The examination consists of two papers - Paper I and Paper II. Candidates should note that there may be duplication of subject material in Paper I and Paper II.
The examination is designed to accommodate candidates from disciplines in the wider field of public health as well as candidates with experience outside the UK health service system. In setting questions, the aim is for generic questions, which, where appropriate, allow candidates to relate answers to their particular settings.
Paper I - ‘Knowledge Paper'
Paper I is designed primarily to test knowledge. The knowledge part of the syllabus is broken down into five sections further details of which are available in the syllabus. The skills tested at DFPH are not the same as those tested at the OSPHE or through the RITA/portfolio process.
An ability to extract, process and present data, to criticise research evidence and to communicate in writing to a non-specialist audience, are required for DFPH, rather than the more complex skills tested later.
Candidates must answer 10 compulsory short-answer questions across the range of the syllabus to demonstrate their knowledge of the core sciences of public health.
- Section A (2½ hours)
Candidates must answer six questions covering the following subjects:
1. Research methods, including epidemiology, statistical methods and other methods of enquiry including qualitative research methods
2. Disease prevention and health promotion
3. Health information.
- Section B (1 hour 40 minutes)
Candidates must answer four questions covering the following subjects:
1. Medical sociology, social policy and health economics
2. Organisation and management of healthcare.
Paper II - ‘Skills Paper'
Paper II is designed primarily to test skills. The skills part of the syllabus is broken into three sections, material from any of which may be tested at any point in the skills part of the examination.
Some core data-handling skills and the ability to perform core statistical techniques will be required in the examination: sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive power, numbers needed to treat, relative risk, odds ratio, attributable fraction, Standard Error and Confidence Interval (CI) of a proportion and of a difference in proportions, Chi Square for a 2 X 2 table, McNemar's test, standardisation - direct and indirect, weighted averages, CI and standard errors for means.
This paper is designed to test candidates' public health skills. Candidates must answer the question posed in both sections. There is no choice of questions on either section.
- Section A (2 ½ hours)
Critical appraisal and commentary on material in an article from a journal and its application to a specific public health problem. The first question for this paper includes a word limit, the function of which is to focus candidates in terms of the answers they provide. The remaining questions may be phrased in general terms and allow candidates to give examples from different contexts.
- Section B (2 hours)
This is structured as five 'sections' which cover different parts of the syllabus, each section contributing 10 marks. Answers may be numerical, graphical, short phrases, sentences or a short paragraph (where indicated in the question). Multiple-choice questions may be included. The paper will assess data manipulation and interpretation skills.
Following an external review of the DFPH by Dame Lesley Southgate, the purpose and format of the entire examination was reviewed by the DFPH Development Group, including both DFPH examiners and other participants. Discussion favoured an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, approach to the development of the examination, with the initial focus being on modifications to paper IIB. After a pilot examination and approval by the FPH Education Committee, the following changes to the format of paper IIB were proposed to Postgraduate Medical Education Training Board (PMETB) which gave its approval to the plans in February 2009. The PMETB merged with the General Medical Council in April 2010.
The content of the Paper IIB examination
- Paper IIB assesses data interpretation skills
- It is structured as five 'sections' which will cover different parts of the syllabus, each section contributing 10 marks
- No choice will be allowed - candidates will be expected to answer all sections
- The total mark for Paper IIB will be the sum of the marks obtained on each of the five sections - there will be no requirement to 'pass' a specified number of sections (in contrast to the marking scheme for Paper I)
- Questions are not published after the examination but will be retained in a reusable question bank
- Answers may be numerical, graphical, short phrases, sentences or a short paragraph (where indicated in the question). Multiple-choice questions may be included
- Four specimen sections are available here.