A guide to completing the Specialist Recognition Program Comparability Assessment


Education Registrars Fellowship Policy framework Guidance documents A guide to completing the Specialist Recognition Program Comparability Assessment

1.0 Introduction

Specialist international medical graduates (SIMGs) seeking to enter the Specialist Recognition Program (SRP) must complete the Comparability Assessment to be assessed for comparability to an Australian-trained specialist general medical practitioner.

2.0 Definitions

Applicant means a medical practitioner who is applying for entry onto the Specialist Recognition Program.

Comparability means the extent to which an SIMG’s recency, continuity of practice, continual professional development, assessment, training, qualifications and clinical experience is assessed as equivalent to an Australian-trained specialist general practitioner at the point of Fellowship

SIMG means Specialist international medical graduate.

SRP means the Specialist Recognition Program referred to throughout this and associated policies and documents, which assesses SIMGs as Substantially, Partially or Not Comparable to an Australian-trained general practitioner.

3.0 Guidance

3.1 Check your eligibility

The RACGP has assessed the following recognised qualifications in general practice and family medicine:

  • Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners
  • Membership of the Irish College of General Practitioners
  • Fellowship of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners
  • Certification in The College of Family Physicians of Canada

If you hold one of these qualifications, you may be eligible to apply to the SRP.

Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners – International (MRCGP-INT) is not a recognised qualification for entry to the SRP. The RACGP has assessed this qualification as Not Comparable to an Australian-trained general practitioner at the point of Fellowship.

If your specialist qualification is not listed above, it has not been assessed by the RACGP. To have your qualification assessed please contact pathways@racgp.org.au

3.2 Accessing the Application

To apply for a comparability assessment you must have an RACGP ID number. If you do not already have one you can sign up for free.

Contact the RACGP Fellowship Pathways Team to register your interest in the SRP at pathways@racgp.org.au

You should include:

  • Your full name as it appears on your passport;
  • the name of the specialist degree in general practice or family medicine you wish to have assessed; and
  • the countries or jurisdictions in which you are currently medically registered. 

You will be sent an invoice, which will include details on how to pay your assessment fee. You must pay the fee before you can proceed to the next stage of the assessment. Once you have paid the fee, you will be sent a unique link to complete your assessment online.

RACGP accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

3.3 Completing the application

Your application will be accessible for 6 months from the day of payment. It may take up to 90 minutes to complete. You can save your answers at any time and use the ‘back’ button if you need to access a previous section of the application.

You will need to provide information regarding your personal details, your qualifications and work experience. You will also need to upload documentary evidence of your identity, qualifications and current registrations.

All documents should be in pdf format and the file size must be smaller than 4MB. Make sure you answer all questions in the application, as incomplete applications will not be assessed.

3.3.1 Personal details

Complete the online form with your personal details.

You must provide proof of identity by uploading a copy of the photo identification page of your passport.

If you have changed your name through marriage or otherwise, you must provide official evidence of your name change such as marriage certificate. Evidence of name change documentation must include your previous name and new name.

You are required to submit a comprehensive CV that lists all clinical experience from graduation to current. The CV must be signed and dated within the last 3 months and include an explanation for any gaps in clinical practice greater than 3 months.

Only CVs using the RACGP approved CV template will be accepted, the template is available to download here.

3.3.2 Academic qualifications

You must provide:

  1. Your primary medical degree certificate
  2. Your specialist general practice qualification certificate
  3. A confirmation letter from the body which issued your specialist qualification which states the pathway followed and summative assessments undertaken to gain the specialist qualification (sometimes referred to as a Letter of Good Standing)
  4. A description of the theoretical and practical summative examinations undertaken as part of your specialist general practice qualification (100-300 words each). These descriptions can be drawn from official resources of the awarding institution, or can be written in your own words.

A list of the recognised summative exams is available in appendix 1. If you have completed assessments that are not named in the appendix you may provide evidence as part of your application outlining why these assessments should be taken into consideration as part of your comparability assessment. This could include a letter of support from the specialist college outlining the assessment requirements and structure. Colleges should provide as much information as possible, preferably including sample exam questions, psychometrics and public reports where available.

If original documents are not in English, you must provide certified official and endorsed English translations of these documents in addition to the originals.

3.3.3 Medical Registration

You must provide:

  1. Evidence of current medical registration for all jurisdictions of practice since you obtained your specialist general practice qualification (with expiry dates if applicable)
  2. Current Certificates of Good Standing (valid with an expiry date, or dated within 6 months of submission of application) for all jurisdictions of practice since you obtained your specialist general practice qualification
  3. An official copy of and explanation of any restrictions on the registration or current complaints pending

If original documents are not in English, you must provide certified official and endorsed English translations of these documents in addition to the originals.

If your Certificate of Good Standing has been sent directly to RACGP please upload a copy of the correspondence requesting the certificate, or evidence of parcel tracking.

