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Are national qualifying examinations a fair way to rank medical students? Yes

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 22 August 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1282
  1. Chris Ricketts, director of assessment 1,
  2. Julian Archer, NIHR academic lecturer in medical education 1
  1. 1Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, Plymouth PL4 8AA
  1. Correspondence to: J Archer julian.archer{at}

    Chris Ricketts and Julian Archer argue that a national test is the only fair way to compare medical students, but Ian Noble (doi: 10.1136/bmj.a1279) believes that it will reduce the quality of education

    The General Medical Council’s consultation on student assessment1 and the inquiry into Modernising Medical Careers2 have prompted interest in national examinations for medical students or newly qualified doctors. We believe that national examinations are the only fair way to rank medical students because they offer a unique opportunity for standardisation, consensus, and pooling of resources.

    Level playing field

    The UK already has a system for ranking medical students as part of the application process for their first postgraduate position. Students are ranked 1, 2, 3, or 4 depending on their performance within their medical school. In 2007 this rank provided 45 marks of the total application score of 100 (45 being the maximum mark and 30 the minimum allocated according to each rank) and therefore had a major effect on every student’s chance …

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