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Exam policies

You’ll find our Examination Policies detailed here, alongside instructions for moving forward with your appeal. The four policies and processes on this page include: Appeals, Complaints and Special or Extenuating circumstances.

Examinations Appeals Policy

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is committed to delivering a high quality service. We recognise that errors can occur and that on very rare occasions our examinations can be subject to disruptions that may affect candidate performance. To ensure that all candidates are assessed fairly, there is a procedure to allow candidates to appeal against the outcome of their examination.

This policy aims to:

  • provide a fair and transparent appeals policy, which is clear and accessible for anyone wishing to make an appeal
  • publicise the existence of our appeals policy so that people know how to contact us
  • ensure all relevant RCCOG staff know what to do if an appeal is received
  • ensure all appeals are investigated fairly and in a timely manner
  • ensure that appeals are, wherever possible, resolved in a satisfactory manner
  • use any appeals received as a learning experience to improve our work

This policy applies to all RCOG examinations:

  • MRCOG Part 1
  • MRCOG Part 2
  • MRCOG Part 3
  • DRCOG

The scope of this policy relates to matters where a candidate wishes to appeal the outcome of their examination for the following reasons:
• There was a procedural or logistical irregularity in the conduct of the examination, which has adversely affected a candidate’s performance
• There were exceptional circumstances, such as illness or bereavement, which have adversely affected a candidate’s performance. Candidates should note, however, that there is a process to withdraw from examinations prior to the examination date (please see the RCOG Examinations Exceptional Circumstances Policy) and that by attending an examination candidates are normally certifying themselves as fit to do so.

Some candidates who have failed one or more parts of an examination may feel that they deserved to pass and wish to appeal against the declared result. While the RCOG is sympathetic to such candidates’ disappointment, it is considered that in applying marking schedules and making judgements nothing can supplant the judgement of the individual examiner(s) marking an exam component.

Accordingly, no appeal will be entertained solely on the grounds that a candidate wishes to challenge the judgement of the examiners or their examination result. The RCOG takes the view that all possible and necessary precautions to ensure the maximum reliability of the result and to compensate for errors of measurement are built into the marking process. Unless there is good reason to suspect a procedural error, the RCOG does not consider it appropriate for any papers to be re-marked, or for any reassignment to be made of grades obtained in the clinical assessment. Our response to any such request will be confined to checking that no administrative, procedural, numerical, data transcription or computing errors have occurred, and that the declared result accurately reflects the judgement of the examiners.

In determining its policy, the RCOG has given consideration to three main points of principle:

  • Our marking and standard-setting procedures are such that in all components the reliability of the marking decision is greatest at the time of the initial examiners’ judgement, i.e., when the candidate’s performance in the examination is fresh in the examiners’ memory
  • Subsequent review by different or senior examiners or by independent assessors cannot guarantee greater accuracy or reliability, as the conditions that foster marking reliability cannot be recreated at a later date. Moreover, in the case of the clinical assessment, there is no residual physical evidence of the candidate’s performance which could be revisited
  • Our post examination marking processes are subject to quality assurance processes and results are validated by an independent psychometrician

It is recognised that on occasion it may be initially unclear whether a case constitutes an appeal or complaint, hence the Examinations Department reserves the right to reclassify appeals to a complaint or vice-versa at any stage in proceedings, in consultation with the person complaining or appealing. Such reclassification will always be done so that the matter can be considered in the most appropriate and fair way. In such instances, candidates will not be required to resubmit their cases following any reclassification.

To make an appeal, please complete the Examinations Appeals form (Word document, 55kb) and email to examsappeals@rcog.org.uk

By making your appeal in a timely manner, this will better allow the matter to be investigated and the College to identify, where necessary, a suitable remedy.

Therefore, appeals must be submitted within 20 working days of the incident that occurred or 20 calendar days after the date the RCOG communicates the related examination result outcome. Please note that any appeal submitted after this deadline will not be reviewed unless there are highly extenuating circumstances.

Please note, working days are defined in this policy as Monday to Friday excepting UK bank holidays and College closure over Christmas.

 
How your appeal will be managed

Stage 1
We will acknowledge your appeal within two working days of its receipt.

Stage 2
Your appeal will be reviewed by a senior manager of the RCOG Examinations Department, who will, within five working days of receipt of your appeal, confirm whether your appeal falls within the scope of this policy and the appropriate next steps.

