident should be submitted to the Director of Education, Training and Examinations at the College address. Such reports should give full details of the person suspected of misconduct and the person submitting the report.

2.4 Anonymous reports of misconduct will not be used to initiate a formal misconduct process.

2.5 The College acknowledges that any case of misconduct can have an adverse effect on a candidate’s reputation and career. Therefore all matters of the reporting and process of alleged misconduct will be kept strictly confidential. However, where the allegation of misconduct is proven, the College reserves the right to forward details of the case to the GMC/National Medical Council and in the case of UK trainees, their College Tutor and Regional Advisor.

3. Review of alleged misconduct

3.1 Incident report forms that allege misconduct and written reports received as described in paragraph 2.2 will be handed to the Director of Education, Training and Examinations, who will carry out a review of the alleged misconduct to determine if there is sufficient evidence of a prima facie case to warrant the incident being passed to the relevant examinations chair and/or the examinations committee misconduct group (see paragraph 4).

3.2 Where, in the opinion of the Director of Education, Training and Examinations, an incident is not deemed to be self-evident from the facts set out in the report or the incident is judged to be of a minor/technical issue, then the matter will not be processed and no further action will be taken. However, this will not preclude an official letter being issued to advise the candidate of the conduct of behaviour expected under examination conditions. Cases not processed beyond the Director’s review will not be recorded on a candidate’s personal records.

3.3 Where, following the review of a report and consultation with college staff/witnesses as necessary, the Director of Education, Training and Examinations deems that there is sufficient evidence to prove a case of misconduct, the Director will inform the candidate of the allegations in writing. The candidate concerned will be allowed seven working days, from the date of the letter, to accept or challenge the case against them.

3.4 Examination results of candidates cited for alleged misconduct will not be processed until a decision has been reached. Investigations will be completed as quickly and efficiently as possible and candidates will be kept informed of progress.

3.5 If within seven working days a candidate admits in writing to the allegations made against them, then the matter will be forwarded to the relevant examinations chair and deputy chair for their formal consideration and the award of an appropriate penalty in accordance with paragraph 6. Where allegations are accepted by the candidate, they can submit a written statement with their response that may be taken into account by the examination chair/Deputy Chair. A decision will be reached as soon as possible and normally within five working days of the date of the candidate letter.

3.6 If a candidate denies an allegation of misconduct in writing to the Director of Education, Training and Examinations, either in whole or in part, then the matter will be referred to the examinations committee misconduct group who will deal with the matter electronically.

4. Misconduct Group process

4.1 The Misconduct Group (the Group) will consist of:

  • the chair of the examinations committee (chair)
  • the chair of the Board of Examiners not involved in the incident
  • a nominated lay committee representative

4.2 The duty of the group will be to examine the facts of the case and to determine the strength and integrity of the evidence. Then make a decision based on the balance of probabilities, whether the allegation of misconduct is proven. Where to the satisfaction of the group, a case is proven the group will agree an appropriate penalty in accordance with paragraph 6. The outcome will be decided electronically/via telephone conference and therefore there will be no charge to the candidate.

4.3 The PA to the Director of Training, Examinations and Education will act as the group secretary. The purpose of the group secretary is to:

(a) Advise all parties on the deadline for submission of further evidence and the date on which the group will announce their decision.
(b) Coordinate and prepare documentation/evidence for all parties.
(c) Provide secretarial support to the group as required.
(d) Maintain communication with the candidate and provide advice as required.
(e) To produce and distribute the ‘decision document’ to all parties.
4.4 The Director of Education, Training and Examinations will submit the case for the Board of Examiners in writing to the group, through the group secretary.

4.5 The candidate has the right to submit written evidence for consideration by the group up to the deadline given by the group secretary.

4.7 The group secretary will acknowledge receipt of all evidence submitted by the candidate and confirm the date scheduled for the group to make its decision. This will not be more than one calendar month following the written confirmation of denial of the allegation of misconduct, see paragraph 3.6. All documents to be used along with a copy of this policy will be sent by email attachments to the candidate and the group members no later than five working days before the date set for the decision to be announced. No documents may be presented in evidence to the group, unless circulated by the group secretary in the manner detailed above.

4.8 The validity of the process will not be affected if the candidate fails to submit further documentary evidence on their behalf prior to the deadline given by the group secretary.

4.9 Following referral of alleged misconduct to the group, a candidate has the right to reverse their answer to the allegations up to 48 hours prior to the date scheduled for the group’s decision. Where allegations are then accepted by the candidate, they can submit a written statement with their response that may be taken into account by the group. A decision on the penalty to be awarded will be made on the date announced by the group secretary.

4.10 Neither the group nor the candidate will be given any information regarding the candidate’s result or performance at the examination in question.

4.11 The decision of the group is to be confirmed in writing to the candidate (the decision document) as soon as possible following the decision date. A copy will be provided to each member of the group and a copy will be held on College files.

5. Appeals procedure

5.1 Appeals must be carried out in accordance with The Royal College of Anaesthetists Primary and Final FRCA Examinations (Reviews and Appeals) regulations, Paragraphs 14 – 19 and an Appeal application (Appendix A) with the appropriate fee must be submitted within 7 working days of the date of the groups decision. All subsequent procedures and hearings will be handled in accordance with appendices B and C of the aforementioned regulations.

5.2 The Appeals panel will be advised that the misconduct group considered the case but will not be given details of the outcome.

5.3 The Appeal panel will have the power to confirm, amend or reverse the decision made by the misconduct group.

6. Penalties

6.1 Where the misconduct group or exam chairs (paragraph 3.5), agree that the case in whole or in part, is proven whether through admission by the candidate or the outcome of the group’s findings, then they will consider the following before a penalty is agreed:

  • the need to preserve the integrity of the examination.
  • the severity of the infringement proven
  • consistency with previous penalties.
  • the evidence of remorse and the admission of the understanding of the seriousness of the case.

6.2 the misconduct panel or the exam chairs (paragraph 3.5) may consider awarding one of the following standard penalties or may give a more specific penalty where appropriate:

  • no further action
  • a written warning (see paragraph 6.3)
  • result of an examination or part of an examination, to be declared void
  • candidate barred from applying for an exam for a specified period

6.3 Where a written warning is agreed upon, the group/exam chairs will reflect on the severity of the misconduct proven and reserve the right to forward details of the case to the GMC/National Medical Council and in the case of UK trainees, their College Tutor and Regional Adviser.

6.4 Where a candidate’s examination result is declared void, the attempt will be recorded against the candidate’s exam history. Exam papers will not be processed.