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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Ringing in the new MRCGP

With the final application deadline looming for the current MRCGP, Dr Mei Ling Denney explains the pros and cons of existing versus new exams

With the final application deadline looming for the current MRCGP, Dr Mei Ling Denney explains the pros and cons of existing versus new exams

A single assessment process for general practice is now well under way, designed to meet the requirements of the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB) for the Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) as well as college membership. So what does this mean for registrars?

Registrars now in their final year of a three-year VTS may have already embarked on some of the modules of the existing MRCGP exam.

The modular nature of the MRCGP means any of the four modules can be taken at the same exam session, or at different sessions, in any order, over a three-year period.

Most registrars attempt the multiple choice paper first, leaving the written paper, the oral exam and the video (or simulated surgery) until later.

Registrars who started their VTS last August will have to do the nMRCGP with its three components of the multiple choice Applied Knowledge Test (AKT), the simulated surgery/OSCE Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA), and the Workplace-Based Assessment within the training practices or hospital posts.

If you have not already registered to take the old MRCGP exam, the deadline is now looming. Applications must be received at the RCGP examination department by Friday 9 February.

If you miss this you will no longer be able to take any of the existing MRCGP modules, and must apply instead for the nMRCGP (available from October 2007). So what are the pros and cons of the existing versus the new MRCGP exams?

Existing MRCGP

• A tried and tested exam, where the difficulty and pass rates are known

• Accepted as a gold standard exam, taken voluntarily

• Trainers familiar with it, and therefore may be able to help with preparation

• Many preparation books and courses are available

• Four modules, two of which exempt you from summative assessment MCQ and video

• Fee to take (or retake) any module is £340.

nMRCGP

• More of an unknown quantity, and still in development

• Taken as an essential requirement for entry to GMC register and RCGP membership

• Trainers largely unfamiliar with it, and will be learning about it alongside you

• Almost no preparation materials or courses available as yet• Replaces summative assessment, so fewer exams taken overall (only two actual exams)

• The Enhanced Trainers Report for Workplace-Based Assessment more complex than the current Structured Trainers Report

• Fees as yet unknown, but may well be higher than current MRCGP.

Summative assessment in the transition period

• The final sitting of the Summative Assessment MCQ is in May 2007; after this, you will have to pass the nMRCGP AKT.

• From 1 August 2007 to 31 July 2008 all consultation skills videos will have to be submitted through the combined MRCGP/ summative assessment route. The simulated patient surgery is available until 31 July 2008.

• Audit (and the National Project Marking Scheme) is available until 31 July 2008.

• The Structured Trainers Report will be acceptable for summative assessment until 31 July 2008.

If you began your training before 1 August 2007, and have completed at least one component of summative assessment by 31 July 2007, you only have until 31 July 2008 to complete the whole summative assessment package.

If it is unlikely that you will complete training before 31 July 2008 you are advised to pursue the nMRCGP assessment.

Difficulty arises when you have done some, but not all, components of either summative assessment or MRCGP and have run out of time to complete the rest. This is even more tricky if you are training on a part-time basis, or have taken a substantial period of time off.

Modules of the existing MRCGP are available until May 2008, except MCP and simulated surgery, which end in May 2007.

Information sheet No 3 on Specialist Training for General Practice outlines the position for registrars who've completed either one, two or three components of summative assessment prior to 31 July 2007.

If you have only got part of the way through your MRCGP exam, some of the modules you have taken may exempt you from part of nMRCGP. It is best to check with the college to find out your position. Further details are available from www.rcgp.org.uk.

Mei Ling Denney is a trainer, a part-time GP in Peterborough and an examiner for the MRCGP

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