Stage 3
If your appeal falls within the scope of the policy, an appeal panel will investigate your appeal and gather the relevant facts, ensuring that the information gathered is accurate and complete. In some instances, a meeting between the appeal panel and candidate will be necessary. The appeal panel response will contain reasons for either upholding or rejecting your appeal and will be issued within 30 working days of receipt of your original appeal. Where your appeal has been upheld, a member of the appeal panel will contact you regarding a proposed remedy. In addition, if the appeal is upheld, the action taken and the lessons learned or to be learned will be logged for future purposes.

The appeals panel will normally comprise:

  • Chair of the Examination and Assessment Committee (or nominee)
  • Vice President, Education (or nominee)
  • Executive Director for Development (or nominee)
  • A Member or Fellow from RCOG Council

In some instances, depending on the nature of the appeal, an additional independent appeal panel member may be required.

The decision of the appeal panel is final. There is no further mechanism either within this policy or in the wider College to challenge the decision of the panel.

 Your appeal and all accompanying documentation will be kept confidential as far as is possible in facilitating a fair and thorough investigation. While your privacy and confidentiality will be respected, this needs to be balanced with:

  • The need for an open and fair investigation
  • Appropriate remedial action to be taken
  • The outcome of the investigation to be reported appropriately
  • Action to be taken to improve our processes and quality of service

The Examinations Department will endeavour to anonymise candidates when considering an appeal. However, it will occasionally be necessary to disclose the identity of the individual appealing beyond the reviewing senior manager or appeal panel to progress an investigation. Candidates who are not willing for their identity to be disclosed in this way should make this clear in their letter of appeal.

The RCOG will take all necessary steps to support all parties involved in an appeal and undertake all investigations sensitively and expediently.

Candidates are assured that they have the opportunity to raise matters of legitimate concern through this policy without risk of disadvantage or criticism.

Data retention: All materials relating to your appeal will be is kept on active file for 12 months from the date of receipt of your first email to examsappeals@rcog.org.uk and will then be destroyed.

 

Policy last updated: July 2018

Examinations Complaints Policy and procedures

The Examination Department of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is committed to delivering a high quality service. However, we recognise that on occasion, our service may fall short of expectations. If you believe this has happened to you, you can use this Complaints Policy, which describes how to make a complaint and how it will be handled.

This policy aims to:

  • provide a fair and transparent complaints policy, which is clear and accessible for anyone wishing to make a complaint
  • publicise the existence of our complaints policy so that people know how to contact us to make a complaint
  • ensure all relevant RCOG staff know what to do if a complaint is received
  • ensure all complaints are investigated fairly and in a timely manner
  • ensure that complaints are, wherever possible, resolved in a satisfactory manner
  • use any complaints received as a learning experience to improve our work

This policy applies to all RCOG examinations:

  • MRCOG Part 1
  • MRCOG Part 2
  • MRCOG Part 3
  • DRCOG

A complaint is any expression of dissatisfaction about an aspect of the RCOG Examination Department’s work.

The scope of this policy relates to:

  • The conduct of a member of staff
  • The conduct of an examiner or invigilator
  • The Examination Department’s delivery of one of its policies or procedures

The Examination Department’s application of RCOG Examination Regulations

  • An appeal against an examination outcome (result), as such matters should be addressed via the RCOG Examinations Appeal Policy
  • An appeal against the content of an examination or a specific question, as such matters should be addressed via the RCOG Examinations Appeal Policy
  • Complaints submitted anonymously or on behalf of another party will not be considered

It is recognised that on occasion it may be initially unclear whether a case constitutes a complaint or an appeal, hence the Examinations Department reserves the right to reclassify complaints to appeals or vice-versa at any stage in proceedings, in consultation with the person(s) complaining or appealing. Such reclassification will always be done so that the matter can be considered in the most appropriate and fair way. In such instances, candidates will not be required to resubmit their cases following any reclassification.

To make a complaint, please complete the Examinations Complaints form (Word document, 55kb) and email to examscomplaints@rcog.org.uk

By making your complaint in a timely manner, this will better allow the Examinations Department to investigate it and identify, where necessary, a suitable remedy.

Therefore, complaints must be submitted within 20 working days of the incident complained of. Please note that any complaint submitted after this deadline will not be reviewed unless there are highly extenuating circumstances.

Please note, working days are defined in this policy as Monday to Friday, excepting UK bank holidays and College closure over Christmas.

Stage 1
We will acknowledge your complaint within two working days of its receipt.

Stage 2
Within five working days of receipt of your complaint we will confirm whether your complaint falls within the scope of this policy and the appropriate next steps.

