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Are national qualifying examinations a fair way to rank medical students? No

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 22 August 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1279
  1. Ian S G Noble, medical student
  1. 1University of Sheffield Medical School, Sheffield S10 2RX
  1. noble.ian{at}

    Chris Ricketts and Julian Archer (doi: 10.1136/bmj.a1282) argue that a national test is the only fair way to compare medical students, but Ian Noble believes that it will reduce the quality of education

    Much has been made of the lack of standardisation within UK medical schools as a result of a recent research paper.1 The authors called for a national licensing examination after they found that medical schools had significantly different pass rates for the Royal College of Physicians postgraduate examinations. However, these exams are for progression in higher training and not a test of the accepted level of competence to practise as a foundation doctor. There is no evidence that UK medical schools are not currently fulfilling their responsibilities of ensuring that students who reach the required standard to qualify as doctors are fit to practise. Indeed, in a 2005 survey of postgraduate deans, only three UK graduates out of 5833 first year doctors caused concern relating to clinical competence.2

    Ranking and diversity

    Whether a national qualifying examination is a fair way to rank medical students is less important …

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