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RCGP investigates sex and race exam bias after women found to outperform men

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: The RCGP has commissioned academics to investigate possible racial and sex biases in its MRCGP exam.

It comes after the college admitted that ethnic-minority candidates are continuing to perform ‘differently' to other GPs, and men are doing worse than women.

Pulse revealed last year that the college was providing extra training for MRCGP examiners after complaints its new exam was discriminating against ethnic-minority doctors. The college told Pulse it had now commissioned research from King's College London to get to the root of ongoing disparities.

The move comes amid fears even fewer ethnic-minority doctors will pass this year. Pulse recently reported the overall pass rate for the new Clinical Skills Assessment plummeted from 81% last year to 46% this year.

Results for 2009 showed 94.7% of white candidates passed the CSA element of the exam, compared with 69.6% of Asians and 72.7% from other ethnic groups. In 2008, 93.3% of white candidates passed, compared with 63.9% of Asians and 71.6% from other ethnic groups. In 2009, 86.7% of women passed and 73.2% of men, and in 2008, 86.9% of women and 69.6% of men.

The RCGP said it had commissioned research to investigate the trend, which has continued in recent CSA cohorts. A spokesperson said: ‘It is true certain sub-groups perform differently in the CSA, for example those relating to gender and country of primary medical training.'

‘We are working collaboratively with King's College London experts, and have commissioned research to identify if there are linguistic or cultural factors in face-to-face postgraduate medical exams contributing to the higher failure rates.'

The RCGP has commissioned academics to investigate possible racial and sex biases in the MRCGP exam The RCGP has commissioned academics to investigate possible racial and sex biases in the MRCGP exam Passing the CSA

GP training programme director Dr Nigel Giam is writing a multi-part guide to passing the CSA exclusively for Pulse.

Read the full series here.

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