Stage 3
A senior member of Examinations Department staff will investigate your complaint and gather the facts relevant to the complaint, ensuring that the information gathered is accurate and complete. Their response will contain reasons for either upholding or rejecting your complaint and will be issued within 30 working days of receipt of your complaint. Where your complaint has been upheld, a senior manager will contact you regarding a proposed remedy. In addition, if a complaint is upheld, the action taken and the lessons learned or to be learned will be logged for future purposes.

 Your complaint and all accompanying documentation will be kept confidential as far as is possible in facilitating a fair and thorough investigation. While your privacy and confidentiality will be respected, this needs to be balanced with:

  • The need for an open and fair investigation
  • Appropriate remedial action to be taken
  • The outcome of the investigation to be reported appropriately
  • Action to be taken to improve our processes and quality of service

The Examinations Department will endeavour to anonymise complainants when considering complaints. However, it will occasionally be necessary to disclose a complainant’s identity beyond the investigating senior manager to progress an investigation. Candidates who are not willing for their identity to be disclosed in this way should make this clear in their letter of formal complaint.

The RCOG will take all necessary steps to support all parties involved in a complaint, and undertake all investigations sensitively and expediently.

Candidates are assured that they have the opportunity to raise matters of legitimate concern through this policy without risk of disadvantage or criticism.

Data retention: All materials relating to your complaint will be kept on active file for 12 months from the date of receipt of your first email to examscomplaints@rcog.org.uk and will then be destroyed.

If you are unhappy regarding the decision or outcome of your complaint, you can request a review within 10 working days of receiving the response to your complaint. You will need to provide sufficient new evidence to substantiate your appeal. The Examinations Department cannot review a decision that you disagree with if there is no new evidence to consider.

Stage 1
We will acknowledge your request for a review within two working days of its receipt.

Stage 2
Within five working days of receipt of your complaint we will confirm whether sufficient further evidence has been provided in order for this to be considered as part of a review of the complaint.

Stage 3
The RCOG Chief Executive Officer or a nominee who has not been involved in any aspect of your complaint will consider your request for a review and respond to you with reasons for either upholding or rejecting your review, within 30 working days of receipt of your complaint appeal . Where your complaint has been upheld, you will be contacted regarding a proposed remedy. The decision of the RCOG Chief Executive Officer or nominee is final, and following the communication of the decision the complaints procedure is at an end.

 

Policy last updated: July 2018

Exams Extenuating Circumstances Policy

Extenuating circumstances (EC) are circumstances that are unavoidable, unexpected and beyond your control. It may have a direct, substantial and negative impact on your ability to undertake or complete the examination.

Normally, the effect of the circumstances will impact the candidate within 3 weeks prior to the examination event, but it may also include an impact on the candidate’s performance during the examination. Extenuating circumstances are usually health-related or serious personal or family situations that are affecting you personally, such as a serious illness or the death of a close relative.

If you have paid for an exam and been issued an entry ticket but absent from an exam without any permission, you will be recorded as ‘absence’ in our exam database and cannot be refunded the exam fee.

However, you will not be recorded as ‘absence’ and can be refunded if your absence reason meets the Examination Extenuating Circumstances (EC), you submit an EC application to RCOG exam department on time, AND your EC application has been approved.

The basic principle of EC is ‘beyond the control of candidates’. Reasons such as minor illness, family event, travel plan, employment responsibility, or transportation difficulty will not normally be accepted.

Some examples that may be accepted:

  • Acute illness or injury on the day of or during the examination
  • The death or serious illness of a close family member or dependant
  • Suddenly worsening of a long term health condition
  • Extended illness or injury that lasts for more than five days that is serious enough to stop you from studying, writing, or revising
  • Serious personal injury
  • Being the victim of a serious crime
  • Unforeseen and unavoidable imposed work pressure
  • Unavoidable and/or unforeseen transport difficulties (e.g. through natural disaster)
  • Incorrect information provided by RCOG about date/time/location of exams
  • Significant change in circumstances
  • Court attendance
  • Jury service where deferral has been refused by the court
  • Unforeseen representation of County or Country at prestigious/significant event

 

Examples that are unlikely to be accepted:

  • Any reasons submitted without supporting evidence
  • Mistaking the date/time/location of the examination
  • Routine employment commitments
  • Transport difficulties, foreseeable or planned travel disruption
  • Oversleeping or alarm failure on the morning of the examination
  • Long term adverse circumstances
  • Minor ailment, e.g. coughs and colds, short lived viruses
  • ‘Retrospective’ medical evidence
  • Expected due date (candidates who are pregnant can seek special arrangements by submitting an application to Examination staff)
  • Examination stress
  • Childcare difficulties
  • Holidays
  • Religious holidays (there are separate arrangements for religious, please check with Examination Department for  further details)
  • Family events

If, after reading the above definitions for extenuating circumstances, you recognise that your exam was impacted by factors beyond your control, consider submitting an EC application.

