1. MRCP website
Updated information on the new PACES format is available on the UK COVID-19 PACES webpage. Initial feedback from the PACES centres which ran in early October is that the 2 mini carousels ran without significant disruption.
2. Candidate prioritisation
We are sorry that, whilst we have been able to accommodate most applicants, we have been unable to place a small number of candidates in the upcoming PACES diet. We recognise that this has been a source of anxiety. We are running PACES in 24 centres in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, due to the need to adhere to social distancing and enhanced infection control measures, we have been forced to run fewer centres and candidate places than normal. This is not a position we wanted to be in but, unfortunately, we had no choice. In addition, we are required to avoid NHS clinical areas and so have only been able to use non-clinical areas such as Postgraduate Centres or dedicated exam centres.
The three Colleges have managed to source over 500 candidate places in the UK. The main consequence of running a limited number of places is, of course, that there are more applicants than places. We have therefore had to develop a categorisation process to try to allocate places on a priority basis. This was done in consultation with our trainee representatives and other key stakeholders, including JRCPTB. We have prioritised trainees who have entered higher specialist training this August without the full MRCP(UK) diploma and IMY2 trainees who may be eligible to apply for HST in August 2021. The reasons for prioritising trainees who have completed core training (CMT, ACCS-AM & BBT) in the last 2-3 years after these two groups include: the difficulty of using self-declared data to inform decision making and our limited knowledge about such previous CMT trainees, including what their current employment is and what their career intentions now are (and GDPR doesn’t help this). We have managed to place all group 1 and group 2 trainees but, unfortunately, the number in group 3 exceeded the total number of remaining places and so, after discussion, we agreed on a random allocation process as the fairest thing to do. At present, there are 45 applicants in category 3 who do not have a confirmed place. We are continuing to try to source additional centres, which might then allow us to reduce that number, but reluctantly accept that such places may only become available at short notice.
All applicants who were not allocated should have received an email informing them that if they felt they had been incorrectly categorised, they should email the relevant college team/us.
Please note, and be hopefully reassured, that it has been agreed nationally that MRCP will not be required for appointment to higher specialty training in August 2021.
We will, however, be continuing to review the priority groupings for future diets.
3. Exam standard
We recognise that candidate preparation for PACES may have been disrupted due to the pandemic situation. The restarting PACES workstream will be reviewing the UK COVID 19 PACES format to ensure that the exam standard, validity and reliability are maintained and to make sure that candidates are neither advantaged nor disadvantaged by the new format. We have previous experience of doing this when the exam format has changed. We will work to the principle of comparable outcomes meaning that a candidate who would have passed in the previous format will also pass in the new format. Completing this process means we cannot release exam results in our usual 10 working days in the UK but we will aim to provide results within 20 working days.
The workgroup will also be looking in more detail at contingency options and how we could deliver examinations should the pandemic situation worsen.
4. Future Exam Models
A number of working group have been convened to consider what changes we may have to make to the exam for 2021 (COVID-19) and beyond.
We are always keen to receive your feedback. If you have specific queries relating to your exam day please contact the exams office at your College of entry.
For other general queries or suggestions please email: Policy.Officer@mrcpuk.org