The College has changed its exams schedule in line with requests from trainees and others for greater flexibility and we have expanded the number of sittings available from three to eight per year.
Monthly sittings of the exam started in October and will run until May 2015. This was intended to be beneficial to the candidates, as well as College examiners and the deaneries. There was wide consultation about the proposed timetable for examinations with a range of stakeholders but we are sorry for any confusion or inconvenience caused by the most recent changes to booking dates.
The extended number of sittings means a lot of additional planning by the College so that we have the required numbers of examiners, most of whom are practising GPs and need adequate notice to book time away from their surgeries and ensure that their commitments to their patients are fulfilled.
To date, fewer candidates have sat the CSA in October and November than had been anticipated and the December 2014 session is also undersubscribed. As a result, a large number of examiners who had planned on taking time out of their practices have had to be stood down at relatively short notice.
Realising that it was going to be difficult to know exactly when trainees were intending to sit, we decided to amalgamate the booking periods for January and February examination and bring these forward to avoid possible capacity issues later in the year.
We are also intending to bring forward the booking period for the March examination session by one week, and that for the May examination by a few days for the same reason.
Unfortunately, it was not possible to give as much notice of these changes as we would have liked and some trainees have expressed disappointment about this, for which we apologise.
We did consider a deposit option because candidates who were considering applying for February were being asked to move their payment forward by approximately one month, which would have meant paying before Christmas.
Until we moved to more frequent exam sittings this year, candidates for January, February and March have always had to pay their fees up front in December when making their applications.
The February diet has been completely oversubscribed so this does not appear to have been a major deterrent to booking. There are still a number of places available for the examination session scheduled for 19-31 January 2015 and over 900 places will be available for examination in March.
We value trainees’ feedback on the new system and will take this on board when organising next year’s examination dates. We very much hope that the new flexible system will work to everyone’s advantage in the long term.