Update on Examinations and High Stakes Assessments during the COVID-19 Pandemic

04 September 2020

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) has endeavoured to be responsive and supportive to trainees and SIMGs during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that College examinations and assessments can continue with no disruption, wherever possible. At a time of uncertainty, timely communication and providing as much certainty and information as possible to our trainees and SIMGs, has been our priority.

The guiding principles that the College has developed to ensure the appropriate management of examinations and high stakes assessments during the COVID-19 pandemic are to:
  • ensure the safety of candidates, examiners, assessors and staff, while also adhering to relevant Australian and New Zealand jurisdictional legislation during the pandemic;
  • not compromise the quality of delivery, standard, rigour, validity, and reliability of any assessment;
  • not penalise candidates affected by the pandemic, accepting that all candidates have already been disadvantaged in some way due to the pandemic;
  • provide the same assessment experience for all candidates to ensure consistency, unless that is not possible due to unavoidable circumstances, where instead of cancellation, the experience may differ slightly; 
  • provide three months’ notice to candidates about any significant changes to examinations and high stakes assessments, such as deferrals/cancellations or changes from physical face-to-face to online face-to-face delivery. (Unless due to circumstances out of RANZCOG’s control. In this situation, RANZCOG would make necessary changes and communicate with candidates and all stakeholders as soon as possible);
  • ensure the security of assessments is upheld and where a trust system is adopted, a suitable candidate declaration and/or examiner and assessor declaration is required;
  • ensure practice sessions for candidates, examiners, assessors and staff are delivered for all assessment experiences prior to delivery to ensure confidence with altered delivery formats;
  • recognise that changes in examination and assessment formats require additional work, time and effort from volunteering committees, Fellows, Diplomates, trainees, SIMGs; all supported by RANZCOG staff, who are operating in changed working conditions;
  • recognise that examinations and assessments require considerable collegiate planning, development, training, calibration and marking activities which are normally achieved in person and are now required to be delivered online and differently, before and after formal assessment delivery;
  • recognise that despite the pandemic path ahead being uncertain, providing information and reassurance relating to delivery dates and formats for the remainder of 2020 and 2021, is a priority.

With these guiding principles, RANZCOG confirms that each assessment attempt does indeed count as per current College policies and regulations. The assessment outcomes achieved thus far, including those that have been altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have been delivered to the same high-quality standard as past deliveries.

The Exceptional Circumstance, Special Consideration and Reconsideration Policy route still applies and is still an option for any candidate.

Selection interviews

RANZCOG has been able to adapt all selection interviews to be successfully delivered online.  The binational subspecialty training interviews took place in April 2020, the New Zealand FRANZCOG training national selection interviews took place in May 2020 and the Australian FRANZCOG training national selection interviews were recently completed in August 2020. The selection interviews were delivered successfully to the same standard as face-to-face delivery, using Zoom web conferencing software and with candidates, interview panels and staff attending and conducting the interviews from home or work.

To further improve our online delivery of selection interviews, the College will undertake evaluation of all internal selection activities.

SIMG interviews

RANZCOG has been able to adapt all SIMG interviews to be successfully delivered online, providing the same quality experience for candidates and assessment panels.  In many cases, online delivery proved to be a more convenient method of delivery, particularly for SIMGs residing outside of Australia and New Zealand. SIMG interviews were delivered using Zoom web conferencing software with candidates, interview panels and staff attending and conducting the interviews either from home or work.

To further improve our delivery of online SIMG interviews, we have collated and evaluated all interview activities.

Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OCSE) Examination for the Advanced DRANZCOG Training Program

RANZCOG’s online oral Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OCSE) for the Advanced DRANZCOG Training Program was delivered successfully on Sunday 30 August 2020. Exam rehearsals for candidates, examiners and staff were necessary, to ensure that the delivery was smooth, and the experience was equivalent to the experience provided at the Adelaide Health Simulation examination venue. Simulated patients were filmed live from the Adelaide Health Simulation venue as part of the same scenario design as past years. Zoom web conferencing software was utilised. Candidates took part remotely from work or home, examiners and staff assessed and facilitated the exam from work or home.

