Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Introducing the Examinations Department of University of Nicosia Medical School.
Patient safety and the development of our students’ requisite knowledge, skills and attitudes lie at the heart of the Medical School’s mission. For these objectives to be achieved, it is crucial that medical students are properly assessed and evaluated. Written, oral and practical examinations therefore represent a core activity of the Medical School, which is coordinated by the Examinations Department.
The Medical School’s academic programmes, including assessments, have undergone a rigorous process of quality assurance by such authorities as the General Medical Council of the UK, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education of the UK, the Cyprus Agency of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Higher Education, and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). In the case of RCGP, we have been accredited to deliver assessments that lead to the MRCGP[Int].
Chief Operating Officer Dr Michael Murphy and Examinations Department Coordinator and Senior Examinations Officer Valentina Ionova recently described the complexity and variety of tasks that constitute the work of this important Department.
Valentina explained that there is no such thing as a typical day in the Examinations Department since the team works simultaneously on a wide variety of tasks to ensure the preparation and delivery of examinations to the highest standard. This goal is achieved by coordinating the work of the many contributors to the examination process. These include our international partner institutions, academic staff, assessment specialists, administrators, simulated patients and, of course, the students themselves. Consistency in assessment is a top priority for all students, which requires the Examination Department to have close and effective communication and coordination with St George’s, University of London for the MBBS and MSc degrees, and also with the Medical School’s international training sites in Chicago and Tel Aviv.
Examiners are thoroughly trained to conduct examinations in a consistent manner. This is particularly important in the case of Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) where examiners are not only testing knowledge but are also making judgements on students’ skills in communication and their application of clinical knowledge.
The production of examination papers is a complicated process, which begins with the devising of appropriate questions by the relevant academic and clinical staff according to the requirements of the various curricula. Questions must be carefully worded to prevent any ambiguity and papers must be of the appropriate level of difficulty. Papers are checked and rechecked to prevent inaccuracies from occurring, and the logistical arrangements for the booking of examination halls and for the engagement of examiners and invigilators have to be put in place. Following the examinations come the processes of marking the examination scripts, standard-setting to establish the pass marks, and the production of results. In some cases, resit papers are required, which undergo the same cycle of activities.
Dr Murphy and Valentina explained that while some marking is carried out electronically and some manually, there is no place for error in either. “We have quality controls in place to ensure that mistakes do not occur, constantly checking and rechecking both manually and electronically,”
The Examinations Department has no quiet periods. Preparation is always under way for the next scheduled set of examinations or for the marking of those that have just taken place. Examinations Department staff must combine the skills of meticulous attention to detail, the ability to multi-task, and the professionalism required to provide feedback to students in a clear and sensitive manner. Valentina commented: “Our interaction with students is professional due to the nature of our work, but we also need to be able to engage to provide advice and support, presenting students with their available options.”
Taking into account the range and volume of duties carried out by a relatively small team, Examinations Department staff must be flexible and well organised. They must also be prepared to work beyond regular office hours when exams are taking place, and to allow for not being able to take leave during busy examination periods.
Dr Murphy congratulated Valentina for developing and managing such an effective, positive and cohesive team. For her part, Valentina praised her team for being ready and willing to support their fellow team members in fulfilling their commitment to the mission of the Medical School and to the progress of our students.