Get ready for your online exam
(Last updated February 17, 2022)
To prepare to take your Royal College certification examination online, there are key steps that you must follow in order to ensure a seamless experience. It is important that you review all of this material prior to writing the exam online.
Please read this important information on writing your exam at a hotel exam site. We recommend that you bookmark this page, so you can easily return to it for reference.
Are you writing an applied exam? If so, please read this important information. We recommend that you bookmark this page, so you can easily return to it for reference.
How exams are developed
Each specialty and subspecialty has an examination board comprising content experts from across Canada. Editors, translators, linguistic reviewers, item creators, item reviewers and other content experts are involved in the exam development process.
|Objectives of Training or competencies||The exam is based on the Objectives of Training or competencies of the specialty or subspecialty. To access this document, visit the Information by discipline webpage.|
|Create exam blueprint||A blueprint of the exam is created based on the Objectives of Training or competencies. The blueprint for your specialty or subspecialty may be found in the Exam Format document. Choose your specialty or subspecialty from the dropdown menu. Click on the “Exam Format” document.|
|Create exam items||Items are created by certificants of the Royal College who are subject matter experts.|
|Items reviewed by examination board||Items are reviewed and edited by the members of the Examination Board for accuracy and clarity.|
|Items are edited and translated||Items are edited and translated for readability and appropriate language.|
|Items are reviewed by linguistic reviewer||Items are reviewed by a linguistic reviewer who is also a subject matter expert and a member of the Examination Board.|
|Exam is reviewed as a whole||The exam is reviewed as a whole by members of the Examination Board.|
|Exam administration||The exam is administered virtually to candidates.|
|Psychometric analysis||During this process, questions that were overly difficult, non-discriminating, or for which new evidence emerged between the time of question writing and exam administration are reviewed. As a result of this review process, some questions may be deleted from the final exam score for all candidates.|
|Data verification||A thorough process of data verification and quality assurance of exam results is conducted during and after the exams.|
The Exam Format document will detail the exam components, process and timing, reference materials and practice questions, if applicable.
To access this document, visit the Information by discipline webpage. Choose your specialty or subspecialty from the dropdown menu. Click on the “Exam Format” document.
Written exams could refer to a Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) exam and/or a Short Answer Question (SAQ) exam. For information about the format of your specialty or subspecialty examination, review the Exam Format document.
As the training programs across Canada move towards a Competence by Design (CBD) format, exams with multiple components will be de-coupled – the written and the oral/applied exam will be treated as separate exams (eligibility and registration will be distinct for each component) and success at the written exam will be required before the candidate has eligibility to sit any subsequent exam component.
If a candidate is successful at the written component, they will not be required to sit that component again, and in the case of a fail or inability to sit the oral/applied component, they will only be required to register for the oral/applied component in any subsequent years. In other words, the successful result at the written component will carry forward to subsequent years and it will not be required to be completed again.
Multiple-choice question exam information
The Royal College's examinations are used to determine if a candidate has reached an acceptable level of competence based on the objectives of training of their specialty. Multiple-choice questions are used to assess candidate's knowledge and ability to apply this knowledge over a wide range of content areas.
What should you expect? A description of RCPSC Multiple-Choice Questions
Royal College multiple-choice questions consist of a stem and four options. Of these options, there is only one correct answer and three distractors.
Typically, the questions conform to a format similar to that of Example 1 below:
Which of the following pulmonary function tests is increased in patients with advanced pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema?
- Vital capacity
- Maximum breathing capacity
- Tidal volume
- Residual volume
(Correct answer is 4.)
Each page of the multiple-choice question booklet consists of both English and French versions of the same questions.
Short answer question exam information
The Royal College’s examinations are used to determine if a candidate has reached an acceptable level of competence based on the objectives of training of their specialty.
What are Short-Answer Questions (SAQs)?
Many Royal College specialty examinations have an SAQ component. SAQs are questions that can be answered in a few short words or phrases. Typically, these questions contain words such as ‘list’ or ‘name’ suggesting that a series of short responses are required.
Each SAQ will usually consist of the question, a space where the candidate can provide his or her answer as well as the mark allocation for the question.
Different Kinds of SAQs
Short-answer questions can vary in terms of complexity. For example, the following question requires recall of factual knowledge at a low level of complexity:
|List THREE medical specialties with Royal College certification exams.||Total Marks|
More complex questions are usually based on case scenarios (sometimes called clinical vignettes). These questions can elicit application of knowledge or clinical reasoning. As well, a series of questions may be based on these scenarios building on case information.
|51 year old man is diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus.||Total Marks|
|a) What is the BEST treatment option that should be pursued?||2|
|b) List 4 steps in the pathogenesis of Barrett’s esophagus.||4|
|c) List one ongoing clinical issue that needs to be addressed pertaining to the long-term health of this patient of enrolling him in a surveillance program.||2|
How are SAQs marked?
