Frequently Asked Questions

Consult this page for answers to the general queries you might have about the Public Health training scheme. If you cannot find an answer to your question please email educ@fph.org.uk

Exams

Why isn’t exam feedback more detailed? Limited exam feedback makes it harder for Registrars to pass the exams.

Since autumn 2020 for the Final Membership exam additional feedback regarding scores is now provided as part of the candidates results letter.

Why do the Faculty hold their exams in London? Outside of London could reduce the costs.

With the impact of COVID-19 the Faculty has moved both exams online, and will continue to deliver these online for the duration of 2021. One of the advantages of this is that candidates will not have to travel to London to sit an exam reducing the impact on candidate in terms of time and expense. However the cost of delivering the exams online is comparable to physical exams and as such the cost of the exam remains the same.

More people outside the training programme are applying for the exam and thus it’s harder for those on the training scheme to get a place.

The number of people applying for the exams outside of the training scheme hasn’t increased and those that are taking the exam are in the minority.

Diplomate Exam

Why can’t I bank one paper and sit the second paper at a different sitting?

This has been discussed in detail by the Diplomate Development Committee. The Committee considers that this is one exam and believes that a candidate should be ready to take both papers when they sit the exam for the first time. Indeed, in the past, banking was not permitted, so a fail in either paper, meant re-sitting both papers. Whilst the Committee is generally happy with continuing the banking process, committee members do not consider it appropriate to break the exam up in to its two constituent parts and allow either part to be taken separately at the first sit. It should also be noted that from an administration perspective such a change would add complexity and therefore cost which is unlikely to be welcomed by candidates.

Why doesn’t the Faculty hold a mock exam to test questions rather than deciding after an examination that a question is not fit for purpose?

There are two issues here: removing a question that is not fit for purpose, and holding a mock examination.

a) Removing a question: we undertake detailed review of all questions after every examination, this includes reviewing candidates’ performance and question psychometrics. This approach is standard practice across most undergraduate and postgraduate medical examinations. However, it is important to recognise that it is relatively unusual for that review to indicate that a question should be removed. Our Exam Board would only take that decision in very specific circumstances where the question very clearly did not perform as expected. We would also take care to ensure that such an action did not disadvantage any candidate.

b) Mock exam: whilst this is an interesting and appealing idea, due to limited resources the Faculty is unable to stage mock exams. Examiners are volunteers who give up their time to ensure that standards in training are maintained. Creating a mock exam each year would considerably increase the burden on our examiner team, as not only would they need to write many additional questions, but also find time to mark them.

Though not a mock exam it is possible to gain access to the exam platform for the Diplomate exam so that candidates can familiarise themselves with the platform and the tools available to them in the exam.

An alternative approach used in certain exams is to extend the exam length, including one or more extra questions that would be being ‘tested’ (without indicating which those were). An example of that approach is in the national Situational Judgement Test run by UK Foundation Programme Office. Such an approach is best designed for large MCQ type exams and would not fit with the structure of the Diplomate Exam, where additional (test) questions would inevitably be highly visible (as for instance you would have a third question in the Research methods section of paper 1A, but two questions in all other sections).

It should also be noted that most questions used in our exam are new questions, rather than questions drawn from our ‘bank’, as that bank is relatively small. This in fact has many advantages, including ensuring our questions remain relevant and up-to-date. All new questions go through many stages of detailed scrutiny before their appearance in an exam. This includes development and review by a section team, then review and selection by the full examiner committee. At that point, edits are often requested and final questions are then submitted to the exam chair and deputy for insertion in to a paper and further editing. The complete exam paper is then reviewed at a standard setting meeting of examiners, before the final paper has two further reviews by the Academic Registrar (UK FPH) and the Hong Kong Censor.

Why has the Faculty moved to the delivery of exams online? How long will the exams continued to be delivered this way?

Due to the impact of COVID – 19 and the need for social distancing the Faculty moved both the Diplomate and Final Membership exam online in autumn 2020. It has been agreed that the exams will continued to be delivered online for 2021.

Why aren’t we using computer based testing (CBT) used for the Diplomate exam?

In 2018 the Faculty looked into the costings and logistics of CBT and found that it wasn’t suitable for the current format of the exam, essay based questions. Also due to the small numbers of people sitting the exam, the fee would have been increased to deliver CBT. In 2019 as part of the candidate feedback form we asked if candidates wanted computer based testing, with their responses being split. However the Faculty is committed to revisiting this is 2024.

Final membership Exam

How long will I have to wait for a Final Membership exam place?

The Faculty is committed to delivering 5 sittings of the exam each year. Currently we would expect a candidate to wait 4 months to take the exam.

Why is there is a long wait for Final Membership exam places?

In 2018 due to an increase in candidates passing the Diplomate membership exam, there was an increase in demand for places on the Final membership exam. The Faculty has subsequently held a 5th sitting of the exam in 2019 and will do so again 2020, to meet this increased demand. Subsequent work will be done to track demand for exams and make adjustments in provision as necessary. As of the publishing of this document candidates are waiting 6-8 months to take their exam once a place is confirmed.

Evaluation of the Final membership exam needs to be improved.

Since autumn 2020 a revised process for feedback has been introduced asking candidates to provide feedback on all aspects of the exam including the logistics on the day, the questions set etc. The feedback is then used to further develop the exam as required.

 

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