Basic training written examination updates

Date published:
12 Mar 2018

Important Examination updates

  • Clinical Examination announcement
  • Support for trainees
  • Examination marking background
  • Refunds and compensation
  • Independent inquiry announcement

Dear Trainees,

Trainees who sat this year’s cancelled computer-based Divisional Written Examination on 19 February will now not have an unsuccessful attempt at this year’s Divisional Clinical Examination counted as an attempt at the Clinical Examination, following a decision by the College Education Committee.

This exemption does not apply to candidates who have passed the Written Examination in prior years and are waiting to sit this year’s Clinical Examination.

The decision follows an earlier exemption where an unsuccessful attempt at this year’s Written Examination will not be counted as an attempt at the Written Examination.

We can also confirm that results for the 1,141 candidates who sat the first alternative written exam on 2 March will be emailed to candidates at 3pm AEDT and 3pm NZDT on 15 March

DPEs will receive results notifications for those candidates at the same time. 
Approximately 50 candidates are due to sit the Alternate Written Examination on 23 March. 

Results will be emailed to these candidates on 29 March and their DPEs will also receive results notifications at the same time.

Candidates who successfully completed the Written Examination on 2 March will be able to apply online for the Clinical Examination from 16 March. 

Please refer to examination dates for application closing dates. 

Candidates sitting the Written Examination on 23 March have been provisionally allocated a place in the Clinical Examination so as not to disrupt their training.

Support for Trainees

We recognise the period leading up to exams and the exam itself can be a stressful time, leaving our trainees anxious and uncertain about their future. 

Clearly, the complication this year of having to re-sit a paper based exam would have added to this feeling of unease.

As you wait to receive your results, and after you receive those results, remember support is available. 

A list of support resources across Australia and New Zealand are listed on the RACP website. Any trainee who fails either the Divisional Written or Clinical exam is automatically contacted by the College’s Trainee Support Unit.

Marking and question selection

Some trainees have asked for more clarity on how we select questions for our Basic Training Divisional Written Exam and how trainees’ answers are assessed.

We can assure all our trainees, their mentors and Directors of Physician Education that the process for writing and selecting questions is robust and academically sound.

Exams are marked to a rigorous standard and our College Dean Professor Richard Doherty has helped explain this further in this short video.

Refunds and compensation

The College is currently finalising details of the refund of examination fees committed to by computer based testing provider Pearson VUE, and will make an announcement as soon as possible about automatic payments.

Pearson VUE has also apologised for the error that caused the February 19 exam to be cancelled. You can read that apology on our website.

In the meantime, some trainees have requested a letter on College letterhead which they can send to their travel insurers to support claims for reimbursement – a copy is available for download from our website.

Independent investigation

Finally, corporate investigation and advisory firm Ferrier Hodgson has been appointed by the Board to conduct the independent inquiry into the cancellation of the computer based exam on February 19.

A Special Purpose Committee of our Board, including trainees and education advisors, has set the terms of reference for the inquiry which in summary will review examination related events prior to 19 February 2018, determine what occurred on 19 February 2018 in relation to the examination, establish the cause, conduct an analysis, and make recommendations.

Feedback already provided to the College, via email, social media and letters will be provided to Ferrier Hodgson. We will advise how further submissions can be made.

Yours sincerely

Dr Catherine Yelland
RACP President

How the pass mark is determined

Information update from RACP sent 2 March 2018

Thank you again to all our trainee physicians and Directors of Physician Education for your patience and understanding over the past week as we worked to deliver the paper-based Written Divisional Exam today.

Approximately 1100 trainees sat the exam at 18 sites throughout Australia and New Zealand. The paper-based exam was supervised by qualified staff from Language & Testing Consultants, as well as additional College staff and counsellors to help provide extra support if needed.

Extra trainees who attended some sites were accommodated with minimal disruption and the test was completed at all 18 locations. Although at the Gold Coast site, the number who arrived was more than double the number who registered therefore it took a little longer to commence.

The college will now focus on marking all exams so results can be issued on March 15, in time for trainees to register for the Clinical Exams. Any trainee that intends to sit the alternative exam on March 23, will be automatically registered for the Clinical Exam, to ensure they’re not disadvantaged.

Neither the computer based or the rescheduled paper-based exams will count as an examination attempt. Trainees will have their full exam fees refunded and will not be charged for attempting the paper-based exam.

The College would also like to thank Directors of Physician Educations, Fellows, health services and staff for all their support and hard work to help make today’s exam as successful as possible for all our trainees.

