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MRCPsych examinations: cumulative results 1997–2002

  • Femi Oyebode (a1) and Elizabeth Furlong (a2)
Aims and Method

The aim of this study was to investigate the pattern of performance of candidates in the MRCPsych examinations in the period 1997–2002 inclusive. During this period 6306 candidates sat the MRCPsych part I and 4536 sat the MRCPsych part II.


The overall pass rates for MRCPsych part I was 44.7% and 48.9% for MRCPsych part II. The majority of those who passed either part of the examinations did so on their first attempt; females performed better than males and graduates of UK and Republic of Ireland medical schools performed better than foreign graduates in all component parts of the examinations.

Clinical Implications

The pattern of results suggests that clinical tutors and course organisers need to pay special care to the training needs of trainees who are foreign medical graduates.

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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 0955-6036
  • EISSN: 1472-1473
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MRCPsych examinations: cumulative results 1997–2002

  • Femi Oyebode (a1) and Elizabeth Furlong (a2)
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Interesting paper

AK Al-Sheikhli, Consultant Psychiatrist
16 March 2007

Dear Editor-I read Oyebode and Furlong's article with interest,It will be interesting to compare his results with previous results,like for e.g with the results of early eighties.



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College to provide proper feedback

Dr Ashish Rana, SHO CAMHS, Horsham, West Sussex
26 February 2007

The article on MRCPsych examinations:cumulative results by Femi Oyebode & Elizabeth Furlong interested me as I will be writing my first MRCPych exam in two weeks time as a foreign medical graduate.

The study has taken into consideration the exam pattern which is not prevailing since 2003 so drawing conclusions out of it will not be presenting up to date picture. It discusses mostly on the different passing rates of UK & Irish graduates compared to foreign medical graduates but has overlooked many other issues projected by the results and is unable to give any recommendation to the college about the outcome.

One of the major issue overlooked is the reason behind the differencebetween the passing rates of females and males which is 51.9% and 39.8% respectively.They must have compared results with evidences showing betterpassing rates of females.They were unable to give reason for significant difference between the passing rates of graduates of Indian subcontinent compared with graduates from Indian borders.

I do agree with there conclusions that College examinations are fair to all candidates and that the outcome for candidates is a true reflectionof knowledge and skills & it is equally important that foreign medicalgraduates have similar opportunities to UK graduates in order to gain adequate knowledge and clinical experience so as to be able to adequately prepare for the College examinations but keeping in view the fact that majority of examinees presently are foreign medical graduates, college hasto improve the standard of their feedback to help the failed candidate to better understand the skills needed to improve before taking the next attempt.

I would like someone to assess the passing rates in the present pattern as my belief is that there might not be a significant difference in passing the theory exams of both Part 1 & 2 between UK and Indian subcontinent graduates.
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Low pass rate for asian doctors

Ruchi Thakur, Staff Grade ,MRCPsych
26 February 2007

It is a very bold step by the Royal College to publish the data of the examinations and I would like to thank them for making this data available to all of us.

There are various reasons specified by the authors namely

Poor communication,Poor language comprehension,Less clinical experience,Smaller training programmes,Less knowledge of Behavioural Science

It’s very sad to see that doctors of Asian origin have such a small pass rate while they constitute the maximum strength of doctors in the NHS.I feel instead of blaming the doctors of Asian origin for being unaware ofBritish culture it’s also very important that the examiners are made culturally aware of the doctors who are working in the NHS.

It’s not necessary that the adjustment has to come from the asian doctors because they are are new to this country. The adjustment has to come from both sides. Both parties have to learn to understand each others culture. It’s important that the patients in NHS are aware that they are unlikely to get a doctor of British origin every time they visit a clinic.Hence they should learn to communicate their problems effectively and make the doctor understand what they are trying to say.I am sure most of the patients are aware of this and have adjusted to the asian doctors.

Similarly I feel the examiners cannot expect the doctors of Asian origin to suddenly learn a new style of communicating and be penalised forsame. Learning about a new culture is a lifelong process and cannot be picked up in a year or two.

Poor language comprehension should not be a reason to fail a candidate because we are not aiming to differentiate someone with good English or poor English. Our aim is to differentiate a knowledgeable person from a person with substandard knowledge. We all have already passed our IELTS so testing English comprehension again is not advisable. Hence the Royal College if feels that candidates are finding the comprehension of written paper a bit difficult they could reframe the same question in simple language.

Behavioural Science may be a factor for poor performance in Part I but in Part II the candidates have enough experience in psychiatry to learn this subject. I personally do not feel this is a major factor for candidates to fail the examination.

It’s interesting to note that the authors have not considered bias ofthe examiners towards foreign graduates as a factor for failing them. Thisis important as most foreign graduates feel this is the main reason for them failing.To make the examination a fair process its important Royal College makes efforts to reduce this bias if present.
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Pass rate in MRCPsych

Sudip Sikdar, consultant psychiatrist, college examiner
16 February 2007

I read Oyebode and Furlong's article with particular interest especially as an overseas doctor as well as a college examiner.Other than the possible reasons for a poorer pass rate for overseas doctors that have already been elucidated in the article, there are some other possible reasons which may account for this disparity.Over the last few years, I have found that the quality of overseas trainees has deteriorated as many of them were forced to take up psychiatry as a last resort to train in the UK when they wanted to train in medicine or surgery as 1st choice (subjects that are perceived to have "value"/ make one a "proper doctor" in their home countries). This perception unfortunately is still prevalent in the Indian sub-continent and is reflected in undergraduate training curriculum and perhaps makes graduate doctors less "psychologically minded" (we all know that psychiatry is a combination of science and art).Visa restrictions also force doctors to take the exams as quickly as possible when many of them are neither theoretically or practically competent.Unfortunately, many unsuccessful candidates fail to understand the reasonsfor failing the exam and feel victimised as overseas doctors. The feedbacksystem to unsuccessful candidates has improved over the years but perhaps could be more elaborate to help these doctors. ... More

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Passing examinations is an art.

Sunanda Ghosh, SHO, Newham Centre for Mental Health
16 February 2007

The paper on MRCPsych examinations by Oyebode and Furlong interested me as a foreign graduate who cleared both examinations on the first attempt.

The author's statement that 'the type and quality of undergraduate medical education can have an effect on postgraduate education and performance' made me try and imagine the pass rates for candidates graduating from UK, were they to appear for a similar examination in the Indian subcontinent. Passing exams in any country needs an understanding of the system, utilizing available resources, hard work, and practise.

Improving competence means continuing professional and personal development. I am yet to meet a candidate who failed the membership examsand blamed it on his or her background. Candidates, irrespective of their origin and background should pool their resources. With the widespread useof the internet, working in small groups should not be allowed to be a hinderance. Some of my peers would state that passing examinations is an art. While candidates may not hope to pass without adequate knowlege, theyoften need a different set of skills to perform well in the exams. These would not necessarily be the same as clinical skills. I suggest local tutors and candidates should allow for development of such skills.
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