To further improve our delivery of online examinations, the College will undertake evaluation of this initiative.

Oral examinations for FRANZCOG Training and Subspecialty Training Programs

The RANZCOG Board approved the online delivery of the oral examinations for the FRANZCOG Training and Subspecialty Training Programs. Subspecialty exam dates have been confirmed for November 2020 for all candidates who wish to register. The FRANZCOG oral examination dates will be set for December 2020.

Zoom web conferencing software will be utilised for the FRANZCOG and Subspecialty Training Oral Examinations, with staff and examiners facilitating from work or home.

The RANZCOG Board approved for candidates to undertake oral examinations from examination centres (currently used for online written examinations), near their home, in cities within Australia and New Zealand. This was decided after consultation and feedback from the College’s Trainees’ Committee members; candidates preferred to sit the examination at a secure venue with professional internet connection. Despite examination centres being open in Victoria during Stage 4 lockdown, this is not the case for New Zealand and other states and territories. RANZCOG is currently lobbying various state governments to seek special consideration and is also developing additional contingency plans.

RANZCOG will continue to consult with the Trainees’ Committee and will confirm developments as soon as possible. Should trainees wish to reach out to their local trainee representatives, RANZCOG’s new Trainee Representatives webpage contains all the details.

Online examination delivery can cater for approximately 40 candidates per day and practice and calibration days are also required for examiners to attend before the examination day. A prioritisation criterion for trainees wanting to access exam sittings has been developed.

RANZCOG’s Training and Accreditation Committee (TAC) has overseen development of the criteria for prioritisation and the flexibility required for candidates who cannot sit the examinations as planned, due to the necessary changes during the pandemic. RANZCOG’s State, Territory and New Zealand Training and Accreditation committees will work with the RANZCOG TAC and College staff to ensure all trainees’ situations are supported.

RANZCOG acknowledges that not all eligible candidates will be able to sit the FRANZCOG Oral Examination in the 2020 training year due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic . Eligible trainees for the oral examination who are unable to sit the examination in 2020 due to capacity limitations will not be penalised for not being able to access the examination, will be able to progress, subject to satisfactory completion of all other requirements except for the oral examination.

Written examinations

In early July, examination dates for written examinations were confirmed for RANZCOG’s Certificate of Women’s Health (CWH), DRANZCOG, FRANZCOG and Subspecialty Training Programs.

RANZCOG delivers written examinations online through PearsonVUE for all examinations except Subspecialty written examinations. PearsonVUE utilise Clifton’s Examination Centres (and some additional providers), for the examination delivery. Candidates will be able to access RANZCOG’s online written examinations at additional locations throughout Australia and New Zealand. As Subspecialty Training, examinations are paper-based, written examinations for Subspecialty Training in 2020 will be held at RANZCOG Australian State and Territory Offices. No candidates have registered from New Zealand at this stage.

All written examinations are confirmed for delivery at this stage for Australia, including in Victoria during a Stage 4 lockdown. With other jurisdictional rules uncertain at this stage, should restrictions increase, RANZCOG is actively lobbying specific governments to seek special consideration for candidates to access examination venues and developing additional contingency plans.

Have you ever considered becoming a RANZCOG Examiner or thought about getting involved in examination content development?

RANZCOG extends our sincere and genuine gratitude to all College Examiners, Assessors, Exam Coordinators and RANZCOG committees who dedicate their time, effort and energy to supporting the delivery of College examinations every year.

In the current climate, and with additional examination delivery needed, as well as a strive to continue to improve our exam delivery, RANZCOG would love to hear from any members who may be interested in becoming an Examiner. 

Times are extraordinary and now could be an opportunity to help trainees and existing Examiners to meet RANZCOG’s commitment in the delivery of College exams. Examiner training and ongoing support is provided.  Perhaps travelling to Melbourne or other locations has limited some members from being able to participate as examiners. With RANZCOG needing to prepare for the exams remotely for the time being, this could be an opportunity to become involved with the College and this important part of the College’s work.

To find out more about becoming involved with our exams and assessments, please contact the Examinations and Assessment Team at [email protected]

Dr Vijay Roach

Ms Vase Jovanoska
Chief Executive Officer



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