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Part B Examiners

The following is a brief guide to the responsibilities and workload of an Examiner for the Part B MFPH Examination. It is intended to provide some background information on the role of the Examiner and the examination system in practice.

Job Description

Who are the Examiners?

Examiners are experienced Members or Fellows of the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) or other Colleges or Faculties who have specialist knowledge of at least one area of the curriculum. Examiners should be willing to give up some time to ensure that the education standards of both medically and non-medically qualified candidates are tested and maintained over time.

It is a responsible position, as candidates may feel powerless and anxious during this hurdle in their career and FPH needs to ensure that the whole process is confidential, thoughtful, unbiased and fair to all candidates, whatever their background.

Examiners are not paid, but they can claim reasonable travel expenses at FPH rates for travel to meetings and examinations.

How are Examiners chosen?

Potential Examiners are usually nominated by members of the FPH Board, Faculty Advisers or heads of academic departments. self-nominations are also acceptable. All nominations and applications are screened and judged by the Vice-Chair of the Part B MFPH Examiners against the criteria for appointment and then formally considered by the Education Committee. The latter makes recommendations for appointment by the Board. Once approved by the Board, new Examiners are brought on to the panel as existing Examiners retire. The term of service is usually for three years, with a maximum further three years extension. FPH endeavours to maintain a goup of Examiners who are representative in terms of equal opportunity and geographical distribution.

All Examiners must be able to demonstrate the knowledge required and their commitment to the principles underlying the examination to the Chair of Examiners or the Academic Registrar before taking up their responsibilities. Prior to undertaking full marking duties, all Examiners are required to attend one examination as shadow observers and to receive training under examination conditions. They will have received specific training on examination procedure and guidance on examiner marking criteria. All Examiners will also have prepared at least two or more full questions and shown their ability in the generation and production of new ideas.

Keeping up-to-date

FPH expects all Examiners to keep up-to-date with developments in the speciality. Examiners must meet the minimum continuing professional development (CPD) requirements of FPH or another recognised relevant professional body. The CPD Department will be asked to confirm this for all Examiners on an annual basis.

Personal qualities needed

[E = essential D = desirable]


  • Specialist, up-to-date knowledge of at least one area of the curriculum (E).


  • Ability to respect and preserve confidentiality (E).
  • Ability to stick to tight time schedules and turn around work quickly (E) (deadlines for question setting and commenting).
  • Good communication skills (E).
  • Ability to work in teams (E).
  • Ability to make thoughtful and unbiased decisions (E).


  • Past or present experience of weighting evidence, making important and difficult objective decisions and ensuring that judegement is not swayed by personal bias or sectional interests (E).
  • Past or present experience of setting and marking examinations (D).
  • Past or present experience of training specialist registrars/trainees (D).

Workload & Duties

Examiners are schedules to examine at least twice per year. They are also required to produce two full questions each year. This process integrates the writing and scripting of questions, the use of specific marking criteria and their performance and operation in the examination itself.

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Examiner Guidelines on Question Development, Marking and Confidentiality

Question Development

All current Examiners will have been to at least one training workshop and/or a training session associated with an examination sitting. All Examiners will have prepared at least two or more full questions. As such, all active Examiners should have some experience of how questions and the marking guidance are developed and used.

A flowchart outlines the standard process of question development, including the re-editing, peer review and proof-reading safeguards, is attached. All Examiners undertake peer reviews and additional reviews following re-editing of questions if this is substantial.

All questions are designed on standard question proposal templates.

There is a detailed set of guidance for question peer reviewers. The role is vital to the production of high quality scenarios and examiners must be familiar, and ideally have some experience, or performing such peer reviews.

Question Selection for each sitting

There is also a standard matrix of scenario type and question content which assures each examination contains a similar range of scenarios and topics covering the required areas for the MFPH Part B Examination. The Chair of the Question Development Group (QDG) is responsible for ensuring the supply of scenarios conforms to the agreed mix in a timely way - allowing peer, proof and final review by Academic Registrar processes to be completed in a timely way prior to the examination. In future, it is anticipated that the QDG may be able to forward plan sittings for the coming year, but to date the intensity and complexity of preparing high quality scenarios has meant that in general the QDG are working to the next one to two sittings only.


The level of average competency is that expected of a trainee at the completion of Phase 2 of the syllabus (two to three years into training) and knowledge of the syllabus for Part A is assumed. The guidance for marking candidate performance in Part B continues to be refined. It is basically expected that an average competent performance is graded a 'C' pass. The marking guide in the questions give specific items that are required for a competent pass, and increasingly, there is refining of additional guidance to help specify what grades a candidate as a weak (fail) or excellent performance:

  • General marking criteria for each of the five core competencies.
  • Specific general question guidance from each question.
    Each question has an Examiner Marking Guidance commentary where the overall thrust of the question is described and some of the main aspects the question structure is designed to elicit, within the framework of the five core competencies.
  • Specific marking criteria for each question.
    Each Examiner marking guidance box contains a commentary on the nature of what is required for an average answer to that specific question.  This may also include one or more explicit facts or applied skills that are required to be demonstrated to indicate a pass or to demonstrate excellence.  These are written into the question at production and checked by editorial process and peer review.

The candidates are guided in their approach to the answers by the use of general candidate guidance contained in a specific introductory section of the candidate briefing and in the use of scripting provided to the actor or non-marking examiner role-player to help elicit answers on areas being examined.  The extent of the guidance is purposefully varied but is designed to elicit the required responses.  To this end, the alignment between the factual briefing, the specific examiner marking criteria and the scripting of each question is carefully checked by editor, peer reviewer and proof reader.

For an illustration of the overall structure of a question, its component parts and the aspects of the marking criteria guidance described above, see the OSPHE sample questions.

Examiners' Comments

All Examiners at each station provide comments on the examination material and conduct of the station which are collated by the Education Office.  These follow a set proforma on the examiner feedback sheet.  These comments do not constitute feedback for candidates, but inform future question selection and examination development.


Questions often utilise web or other sources of data used in the candidate briefing packs.  FPH has a series of copyright permissions that enable many sites to be used with no specific infringements.  Authors should be aware of the permissions, and utilise data from those sources wherever possible, as new permissions can be time consuming to obtain.  Experience suggests that data constructed by the author as an original document is often simpler, clearer and easier to use, and does not require third party copyright permissions.  FPH is in the process of requesting authors sign copyright declarations for scenarios used in the MFPH Part B.  If in doubt, please discuss with the Education Office.


Confidentiality is of vital importance and examiners and question authors must keep all material completely confidential.  All draft and complete scenarios are password protected but it is vital that authors and peer reviewers keep all material securely.

As with such activity, Examiners should not discuss scenarios once worked up ready for the examination.

Examiners may be asked to give advice to trainees on the preparation for the examination.  They are warned to take care and are recommended to respond to trainees’ requested areas of revision rather than to initiate topics.


Candidates who fail will be given feedback to help them and their trainer with regard to areas they should consider in their personal development plan before applying to resit the examination.

Dr Robert Cooper
Chair, Part B Examiners (March 2009)

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