off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

   Failure of the



During the recent Gold Jubilee Celebrations of College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan, I had a chance to listen to the conversation of a well known Pakistani surgeon, son of a distinguished Professor of Surgery who was one of the founder fellows of CPSP and had contributed a great deal towards the development of this institution. While talking to another senior colleague, this surgeon narrated the following story regarding examinations which he had heard from one of the British examiners.

J.H. Last is a distinguished anatomist, author of a well referred book on Anatomy. When he was made an examiner for the first time, he prepared himself and also selected quite a few questions to be asked from the candidates. He was paired with Sir John Fraser who was the other examiner in the panel.

When the examination started, he let Mr. Last ask the questions to the first candidate which the candidate could not answer, hence had no chance of passing. When the next candidate appeared for the exam, Mr. Last asked him a question. At this, Sir John Fraser, asked the candidate to wait for a while in the other room and then talked to Mr. Last and advised him how to conduct an examination.

According to Sir John Fraser, when a candidate fails in the examination, it is also considered the failure of the Examiner as well. Some of the pearls of wisdom which were offered by Sir John Fraser to Mr. Last were that when the candidate appears for the exam, he or she is very anxious. It is for the examiner to ensure that the atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and be sympathetic. Start from the basics and then gradually go up asking relevant questions to assess the overall knowledge of the candidate in a given subject. The main idea of an examination is to assess the competence and capabilities of the candidate to practice medicine and not to harass him, intimidate him. After the examination, an examiner should have a fair idea about the capabilities of the candidate to be certified as a specialist/consultant.

I remember once I asked a candidate who had failed in FCPS Part-II examination. She was full of praise for the examiners saying that there was nothing wrong with the exam or the examiners. They were all very kind and sympathetic but I made some stupid and silly mistakes which as a specialist, consultant I am not supposed to do. I faired badly in the exam, I did not deserve to pass, and hence I failed. But I am grateful to the examiners as they pointed out the deficiencies and weaknesses which I will try to overcome. She appeared for the second time and passed the FCPS Part-II easily.

On the other hand, I also remember my conversation with some other candidates who failed in FCPS Part-II examination. They were not at all happy the way they were examined, the arrangements made for the exam, one of the examiners was constantly shouting, they said and it was not an ideal atmosphere for the examination. Little do these examines realize that they are playing with the career of the candidates.

The idea of sharing these observations is to prove that there are some good examines and then not so good examiners. That is why the training of examiners in examination techniques is important. It is essential that they go through some training courses, workshops to update themselves in examination techniques. The monitoring of the examiners is also essential. On more than one occasions, it has been reported that some of the examiners speak very loudly virtually shouting at the candidates. Some of these examiners take pride and feel pleasure in failing the candidates to earn a reputation of being a very tough examiner. The overall pass percentage of FCPS final examination is not very high. There are and may be many deficiencies and problems in their training which needs to be rectified but it is equally important to monitor the overall attitude and behaviour of the examiners. CPSP administration, one hope is abreast of all this and will keep a watch on all these issues improving teaching, training and examinations which will certainly lead to an improvement in the overall pass percentage in the FCPS Part-II examination.{jcomments on}

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