Medical Council of Canada

FAQs

(Updated July 7, 10:05 a.m., ET)

COVID-19 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and abroad, we are mindful of the impacts on the medical community, and want to ensure the safety of our candidates and all involved in our exams.

We continue to closely monitor the situation and any potential impacts on future exams. Please consult mcc.ca and physiciansapply.ca websites for further updates.

Changes to the NAC Examination due to COVID-19 – FAQs

NEW in September 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves in Canada and abroad, we continue to ensure we are doing our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19, to be mindful of the impacts on the medical community and to ensure the safety of all involved in our exams.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way in which we deliver performance assessments such as Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs). We are adjusting the National Assessment Collaboration (NAC) Examination so that we can still deliver a high-quality and psychometrically defensible exam in the face of COVID-19 challenges.

The following FAQs address the changes that will be implemented for the September 2020 administrations of the NAC exam.

General

Changes are being made to the content, format and delivery of the NAC exam. For example, we will be:

  • modifying physical examination stations (e.g., removing physical touching and having candidates tell the examiner what physical examination manoeuvers they would perform and what they are looking for)
  • applying physical distancing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) measures
  • removing exam day activities that require large groups to congregate
  • delivering candidate orientations and information online
  • replacing pilot stations with wait stations

 

What changes are being made to the September 2020 NAC exam?

We will make every effort to offer candidates an alternate location or date to take the exam.

What happens if there is a second wave of COVID-19 and I can’t get to my exam centre?

No, a prescheduling request is not required if a candidate cannot travel due to the pandemic. Candidates may select “I do not agree to be assigned to any other available centre” if their centre choices cannot be accommodated.

Should I submit a prescheduling request if I can’t travel outside of my selected centre choices due to the pandemic?

Application and eligibility

While the building is closed, we will review and accept exam applications and other requests based on electronic copies of all required documents, which can be submitted by fax (1-613-248-5234) or email (service@mcc.ca). These documents include certified identity documents and Certified Identity Confirmation forms.

The original certified copies must still be submitted, however. Therefore, please send your original certified paper copies by courier or mail. Due to high volumes, there may be a delay in our standard processing times.

Can I send my documents electronically to have my NAC application complete?

Exam day

Candidates will not be permitted to examine standardized patients. Candidates will be required to verbally describe any physical exam maneuvers that they would perform.

How has the exam format changed?

Please consult our Exam Day page for more information.

What can I bring to the exam? What can I expect on exam day?

Due to the physical distancing measures in place, candidate orientation will be offered online and not at specific exam centres. A link to the orientation will be included in your Entrance package that will be sent through your physiciansapply.ca account at the end of August 2020.

Will I be required to attend an orientation after registration on exam day?

Candidates will not be permitted to examine standardized patients and will instead need to verbalize their approach to physical examinations.

How will interactions with standardized patients change with COVID-19?

Yes, candidates will be required to sanitize their hands upon entering every room even if they will not be examining standardized patients.

Will I need to sanitize my hands before examining each standardized patient?

No, there are no scheduled breaks during the exam. However, there will be two wait stations where candidates can take a break (washroom) if needed.

Will there be a break during the exam?

Physical distancing and other personal protective measures (PPE), as per the guidelines set by local public health authorities, will be put in place at the available examination centres.

Will I be required to wear a mask and/or gloves (PPE)?

Scoring and results

There will be no change to the overall approach to scoring each station. As before, OSCE stations will be scored by Physician Examiners (PEs). Examiners will observe your interactions with Standardized Patients (SPs) and score your performance on each station according to a standardized scoring instrument that includes a checklist of tasks, answer key to oral questions, and rating scales that are designed to assess up to seven competencies.

These competencies include:

  • History taking
  • Diagnosis
  • Data interpretation
  • Investigations
  • Management
  • Communication skills
  • Physical examination (assessed in a modified format).

Standardized guidelines are used for exam administration, the training of PEs and SPs, and the use of predetermined scoring instruments for OSCE stations.

Is there any change on how OSCE stations will be scored?

No total score or subscores will be reported. Only three categories of results will be reported to candidates: pass, fail, and pass with superior performance.

What changes are being made to the reporting of results?

Due to content, format and delivery changes that are specific to the September 2020 NAC exam, we cannot statistically link the total scores to those on the previous exams (i.e., the NAC exam implemented between March 2019 and March 2020), or those on future exams. To support valid interpretation and use of exam results without advantaging or disadvantaging candidates over time, total scores will therefore not be reported. Consequently, we cannot apply the same previously established NAC pass score to the September 2020 cohort.

Why are we not reporting scores?

“Pass” indicates that a candidate’s performance on this examination met the minimum standard required for entry into a Canadian residency program. “Pass with superior performance” indicates that a candidate has met the minimum standard required for entry into a Canadian residency program with a stronger performance on this examination. 

The reporting of the new “pass with superior performance” will help to offset the absence of a total score and help support informed decision-making for stakeholders who require NAC exam results for their programs. 

Why are we reporting “pass” and “pass with superior performance” categories?

A standard-setting exercise will be conducted with a panel of physician subject matter experts to establish the standards for differentiating between “fail”, “pass” and “pass with superior performance”. Standard setting is a process used to define an acceptable level of performance and to establish a cut score for one or more target levels of performance. The cut scores for the September 2020 NAC exam will be established using the same method and process that were previously used in March 2019. Please note that, as total scores will not be reported to candidates, the established cut scores will not be published.

How do we determine fail/pass/pass with superior performance?

Passing both the September 2020 NAC exam and the previous NAC exams means that a candidate’s performance met the minimum standard required for entry into a Canadian residency program. Consequently, the use of pass/fail results will be comparable. However, the “pass with superior performance” status is applicable only to candidates taking the September 2020 NAC exam. There is no past comparable result to “pass with superior performance”, as it was not previously reported.

Are the pass/fail results for the September 2020 NAC exam comparable to results reported between March 2019 and March 2020?

The SOR will report three result categories: fail, pass, and pass with superior performance. No total score will be reported.

What changes are being made to the Statement of Results (SOR)?

As subscores will not be reported, SIRs will not be provided to candidates.

Is there any change to the Supplemental Information Report (SIR)?

No total score or subscores will be reported for the September 2020 NAC Examination. Only three categories of results will be reported to candidates: pass, fail, and pass with superior performance. As per the MCC Policy, if a candidate takes the NAC exam on more than one occasion, only the most recent attempt will be considered. It is, therefore, at the candidate’s discretion should they wish to take the September 2020 NAC exam to better their chances for the CaRMS Match. CaRMS and residency programs have been informed of the examination changes unique to the September 2020 NAC exam due to COVID-19.

I previously took the NAC exam, should I take it again to improve my score?

The Medical Council of Canada (MCC) cannot assess your chances of matching with or without a total score. It is, therefore, at the candidate’s discretion should they wish to take the September 2020 NAC exam to better their chances for the CaRMS Match. CaRMS and residency programs have been informed of the examination changes, unique to the September 2020 NAC exam due to COVID-19.

What are my chances of being selected for a residency position if no total score is reported?

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves in Canada and abroad, we’ve had to make changes to the September 2020 NAC exam. Due to these unprecedented circumstances, we are unable to confirm how future NAC exam sessions will be administered. It is, therefore, at the candidate’s discretion should they wish to attempt the September 2020 NAC exam or wait for a future session.

Should I take the exam at a later session when a total score is provided?