  1. Please carefully read through the full Exams Extenuating Circumstances Policy (PDF) and make sure you follow each instruction. Please think carefully about whether your circumstances are likely to be accepted as ‘extenuating’. If you are not sure about any detail, please submit a query to RCOG exam staff.
  2. Your submission must include:
    i) a complete Extenuating Circumstances Application Form (Word document), and
    ii) appropriate documentary evidence, such as medical certificates, death certificates, or police reports.
    Make sure that you have completed every section of the application form and enclosed required supporting evidence. Keep all of your supporting documents clear as required. Make sure all your supporting evidence is directly relevant to your case and is objective, independent, third party evidence. Please note any additional statement does not increase your chances of your case being accepted and may make it difficult for the reviewers to identify your case.
  3. Submit your application, no later than 5 working days after the examination takes place, to examconfidentialenquiries@rcog.org.uk with the email subject "RCOG EC and Refund Application [your College number]".

Evidence should be relevant and significant. Evidence will often come from an expert or person in authority and will be provided in the form of an official document (e.g. a police report or doctor’s note). Evidence normally takes the form of written confirmation from an objective, independent, third party. Evidence should relate to facts, not personal opinions. For example, a note from a friend or relative would not be significant.

A piece of evidence should include some, if not all, of the following:

  • Date that the document was written
  • Signature or evidence that it comes from the person making the statement (e.g. from an official email address)
  • Evidence that it is independent and verifiable (e.g. the name and contact details of their company or organisation)
  • Evidence that the person has the experience or expertise to make the statement (e.g. their job title or qualifications)

Some examples of supporting evidence:

 

Circumstance

Evidence may be required

Illness

  • Confirmation of the illness and the dates concerned, such as an original medical certificate signed by a medical practitioner

Illness of another person

  • A statement of the relationship between the person and the candidate; and
  • Confirmation of the illness, and the dates concerned, such as an original medical certificate signed by a medical practitioner

Bereavement

  • A statement of the relationship between the person and the candidate; and
  • Death certificate or funeral statement

Victim of Crime

  • Police report including a crime reference number

Fire accident

  • A letter or report from a fire officer

Court Attendance

  • Solicitor’s letter including the dates of the legal proceedings and the requirement for you to attend

Jury Service

  • A letter from the court or tribunal including the dates of the legal proceedings, and confirming that the candidate could not be excused from jury service

Unforeseen representation of your county or country at a significant/ prestigious event

  • A letter of confirmation from the relevant organising body; and
  • A supporting statement from an professional explaining why the event should be considered as significant/prestigious

Major transport difficulty

  • Corroboration from police or other public authority; and/or
  • Insurance reference number (if you were involved in a road
  • traffic incident)

 

If your EC application has been approved before the examination

You should not attempt the examination and you will not be counted as ‘an attempt’ for this exam.

If you have submitted an EC application but have not received an approval before the examination

You can either attend the examination or not.

If attend, you therefore automatically declare yourself ‘fit to sit’, and the mark awarded is deemed an accurate reflection of your performances. Your submitted EC claim cannot be considered and shall be automatically dismissed.

If you are absent from the examination, your EC application will be considered by RCOG EC Panel. (It however does not mean the application will be definitely approved. The EC results still depends on if the application can meet EC criteria)

If you fall ill (or in other extenuating circumstances) during the time near to the examination (e.g. the evening before the exam) but do not have enough time to prepare and submit EC application before the examination

You can be absent from the exam and submit the application with 5 working days after the examination takes place.

If you fall serious ill during the course of an examination

 

(Such claims shall only be accepted if you were fit to sit on entering the examination venue, but for unforeseen reasons, for example, became seriously ill, during the examination.

The Invigilator shall record the event in the Invigilator’s Report, and the report will be sent to the RCOG Extenuating Circumstances Panel.)

You should submit EC claims with documentary medical evidence, in the same manner as any other claim.

If you leave the exam venue in these circumstances, any answer sheet work completed up to the point of departure shall become null and void, irrespective of whether the EC claim is subsequently upheld.

If your EC application has been approved, you will be treated as if never attended the examination.

RCOG Examination Department will issue receipts to you be replying your email within two working days. The purpose of receipts is to show that RCOG Examination Department has received your submission BUT not for a guarantee of extenuating circumstances approval.