3.3.4 Verification of qualification

You need to apply for primary source verification of your primary and specialist general practice qualifications to the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) through EPIC. You must nominate the RACGP to be able to view your verification. Step by step instructions are available at the EPIC website.

You must supply your AMC number in order to submit your application. You may submit your application before EPIC verification has been completed if you have your EPIC number, however your comparability assessment may not be finalised until EPIC verification is received.

3.3.5 Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

You must provide:

  1. Documentation showing the completion of 50 hours CPD in the 12 months prior to applying for your comparability assessment. CPD must comply with the Educational Principles and Standards as prescribed by the RACGP QI&CPD Program.
  2. Evidence of completing a practice-based self-reflective activity using validated tools in the 3 years prior to applying for your comparability assessment.

The self-reflective activity, often known as a practice audit, must:

  • identify a primary care based topic of concern or interest
  • define criteria or standards based on current guidelines or best practice
  • collect patient data
  • review the data against the set criteria or standards
  • identify areas for change or improvement
  • implement changes
  • re-evaluate or assess the impact of those changes

Integral to the activity is the reflection on the data review and the required changes.

3.3.6 General Practice Experience

To support your application you must provide evidence of the clinical work you have completed in the 3 years prior to applying for the comparability assessment. 

For each role in the past 3 years, you must provide a letter of support. The letter must:

  1. be dated and signed by the Practice Principal (preferably) or Senior Medical Director, CEO, Director, or Practice Manager be on practice letterhead
  2. state the specific dates you were/are employed
  3. state whether you worked full time or part time
  4. state the total hours worked each week
  5. state the duration of your weekly sessions (eg Monday-Friday 9am-12:30pm & 1:30pm-5pm)
  6. state the exact nature of the work you are/were required to undertake, including a detailed description of the duties you performed

If you have gaps in clinical practice you must provide supporting documentation:

  • gaps of 3-12 months require a detailed explanation
  • gaps greater than 12 months require a detailed explanation and supporting documentation such as medical certificates, travel receipts or employment contracts

3.3.7 Job offer

You must have an offer of a job in comprehensive general practice in Australia, as defined in the Assessment of General Practice Experience Policy, before you can enter the SRP. If you have a job offer, you can provide details as part of your comparability assessment. This may save you time later in the application process. You can upload full details of your job offer in the supporting documents section at the end of your application. It is not mandatory to provide a job offer at this stage and providing one will not affect the outcome of your comparability assessment. 

3.3.8 Statutory declaration

In order to submit your assessment you must complete and sign the statutory declaration form verifying certain uploaded documents. You need to print copies of your documents and take them, along with the originals to be signed by an authorised witness.

In order to verify the documentation, the witness must sight the original and the copy. List the verified documents in the space provided on the form, eg “Medical degree, certificate of good standing”.

The statutory declaration is available here.

You must have the following documents verified:

  • Primary medical degree
  • Medical registration for all jurisdictions of practice
  • Certificates of Good Standing from all jurisdications of practice (unless sent directly to RACGP)
  • Letters of support from your practices for the previous 36 months

For a list of authorised witnesses please visit the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department.

3.3.9 Submit application

If there is any part of the application you have not understood, please request clarification from the RACGP by phone on 1800 472 247 or by email to pathways@racgp.org.au before you submit your application.

You will not be able to access the application once you have submitted it, unless RACGP staff or Assessors request more information from you.

By submitting the application you confirm that you have given the RACGP true, accurate and complete information. Your application will be assessed based on the information you have provided, in line with the Specialist Recognition Program Comparability Assessment Policy.

If additional information or documentation is required you will be contacted via email and provided with a link to access your application again. All the information and documents you have uploaded will be accessible in the application and you can make any necessary adjustments.

3.4 Assessment Timelines & Outcome

  1. You must provide current, full and verifiable information in your application with sufficient detail to assess comparability.
    1. All documents must be in English, or be accompanied by certified official translations to English.
    2. The RACGP will take reasonable steps to verify the information provided; additional information or documentation may be requested to substantiate the assessment.
    3. Submission of plagiarised, false or misleading information will be handled as per the Educational Misconduct Policy.
  2. Your application will be reviewed by RACGP staff and then referred for assessment by the RACGP Assessors under the Specialist Recognition Program Comparability Assessment Policy. You could be asked for more information by the RACGP staff or by the assessors.
  3. Completed applications may take up to 10 weeks to be assessed. If the assessors require further information, this timeline may be extended.
  4. You will be advised of your comparability outcome via email. You must ensure the RACGP has your up to date email contact details. To change your email address please contact the RACGP on 1800 626 901 or email racgpeducation@racgp.org.au
  5. Components of the assessment outcome may also be used to inform your eligibility for other RACGP Fellowship pathways.
  6. Comparability Assessment outcomes are valid for 6 calendar months from the date of your outcome letter.

