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Docs to be tested in UK format

Medical students who take the Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) examination in the city in September will be tested in a revised format — the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), the preferred method of examination for clinical subjects in the UK.

The OSCE will combine the prevalent system of separate practical test and viva voce.

A five-member delegation from the Royal College of Surgeons of England, led by president Norman Williams, was in the city on Thursday to talk about the new format, meet surgeons and visit hospitals.

Explaining the format, Williams said: “Candidates will move through 18 stations, each testing a specific area of surgery, in three hours.”

The stations will be divided into different Broad Content Areas — the first five will be devoted to anatomy and surgical pathology, the next four to applied surgical science and critical care and the rest will test the candidates’ clinical, procedural and communication skills.

“We had to take the examination ourselves and I barely managed to pass. The test is quite tough but guarantees the highest standard of assessment,” said Michael Parker, a council member of RCS.

The change of format is aimed at standardising the test to ensure fair comparison and doing away with all arbitrariness, members of the delegation said.

The OSCE was adopted in the UK and North America about five years ago as the preferred method of examination for clinical subjects. It currently has a success rate of 60 per cent in the UK.

Asked whether the MRCS was losing credibility as the doctors are no longer trained and examined in the UK, Williams said: “The OSCE is being introduced with the objective of replicating the same standards in Calcutta. A candidate who passes the exam here will be as competent as anyone who passes it in the UK.”

“The other benefit of the new system is that candidates will know their result the same evening and get their diploma if they pass,” said Sumit Chaudhuri, a laparoscopic surgeon in charge of the examination in the city.

Calcutta and Cairo were the first cities outside the UK to hold MRCS examination conducted by the Royal College of Surgeons. The examination, first conducted in the city in 2005, draws about 100 candidates from all over India as well as Australia and Saarc nations.

The MRCS examination comprises two parts. Part A is a four-hour multiple-choice question examination consisting of two papers, each of two hours’ duration. Part B will be the OSCE, which will be held at Calcutta Medical Research Institute, Alipore.