Last week 218 of our GP registrars sat for their clinical examinations. This is a significant milestone in their GP training programme, and a massive undertaking for all involved.

The planning and preparation that goes into the clinical exams is extremely detailed. Registrars do 10 ‘consults’ in which they are marked by both an overseeing examiner and the ‘patient’ they see. Patients are in fact paid actors who each present with a particular illness or health issue. 

It’s quite a daunting process, because the registrar has no idea what condition they’ll be dealing with or what kind of patient they will be seeing next. This is, however, a true reflection of the variability of a GP’s daily work life. Registrars must demonstrate their ability to cope with the breadth and depth required to work under minimum supervision, before they can enter the next stage of their vocational training.

The pace of the consults is true to life too. Registrars have five minutes to read the ‘case notes’ of each patient, before entering their ‘consult room’ to meet the patient. After that, there is just 14 minutes for them to introduce themselves, build rapport, understand, diagnose and treat each patient. 

Our GP teachers and medical educators have been working with the registrars all year to help them prepare for this examination. They have had a lot of support, and have all put in a huge amount of work to make sure they’re ready.

The set up for the exams is quite a feat. The logistics of moving 20 registrars through 20 patient cases during a three-hour period is challenging. There are also 20 actors and 20 examiners that have to be well prepared, and ready to carry out a fair and consistent assessment of each registrar. 

This year, the examiners provided real time marking scores through electronic marking, using iPads. Actors also provided immediate feedback on the registrar’s performance from a ‘patient’s’ perspective.

The scores were uploaded to the overall examination database. This allowed moderators, who are senior examiners, to check for any potential outlying results or missing information, and to ask for clarification around examiners’ marks, while a registrar’s performance is still fresh/current. This is part of the examination quality assurance process.

The registrars will be undertaking their written examinations on 5 December. Results will be released in the New Year.