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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Examination myths explained

  1. Do I have six attempts at each single exam?

    A candidate can have six attempts at each component. A limit of six attempts was introduced from January 2015 following recommendation by the GMC. There are transitional arrangements for candidates who attempted any component prior to this date.


  3. How long are my written papers valid for in order for me to sit the clinical exam?

    There is a written paper validity period of 1643 days which starts on the date results are published for the first exam component that you pass.


  5. I believe that I have special circumstances, can I get an extension of my validity period?

    Yes. There are circumstances such as illness or pregnancy where an extension may be granted. Candidate circumstances are considered on an individual basis. If you believe that you have special circumstances you should contact the examinations department at the earliest opportunity and certainly before you sit any further components of the exam. You will be asked to provide independent evidence of your circumstances.


  7. How much experience in psychiatry do I need before I can sit the clinical exam (CASC)?

    24 months whole time equivalent experience as stipulated in the regulations.


  9. I am working part time. Is this grounds for an extension to my written paper validity period?

    If you are working part time prior to gaining 24 months experience in psychiatry then yes this will be grounds for an extension. Once your whole time equivalent experience equates to 24 months then no further adjustment will be made for part time working.


  11. I have 24 months experience in psychiatry. Does this need to be in certain psychiatric specialties in order to be eligible to sit the clinical exam (CASC)?

    There is no longer any requirement for specific specialities. However, competencies in specialties as defined in the curriculum/equivalent have to be met by the time of sitting the CASC. It is the role of your sponsor to confirm you have met these competencies in the ARCP process or equivalent for overseas doctors.


  13. Why is there a delay in the results being available after the exam has been taken?

    Following any component of the exam there is statistical analysis of the performance of the exam. This includes looking at the performance of individual questions including how many candidates passed the question and how well candidate performance on the question relates to performance in the whole exam. Poorly performing questions are then scrutinised by the exam committee. Some questions may perform badly because the question is too hard or obscure. In these instances the exam committee may remove the question from the paper. The exam committee will also consider any incidents and complaints that may have occurred during the exam.

    These quality assurance procedures are essential in order to conduct a fair exam and are the sole reason for the delay between the exam date and the publication of results.


  15. I am sitting the written papers and am convinced the paper was more difficult on this occasion.

    No, The exam will have been of similar difficulty to the previous diet. After each written paper a standard setting committee meets to determine the standard (pass mark) for the paper. The committee is made up of people with different levels of experience in psychiatry and medicine. The committee uses a well recognised method called the Modified Angoff method. The committee consider for each question what proportion of borderline candidates would select the right answer. The proportions for each question are then summated in order to arrive at the pass mark for the exam. A significant minority of the questions in the paper will be “Anchor Questions” (questions used in the last exam). Comparing the performance of candidates on anchor questions from one diet to the next helps the committee to set a similar standard.


  17. I have been allocated to sit the CASC on the fourth day (Friday) and it is well known that this day has the most difficult stations.

    No, this is not true. Historical data on candidate performance at any one station is collected and continually updated. In setting the clinical exam across the CASC week this data is used to set exams of similar difficulty on each of the days. After each CASC exam there is further analysis comparing pass rates on the different days – so far there has not been any significant difference in pass rates on different days.


  19. Is there a limit on the number of new stations used in the CASC exam?

    Yes. Although all stations go through a rigorous piloting process prior to being used in the exam, it is difficult to predict how difficult candidates will find them. For this reason only one or two new stations will be used on any one day of the CASC and new stations will be evenly distributed across the week.


  21. Some CASC days have physical examination stations and some do not. I’ve heard from trainees that these stations are usually easier.

    No, this is not necessarily the case. Some physical stations are hard (low pass rates) and some are easier. The difficulty of these stations in a circuit will be balanced by the other stations in the circuit so that the overall difficulty is similar to that on other days with different stations.


  23. I have re-sat the CASC and one of the stations was the same as in the last diet. I passed it the first time but failed it this time; I don’t understand how this is possible. Did the examiner apply a standard significantly different from the previous examiner?

    This is unlikely. You need to remember that this is a skills assessment and the circumstances of your performance will have been somewhat different from your first attempt. You may not have asked questions in the same way and the role players responses may have been different (albeit still within their script). Applying a skill in exactly the same way time after time is virtually impossible – in sport a footballer could score from the penalty spot once in a game. But even in the same game against the same goalkeeper there is no guarantee that he will score with a second penalty.


  25. I felt really ill on the day of the exam but sat it anyway. I failed but I think I would have passed if I hadn’t been feeling ill, will the exam committee take this into account and adjust my result?

    No, you are responsible for ensuring you are prepared and fit enough to sit the exam. Once you sit the exam the committee will consider that you were prepared and fit. You can withdraw from an exam any time before it starts and it will not be counted as an attempt and you may be eligible for a refund of fees.


  27. I have a medical condition and have special needs. Will I be allowed more time in the exam?

    Possibly, each case is assessed on an individual basis. You must provide evidence of your condition/disability in a timely manner prior to the exam. Extra time may be granted for written papers and extra reading time may be allowed in the clinical exam (CASC), however the length of time allowed to complete a station task will not be adjusted.


  29. I have a medical condition and have special needs. Will the examiners take this into account when I sit the clinical exam (CASC)?

    Whilst we will make appropriate adjustments to try and minimise the impact of your condition, the examiners will mark to a set standard that is the same for all candidates. The examiners will not adjust the standard to pass under any circumstances.




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Related links

  • Exam dates

    To find out the examination dates see the 2018 and 2019 Examinations Calendar.