MRCP(UK) continues to closely monitor COVID-19 infection rates and the impact this may have on upcoming PACES exams. The examination departments of RCPE, RCPSG and RCP remain in close contact with their host centres and, at present, exams are scheduled to proceed without alteration to previously communicated dates. However, circumstances can rapidly and unexpectedly change, and this may affect exam delivery. We appreciate that this will be a concern for candidates, and we will do everything in our power to maintain PACES exams during the ongoing pandemic.
Infection control measures
The safety and wellbeing of everyone attending our exam venues remains our paramount concern. We will continue to follow general pandemic legislation within the countries of the UK. Some of our exam centres request additional infection control measures and we will follow local policy in such circumstances. Candidates or examiners in centres where there are additional measures will be notified in advance.
Lateral flow tests
Candidates, examiners, and administration staff will now be asked to undertake a lateral flow COVID-19 test on the day of the examination prior to attending the exam centre and to confirm that this was negative on arrival. Individuals who cannot access a lateral flow test should contact their College of entry at the earliest opportunity.
Cancellations and delays
Late notice examiner call offs could result in insufficient examiners on the day and cancellation of an exam centre, but the College exam departments are working on contingency arrangements to mitigate against this risk as far as possible in the current situation. For example, the exam can still run if there are only nine examiners (see more details below). Should there be fewer than nine available examiners, however, the exam carousel cannot proceed, because the academic rigour and fairness of the exam cannot be reliably assured.
The decision to cancel a PACES centres is never taken lightly, and it is important to remember that cancellations may sometimes be at the request of one of our provider partners and therefore out of the direct control of the individual College. PACES centres are extremely complex to operationally plan, especially during these current very challenging times, and cannot always be 100% guaranteed to run given that circumstances are constantly changing, and we can only deal with each new circumstance as and when it arises.
We intend to run as many centres as we can and remain in close contact with all of our centres. However, in the event of your centre being cancelled, we will do our best to reallocate you to another centre during the same diet. If this cannot be facilitated, you will be prioritised in category 1 for a space in the next diet.
To avoid cancellations, the Colleges are recruiting reserve examiners who can step in to examine at short notice whilst accepting that the NHS workforce remains under considerable pressure during the current wave of the pandemic. Sourcing reserve examiners on the day may take additional time and candidates should be mindful that exams may, on occasions, therefore commence later than planned.
MRCP(UK) has longstanding policies in place which centres follow if examiners need to withdraw at short notice from examining on the day. All efforts will be made to secure 10 examiners but, failing this, the exam can still run with nine examiners. In this situation, the Chair of examiners will speak to the candidates before each cycle informing them that there will be only one examiner at station 1,2 or 4. The single examiner will be a very experienced examiner and their marks will be duplicated for that station. Candidates will be given the chance to withdraw from the exam on the day with a full refund and guaranteed place in the subsequent diet, but if they choose to proceed, they cannot subsequently appeal on the basis that there were only nine examiners.