An audit of the outcomes of the College of Surgeons general surgery final examinations
Background: An audit of the Fellowship of the College of Surgeons (FCS) of South Africa examination results has not been previously performed. The purpose of this study was to review and determine any predictors of outcome (pass or fail).
Methods: The results of the FCS(SA) final examinations from October 2005 to and including October 2014, were retrieved from the College of Medicine of South Africa database. The current format of the examinations consists of two written essay question papers, an objectively structured clinical examination (OSCE), two clinical cases and two oral examinations. These were retrospectively reviewed and analysed. Predictors of failure or success were determined.
Results: During the 10-year study period, 472 candidates attempted the examinations. A total of 388 (82%) candidates were successful in the written component of the examination and were subsequently invited to participate in the clinical component of the examinations. Overall, 296 (63%) candidates passed and 176 (37%) failed. There were 51 candidates who were invited to the oral examinations despite an average of less than 50% in the two papers, and 34 (67%) failed the overall examination. Similarly, 126 candidates were invited having failed one of the two papers of which 81 (64%) ultimately failed. A total of 49 candidates failed the OSCE, 82% of these candidates failed overall. There were strong correlations between the averages of the papers versus the orals (Spearman ρ = 0.51), the papers versus the cases (Spearman ρ = 0.50), and the papers versus the OSCE (Spearman ρ = 0.55).
Conclusion: The written papers are the main determinant of invitation to the second part of the examination. Candidates with marginal scores in the written component had an overall failure rate of 67%. Failing one paper and passing the other, resulted in an overall failure rate of 64%. Failing the OSCE resulted in an overall 82% failure rate. With the high failure rate of candidates with marginal scores and with the inter-examination variability of the papers, it might be prudent to revisit both the process of invitation selection and the decision to continue with the long-form of the written component.