Statement from the RACP Board: Basic Training Written Divisional Exam, Wednesday 28 February

  Trainee physicians sitting the Basic Training Written Divisional Exam will be refunded their full exam fees, following the cancellation of the Computer Based Test last week.

The Board of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) met last night to consider measures to help support the 1,200 trainees across Australia and New Zealand who will be resitting a new paper based exam.

RACP President Dr Catherine Yelland said the College had been focused on finding the best ways to support trainees in the lead up to the new exam.

“We have been speaking directly with trainees, the Directors of Physician Education and health administrators to support trainees as they prepare for the new exam,” Dr Yelland said.

“We have also been in close discussion with our computer based exam provider Pearson Vue to understand why the computer system shut down and to negotiate a full exam fee refund for trainees.

Our focus now is on getting trainees through the paper-based exam this Friday.”

The RACP Board resolved that:
• After discussions with Pearson Vue, and Pearson Vue’s agreement to refund the exam fee, trainees will be refunded the full fees paid for this year’s exam.
• Trainees will not be charged for attempting the resit exam scheduled for this Friday, or the alternative resit date on 23 March that will be organised for trainees who are unavailable this Friday. Trainees may attend the resit exam or the alternative resit exam, but not both.
• If a trainee does not pass the resit or alternative resit exam, it will not be counted as one of three attempts at the examination that trainees are allowed.

Last week, the RACP requested an explanation from Pearson Vue detailing the cause of the exam computer shut down. Pearson Vue’s preliminary view was that it related to human error in the quality assurance phase of the exam set up.

The Board has requested an inquiry be conducted in relation to the exam computer shut down including the responses of the College and Pearson Vue.

Questions in the paper-based exam are of the same standard as the questions that were used for the computer-based exam and have been validated by the Examinations Committee.

The paper based exam will be administered by a trusted provider that has previously hosted the paper exam.

Questions from the computer based exam on Monday, 19 February 2018 have been released to all candidates to ensure no one is placed at a disadvantage.

Pearson Vue public apology

Cancelled exam to be released to candidates in full — information update from RACP Board sent on Thursday, 22 February 2018

Questions included in Monday’s cancelled Computer Based Test for the Basic Training Written Divisional Examination will be released to all candidates to ensure no one is placed at a disadvantage.

This decision has been made after careful consideration by the Chairs of the Examinations Committee and the College Education Committee.

The questions are being published as an additional resource to assist candidates to prepare for their new paper based exam on Friday, 2 March 2018.

The text of the cancelled examination for both the Adult Medicine, and Paediatric and Child Health Medicine papers are now available on the College’s website, and can be downloaded here:

Each examination is broken down into two components: a Clinical Applications section (morning component) and a Medical Sciences section (afternoon). 

All files are available in PDF format.

Monday’s cancelled exam will not count as an examination attempt.

In addition, the Board intends that no trainee will be financially disadvantaged for travelling to either the 2 March examination, or a further supplementary examination for candidates who cannot make 2 March.

Candidates will be advised on the process for reimbursement over the coming days.

Examination results of the 2 March Written Examination will be released in time for registering for the clinical exam, for which registrations open on 14 March in Australia and 5 March in New Zealand.

If any trainee has any query about the new exam arrangements they can call the RACP Contact centre in Australia on 1300 MyRACP (1300 69 7227) and in New Zealand on 0508 MyRACP (0508 69 7227) or email

Basic training written examination — information update from RACP President sent on Thursday, 22 February 2018

I am committed to continue to update you regarding Monday’s examination cancellation and preparations for the new paper based exam on Friday, 2 March.

Below is a list of questions many of you have asked, and the answers with the most up to date information we have at the moment.

What went wrong? 
We are investigating this with Pearson VUE. We understand that there was a technical fault which resulted in problems with the second paper. We will let you all know as soon as we can.

Why can’t my first paper count?
The Adult Medicine and Paediatric Written Examinations are one exam in two papers. The final score relies on completion of the whole exam, and the complex calculation of pass marks is dependent on this. There is a balance of questions across different specialities, which may not have been evenly completed. There is also a question of fairness to other candidates, stress and anxiety during the examination, and the security of the exam questions.

What is happening about the paper based examination?
This will be on Friday, 2 March 2018. If there are candidates who cannot attend, we will arrange a supplementary examination, once the demand is known. 
We are contacting all trainees individually about the arrangements.

Will I have to pay another examination fee?

