Exams update: continuation of online examinations in 2021-22 academic year

Published: 15/06/2021

The College’s Education, Training and Examinations Board has recently agreed to continue with an online delivery format for all sittings of the SOE and OSCE exams until the end of April 2022.

The principal reason for continuing with online exams is because there remains a degree of uncertainty about further national or local lockdowns and social distancing measures. This makes it impossible to accurately predict what the picture will be over the next academic year for our candidates and examiners.

Providing certainty of exam delivery for our members is one of the College’s most important priorities. We know cancelling examinations will create enormous difficulties for our members.

Could there be a mix of face-to-face and online exams?

We have to ensure absolute consistency across each exam sitting and it will not be possible to do this with a hybrid model of online and face-to-face delivery. We have also looked at planning face-to-face exams with the option of pivoting to online delivery, but this is not possible for a number of reasons:

1. Changes to government policy

We know from experience that government policy decisions are often announced with little notice which would not give the College adequate time to plan for change. The impact of this on candidates would also be significant.

2. Travel and accommodation expenses

We also feel that candidates need certainty about the timing and format of the exam from the time they can book their place. We do not want any candidate to lose money on travel and accommodation that they are unable to use.

3. Our exam supplier

The College is contractually required to provide our online exam platform supplier at least two months’ notice (early September for the Primary exam and early October for the Final exam) if we wish to change the format of an exam. The licences (per exam, per candidate) we buy for a virtual exam are different to those used in a face-to-face delivery.

4. OSCE exam

There are several challenges in moving the OSCE specifically back to face-to-face delivery. While the OSCE exam material has been written for use either online or face-to-face, the logistics of delivery and marking are different, and there would be a lead in time of several weeks to introduce a new marking system into the face-to-face OSCE.

We hope that this update provides certainty in what has been an uncertain and ever-changing landscape. The College would again like to thank all examiners and exam candidates for their support in what has been a challenging year for everyone.

Dr Chris Carey, Chair, Education, Training and Examinations Board

Dr Mark Forrest, Chair, Examinations