Background Specialist medical examinations, such as those within general
practice, are essential for identifying candidates who are able to
progress to independent specialist practice. The rationale for their
use is that underlying general practice related knowledge, ability,
and skill of a candidate can be determined through the use of a valid,
reliable, fair, practical and generalisable examination.
Objective This article discusses a method for viewing all aspects of an
examination for the purpose of minimising or eliminating error.
Discussion An assumption is made that performance on the examination
is a predictor of the underlying ability of a candidate. Although
examinations are invaluable tools, they are only indicators of
candidate competence or candidate mastery. Decision making based
on examination results may be adversely affected if error enters
examination content, processes and procedures. This is particularly
the case for candidates whose examination scores fall around
the pass mark. Potential strategies for minimising the ‘band
of uncertainty’ for these candidates in The Royal Australian College
of General Practitioners Fellowship examination are discussed.
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