Failed surgeons get to rewrite exam

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Student surgeons from five institutions who failed their final written exam two weeks ago, are being allowed to rewrite it in a multiple-choice format.

An investigation as to why all the surgeon students from five universities failed their Fellowship of the College of Surgeons (FCS) final exam is ongoing. The candidates are from Wits University (Wits), University of Cape Town (UCT), University of Pretoria (UP), Walter Sisulu University (WSU) and University of the Free State (UFS). While there is normally an 80% pass rate for the written exam only 44% passed it this time across the country, without any students at those five institutions passing.

As details of what happened became known, allegations of question paper leaks and racism were sparked. One examiner involved in setting the paper, however, has said that the paper could be passed by an average doctor. Professor Jay Pillai, a vascular surgeon at the Wits University Donald Gordon Medical Centre stated that it was a standard paper that most people should have passed. “To say that somebody leaked a paper and to blame the college is just not on,” Pillai said adding that racism could not have played a role as only student numbers are written on the papers.

On Monday, Dr Flavia Sekubuge, president of Colleges of Medicine of South Africa noted that most of the candidates who passed were candidates of colour coming from the historically disadvantaged universities.

Zach Koto, president of the council of surgeons at the Colleges of Medicine of SA (CMSA), announced on Tuesday (October 8) that the multiple-choice format will become standard next year. He noted that it was a better type of assessment and is being used by the majority of international colleges. Koto admitted that the decline in the pass rate had started in 2018. An investigation then raised questions about the kind of training students were getting and workload issues. It was also used to determine if exams were fair or unfair and looked at issues related to the marking process. The findings did not call for major changes to the examination. – Read more on the IOL site