3.5 Reconsideration and resubmission

  1. If you believe the outcome has not fully considered any aspect of your application, you may submit a request for reconsideration within 10 business days of receiving your outcome. Reconsiderations are handled under the Fellowship Pathways Appeals Policy.
  2. If, after receiving your outcome, you believe you have additional evidence which would change that outcome, you may submit that additional evidence within 10 business days of receiving your outcome. Additional evidence which contradicts previously submitted evidence will not be considered. A fee applies for considering additional evidence.
  3. If you wish to repeat the assessment at a later date, you may do so. You may complete further CPD or additional education, to improve your recency of practice or to gain additional experience in general practice before submitting your new assessment.

4.0 References

Specialist Recognition Program Comparability Assessment Policy

Assessment of General Practice Experience Policy

Educational Misconduct Policy

Fellowship Pathways Appeals Policy

Appendix: Validated assessment instruments

A. Theoretical

Applicants to the SRP must have completed a theoretical summative assessment in at least one of the following formats to be assessed as comparable under the SRP comparability assessment process.

These formats are accepted as rigorously assessing a candidate’s capacity for knowledge and clinical reasoning, which can be defined as thinking through the various aspects of patient care to arrive at a reasonable decision regarding the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of a clinical problem in a specific patient. Patient care includes history taking, conducting a physical exam, requesting laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures, designing safe and effective treatment regimens or preventive strategies, and providing patient education and counselling.

Clinical reasoning plays a major role in a doctor’s ability to make diagnoses and decisions. It can be considered as the physician’s most critical competence.

Format

Summary

MCQ: Multiple Choice Questions.

This style of assessment requires candidates to analyse a clinical scenario, or stem, and choose the most appropriate answer from a list of possible options.

The assessment tests clinical knowledge, requiring candidates to synthesise the information provided in the clinical stem and use only the relevant clinical components to select an answer, and demonstrates a candidate’s ability to discard irrelevant clinical components and incorrect answers, or distractors.

EMQ: Extended Matching Questions (R-type MCQs)

This is a variation on the MCQ structure, but includes a series of clinical scenarios or stems rather than just a single scenario. This format allows for more in-depth assessment of clinical reasoning and problem solving skills; candidates are required to assess these thematically linked scenarios while discarding distractors and irrelevant clinical information to select the most appropriate answer from a common list of possible options.

The EMQ format comprises four parts for each question:

1. A theme. This might be a symptom, investigation, diagnosis or treatment: for example, back pain, dyspnoea, diabetes, corticosteroids.

2. The clinical scenario, or stem, which outlines the scenario.

3. The lead in statement, which outlines what is required of the candidate (ie provide the most likely diagnosis).

4. A possible list of answers, or options.

SBA: Single Best Answer.

This format offers a single question with multiple alternative answers, from which the candidate must choose the single best answer; unlike other methods, the format does not offer many incorrect answers and one correct answer. Instead, it requires careful analysis of the information provided to determine which of the answers is most likely or the ‘best fit’.

AKT: Applied Knowledge Test.

This assessment may incorporate elements of the above formats; it is designed to test the application of knowledge in a clinical context, rather than knowledge alone. The questions, whether SBA or EMQ, comprise a clinical stem, a lead in statement informing the candidate of the question’s requirement, and a set of answer options.

KFP: Key Feature Problem.

This assessment is designed to test clinical reasoning and clinical decision-making by assessing how candidates analyse patients in the context of a given scenario, and how they consider the key features, or critical steps, required to resolve the clinical problem.

It is not a simple short-answer assessment, instead requiring candidates to write in their own answer (when appropriate, referring back to demographic, clinical and geographic information provided in the clinical stem).

Short notes paper

These papers require candidates to provide a written response in the format of short notes, bullet points, short paragraphs or essays on given topics or on a clinical scenario.

B. Practical

OSCE: Objective Structured Clinical Examination. This exam is designed to assess how a candidate integrates their applied knowledge and clinical reasoning when presented with clinical scenarios. It tests not only knowledge and reasoning but communication skills and professional attitudes in the context of consultations, patient exams or peer discussions. OSCEs classically comprise a circuit of multiple clinical stations. Shorter stations do not focus on the entire consultation, rather focusing on certain aspects of a consultation. Longer stations require the candidate to manage entire consultations, including outcome of investigation and follow up visits.

Other multi-station clinical practical assessments may be equivalent to the OSCE; see clause 3.3.2 above for information on evidence required to demonstrate equivalence.

Providing additional evidence


The RACGP recognises that international specialist colleges may run assessments that differ terminologically from the above instruments but which may, nonetheless, be equivalent or comparable in principle and structure.

Applicants who have completed assessments not named above may provide evidence as part of their application outlining why these assessments should be taken into consideration as part of their comparability assessment. This could include a letter of support from the applicant’s specialist college outlining the assessment’s requirements and structure. Colleges should provide as much information as possible, preferably including sample exam questions, psychometrics, and public reports when available.