Will my examination fee be reimbursed, and what about compensation for travel or changed arrangements? 
This is a more complex issue. Our first priority is to arrange the second examination, and let candidates know the results as soon as possible, as we are aware of the time frame for the clinical examinations. We are aware that trainees may have incurred travel costs, taken leave, and cancelled holidays, and may have extra expenses.

Social media has been critical of the College. 
We understand that this has been unexpected, stressful and distressing. We have and continue to apologise for this. We encourage all trainees to talk with their supervisors, colleagues, family and friends.

We also have extra resources on our confidential counselling service, Converge on 1300 687 327 (Aust) or 0800 666 367 (NZ). Please advise them that you need to speak to someone immediately. If you call after 6pm and before 8.30am (AEDT), your call will be directed to a messaging service that will arrange for a consultant to call you back. Lifeline is also available if you need to speak to someone immediately. Phone 13 11 14 in Australia or 0800 543 354 in New Zealand.

We would also like to thank our Fellows and staff who have provided support to our trainees at this difficult time.

Is there going to be an Inquiry, and when will we know what happened? 
The College is working with the service provider Pearson Vue to complete a report on Monday’s events.

The College Board has arranged a panel to review the issues around the examination, including the technical aspects, the operation of the examination centres, the response of the College, the impact on the trainees, and how we can best look after them. We will of course, take these findings forward to future examinations. We have also undertaken to let our members know the outcome, as soon as we can.

If you’d like to make a submission please send an email outlining your experience to

We are finalising arrangements for the new paper based exam and we will share more details with you as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Catherine Yelland.

Below is correspondence RACP Members were sent on Tuesday, 20 February 2018.

I apologise again for the stress and disruption caused by the cancellation of the Written Divisional exam on Monday 19 February, and undertake to release the findings of our investigation as soon as possible.

Following urgent work overnight and today by College staff we have finalised a new date for a paper-based re-sit of the Basic Training Written Divisional Exam.

The new date for the exam is Friday, 2 March 2018.

The Computer Based Test, which was cancelled, will not count as an exam attempt, and there will be no extra charges associated with sitting the test on 2 March.

The College will be contacting trainees personally tomorrow with further details regarding the new test.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Catherine Yelland PSM
RACP President

Below is correspondence RACP Members were sent on Tuesday, 20 February 2018.

Dear trainees in the Adult and Paediatrics & Child Health Divisions,

On behalf of the Board and personally, I apologise for the events yesterday which led to the cancellation of the examination.

I remember sitting the written exam in 1985 very clearly, and have some understanding of the stress before the exam which has now been extended.

Many of you have had to make other arrangements when you were looking forward to family events, a holiday or a short break from study.

We are also aware of the financial implications for trainees.

We are sorting out an alternative exam as quickly as we can. Because of the issues which occurred in the examination centres we cannot use the computer based exam, which many of you had partly or fully completed.

We need to be fair to all candidates and we will now use a paper based examination.

We will let you know the arrangements as soon as we can.

We undertake to conduct both an independent and an internal inquiry and will make the findings known to our membership.

The examination provider, Pearson Vue has committed to providing a report within 24 hours.

Our converge line is available if you need to talk about the stress you have experienced. This is a confidential counselling and support service available to all RACP Trainees and Fellows and can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Anyone who needs professional support is encouraged to call 1300 687 327 in Australia, or 0800 666 367 in New Zealand.

We will continue to keep you informed.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Catherine Yelland PSM
RACP President

Below is a letter to RACP Members that was sent on Monday, 19 February 2018.

Dear Members

The RACP is very disappointed that there has been a problem with today’s Computer Based Written Divisional exam, and we apologise to all trainee candidates for the distress caused.
In order to be fair – the Chairs of the Adult and Paediatric Exam Committees have determined that there will be an obligatory paper based re-sit of the exam for all candidates. 

We understand that some trainees have booked leave or holidays following today’s Computer based test, and we are working as quickly as possible to reschedule a new exam.

It is likely to be more than 24 hours before we can notify candidates of a new exam date.

An unknown technical fault left a significant number of candidates locked out of the computer based system and unable to complete the second part of the examination after their scheduled break today.

The College explored all options with exam provider Pearson Vue to allow the exam to continue, before the Chairs of the Examinations Committee decided to call off the exam.

Once again, we apologise for the distress caused. 

We will of course hold a full and transparent inquiry into the causes of today’s events. 

Any trainees who have any further questions, please contact

Yours sincerely

Dr Catherine Yelland PSM
RACP President

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