Intended for healthcare professionals

Student Careers

Assessing assessments

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 01 April 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:0704154
  1. Robert N T Annan, fourth year medical student1,
  2. Kirsty Ross, fourth year medical student1
  1. 1Edinburgh Medical School

Robert Annan and Kirsty Ross interviewed several important figures involved in the assessment of medical students at Edinburgh Medical School

“I can remember the day when all that a professor was supposed to do was to mark ‘C minus' on students’ examination papers then go home to tea. Nowadays they seem to feel that they must know just how much we (outside the university) eat, what we do with our spare time, and how we like our eggs.”

Robert Benchley (1889-1945), US writer and humorist

In the weird and wonderful world of medical education, assessment is becoming ever more important and all encompassing. In line with the widespread overhaul of the medical curriculum, it has been expanded and transformed to satisfy that ever increasing social trend towards accountability. Greater scrutiny, increased governmental and legal guidelines, and mounting public expectations and demands have considerably affected the regulation of the profession as a whole. Assessment starts with university applications and medical students' examinations.

The implementation of appropriate assessment schemes has posed one of the most challenging aspects for UK medical schools in the development of the new learning outcomes based curriculums1. In 1999 as part of implementing Tomorrow's Doctors, the General Medical Council paid informal visits to medical schools throughout the United Kingdom. It discovered that of the 13 core recommendations, “developing appropriate assessment schemes” was one of the only two areas in which most medical schools had failed to make progress in line with GMC proposals.

Even today, assessment represents an area of much academic activity, as reflected in the focus of the recent GMC consultation “Strategic options for undergraduate medical education.” This consultation highlighted the evaluation of students' safety and fitness to practise through a national licensing examination and registration of students in a national database.

A means of certification

Appropriate …

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