In 2014 the RCR resolved to tackle a number of issues relating to the delivery and, to a lesser degree, quality assurance of our image-based exams. There were restrictions on candidate numbers due to equipment, venue and marking constraints. The requirement to create and mark multiple sets of content represented a heavy time commitment for examiners. With the number of candidates able to sit any given exam capped, psychometric analyses on these exams were limited.
In last summer’s edition of the RCR Newsletter, Dr Jo Fairhurst, Chair of the Exam Automation Project Board, updated Fellows and members on the progress of a new digital platform for the delivery of FRCR exams that involve the display of images, namely the First FRCR Anatomy and the Final FRCR Part B rapid reporting and reporting elements.
After a lengthy procurement process we began working with Fry-IT, a software company, in 2016. Following the development of its Practique software to support the provision of images, we tested and then piloted the platform throughout 2017. The software now allows us to blueprint, create and deliver the exam anywhere in the world to an uncapped number of candidates simultaneously. Candidate responses are captured directly into the platform, which utilises a degree of automated marking and then enables examiners to finalise marking from a location of their choice.
We then identified a venue management company, MicroTek, and developed detailed building, personnel and technical requirements to enable the exam to de-centralise from London but continue to offer candidates a consistent exam experience.
Candidates first had sight of the platform via a demonstration site and accompanying instructional video, and on Friday 9 March 2018 we successfully ran the FRCR Anatomy exam using the software for the first time. Close to 500 candidates attended at our new computer venues in Belfast, Birmingham, Glasgow, London, Stockport, Hong Kong and Singapore. The vast majority of candidates secured their first choice venue, with a small number being placed in their second choice location.
This is a major milestone for the RCR. We are already seeing improvements in the exam process, including much-needed increased capacity, more flexibility in location, less time spent travelling to London, improved standardisation and reduced resource required to prepare and mark questions. The next step is to successfully introduce the platform for the Final FRCR Part B rapid reporting and reporting elements. Longer-term, we plan to develop additional functionality and further increase our venue offerings to candidates.