RCOG EC panel shall process an EC application as soon as a full submission has been received. The process normally takes no more than 20 working days. You can expect the EC result within 20 working days after you have got the receipt email from RCOG Examinations. You will be informed by RCOG Examination Department emails if your EC case process needs more than 20 working days.

EC Panel may recommend or agree the following EC outcomes:

 

Your EC application has been:

Action

Rejected

  • Exam staff shall inform you that your application has been rejected and you cannot be refunded.
  • You will be counted as ‘an attempt’ for the examination. (For example, if it is the first time you take the examination, you will be considered as ‘retake’ for the next examination). 
  • You are coded as ‘absent’ and the exam mark is 0 in our record/system.

Approved

  • Exam staff should pass your case to refunding process
  • Exam staff should inform you that your application has been approved and you can be refunded.
  • You will not be counted as ‘an attempt’ for DRCOG examinations.
  • You are coded as ‘EC’ (extenuating circumstances) in our record/system.

 

Please note, you will be very likely to have your EC result after the scheduled exam date if you submit your EC application before the exam date. Please consider carefully if your absence reason can fully meet the EC criteria before you submit them. If you thought you could be approved while actually your situation cannot meet the criteria, your absence can be marked as ‘absence’ in our record (and ‘one attempt’ for DRCOG exams) even if you have submit your EC application to us before the exam.

Please note:

  1. The information above is a summary. Please read the detailed policy document carefully, and please always check the latest version of the policy.
  2. The final EC result is subject to EC Panel’s decision.

Supporting Special Circumstances Policy


Candidates for any RCOG examination who wish to request an adjustment to the examination setting should please first read the Supporting Special Circumstances Policy below and submit their request to ExamConfidentialEnquiries@rcog.org.uk

Your request must be submitted before the published closing date for the exam you are applying for. Requests submitted after the published closing date will normally not be considered.

You must make a new request with each examination application.

The RCOG is committed to ensuring equal access to our examinations for all candidates. This policy sets out the process and policies we follow to facilitate reasonable adjustments to our standard examination procedures and arrangements to support candidates with special circumstances.

Consideration of requests for reasonable adjustments will be based on the definitions within the Equality Act (2010), and will apply to any candidate who “…has a physical or mental impairment” that “has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

For example, a request may relate to the need for additional examination time due to a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, or rest breaks for candidates with a condition that requires the individual to mobilise to relieve discomfort or pain, such as hypermobility.

We will consider any requests for reasonable adjustments on an individual basis and decisions may vary according to the exact nature of the requestor’s everyday needs.

It is recognised that some candidates may have a special requirement not related to disability.

For example, provision may be needed for a mother breastfeeding an infant to have access to suitable feeding facilities during the examination.

Such requests fall into the scope of this policy and requests will be considered on an individual basis and decisions may vary according to the exact nature of the requestor’s needs.

While the RCOG actively supports the implementation of reasonable adjustments for eligible candidates, this may not always be possible. There may be limitations due to the facilities available at the venues used, unforeseen events and available resources.

We will only consider requests made within the process and procedure set out in this document.

To request an adjustment to a standard examination process or policy, please email Exam Confidential Enquiries at ExamConfidentialEnquiries@rcog.org.uk

Your request must be submitted before the published closing date for the exam you are applying for. Requests submitted after the published closing date will normally not be considered.

You must make a new request with each examination application.

The Exam Confidential Enquiries inbox is managed by a restricted number of senior RCOG staff, who will consider the request, inform the requestor of the outcome and, if agreed, work with appropriate RCOG staff members and examiners to enable the adjustment.

The RCOG will acknowledge receipt of any request for reasonable adjustment within two working days. Normally, we will confirm whether the request can be supported within ten working days of the request being submitted. However, in some instances there may be a need for the RCOG to request further information, or additional time may be required to ensure the adjustment can be enabled. In such instances, the RCOG will contact the candidate to discuss.

The RCOG will manage all requests in the strictest of confidence and the information provided within the request will only be used for the purpose of assessing the request. Information about any characteristics within the Equality Act (2010) is deemed sensitive personal data and therefore the RCOG is required by law to process the information fairly and lawfully. The RCOG will keep all correspondence and documentation received in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulations, ensuring secure records management.

The RCOG will make information available only to those who need to know it in order to process a request or to enable the requested adjustment, based on the requirements of the Equality Act (2010).

Data retention: The RCOG will retain an active file of logged data pertaining to notifications of requests, consisting of candidates’ names as well as a broad classification system of the requests in question, for 12 months, after which the data will be destroyed.

 

Policy last updated May 2018