Each short-answer question is created with a list of anticipated ‘model’ responses. This list is used to guide the markers as to the value of the responses when scoring the question. Partial marks may be allocated for some responses.
Example 3 below contains a question with a model response list.
|Question: You see a 45-year-old man in your office for headaches. The headaches started one year ago and have been increasing in frequency. They now occur four to six times per month. With each headache he misses three to four days of work. You suspect he suffers from migraine.||Total Marks|
|a) List FOUR clinical features of migraine.||2|
|List TWO prophylactic medications for migraine.||2|
|Model responses for Example 3:|
a) One-half mark for each (maximum two marks)
The use of a model response list helps guide the markers to assess the responses with little or no interpretation. With this in mind, candidates should provide the answers that are most obvious and correct.
Applied (Oral exams)
Applied exams take place in 17 hotel exam sites across Canada. Applied exams are sometimes referred to as “live exams” and may include an oral examination.
For information about the format of your specialty or subspecialty examination, review the Exam Format document found on the Information by Discipline webpages.
|Applied exam information||What happens at a typical applied examination?|
When is sequestering required?
Sequestering may be required following the examination in order to ensure that candidates do not communicate the content of the examination to others preparing to take the examination.
Please note that all personal belongings including electronic devices will not be accessible until the sequestering period is finished. Respect the sign-in times on the appointment letter to ensure the sequestering period is as short as possible for all candidates.
Studying for the exam
The Objectives of Training document contains useful information regarding the content for your specialty or subspecialty examination. Also, the Exam Format document will often list reference materials and practice questions that are specific to your specialty or subspecialty.
To access these documents, visit the Information by Discipline webpages. Choose your specialty or subspecialty from the dropdown menu. Click on the “Objectives of Training” or “Exam Format” document displayed at the bottom.
|MCQ||Tips for the Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) exam:|
|SAQ||Tips for the Short-Answer Question (SAQ) exam:|
Recommended study toolsTake a look at this guide that has recommended study tools to help you prepare for your Royal College exam.
Fully Canadian trained, first-attempt Candidates
Spring and Fall Sessions 2020-2022
The pass rate table below includes average pass rates for CMDPG (Canadian Medical Degree and Post Graduate degree, taking the exam for the first time) candidates over the last three years. All specialties and subspecialties that have an average of 5 or more CMDPG candidates are included.
If the specialty or subspecialty certification examination has a written-before-oral format (meaning candidates must pass the written examination to be eligible to take the applied examination) the data is presented separately for the written and applied examination.
If the specialty or subspecialty certification examination has a comprehensive format (meaning candidates take both components, written and applied, together) the data is presented as one overall pass rate.
If the specialty or subspecialty has recently transitioned to a written-before-oral format, data will be updated once three years of data is available.
Specialties and subspecialties with an average less than 5 CMDPG candidates over the three-year period will not be reported to maintain confidentiality.
|CMDPG Candidates Only||Three- year average|
|Anesthesiology - Written||131.3||97.3|
|Cardiac Surgery||6.0 ||90.5|
|Child & Adolescent Psychiatry||23.7||100.0|
|Clinical Immunology and Allergy||15.3||100.0|
|Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology||-||-|
|Critical Care (Adult)|
|Critical Care (Peds)||5.7||100.0|
|Emergency Medicine - Written||89.0||96.2|
|Endocrinology and Metabolism (Adult)||24.3||100.0|
|Endocrinology and Metabolism (Pediatric)||6.7||84.9|
|Gastroenterology (Adult) - Written||28.7||97.5|
|Gastroenterology (Pediatric) - Written||-||-|
General Internal Medicine
General Surgery - Written
|General Surgical Oncology||5.7||100.0|
|Infectious Diseases (adult)||23.0||92.8|
|Infectious Diseases (pediatric)||-||-|
|Internal Medicine - Written||459.7||96.6|
|Maternal Fetal Medicine||7.0||100.0|
|Neonatal Perinatal Medicine||6.0||91.7|
|Obstetrics and Gynecology - Written||82.0||99.2|
|Ophthalmology - Written||36.3||93.6|
|Orthopedic Surgery - Written||46.0||96.8|
|Otolaryngology - Written||37.0||92.5|
|Pediatric Emergency Medicine||16.7||100.0|
|Pediatric Hematology Oncology||8.0|
|Pediatrics - Written||136.0||97.3|
|Psychiatry - Written||160.3||98.2|
|Public Health and Preventive Medicine||20.3||100.0|
|Rheumatology (Adult) - Written||29.0||95.5|
|Urology - Written||40.7||97.9|
We recognize exams are a stressful experience and that we are in unprecedented times. The Royal College is committed to communicating with you in a respectful, professional and civil manner. Similarly, we ask the same courtesy is provided to our employees. Thank you!