FAQs for the Certification Examination in Family Medicine

Pre Exam

Q. What is the earliest time that I can book my return flight?
A. You will be notified by email of your exam date and location six weeks prior to the exam date. Please do not make any travel arrangements until you have received this confirmation. You should not arrange your flight to depart before 8 p.m. on the last day of your exam, unless you have been informed otherwise.

Q. Will I receive a registration card for admittance to the examination centre?
A. You will receive an entrance letter (one letter for each day of the exam) in the mail about 4 weeks before your scheduled exam date. Please bring this letter with you, along with government issued identification, (i.e., driver’s license or passport).

Q. Do you provide any resources to help me prepare for the examination?
A. You can find suggested resources to help you prepare for the examination on the College’s website.

Q. Do you hold any workshops to help me prepare for the examination?
A. No, the CFPC does not hold or endorse any examination preparation courses or workshops. You may wish to contact the family medicine programs at the Universities or the Provincial Chapters of the College to inquire about any upcoming workshops they may have scheduled.  

Exam Days

Q. What is the format of the examination?
A.
There are two components of the examination.

  1. A written component consisting of computer-based short-answer management problems (SAMPs) and
  2. An oral component consists of five (5) 15-minute SOO interviews and takes place on Saturday or Sunday.

Q. How long is the examination?
A.
Candidates will be involved in testing over two days. The written examination is six (6) hours in length and takes place on Thursday or Friday of the exam weekend. The oral consists of five (5) 15-minute SOO interviews and takes place on Saturday or Sunday.

Q. Will I be sequestered during the examination? If so, for how long?
A.
 There will be no general sequestering during SAMPs or SOOs, however in some special accommodations situations individuals may be sequestered over the lunch hour.

Q. What do I do with my personal belongings at the examination site?
A. Please DO NOT bring personal belongings to the examination site. The College is not responsible for any lost, stolen, or broken personal property.

Q. What should I bring to the examination?
A. You should bring your entrance letter and personal identification (e.g., driver’s license or passport). Only analog watches will be permitted into the exam room.

Prohibited Items:

All electronic devices including, but not limited to cell phones, personal digital assistants, pagers, calculators, voice recorders/players, etc.

  • Food should not be consumed during the examination. However, for candidates with special dietary requirements, arrangements should be made with the College prior to the examination. If approved by the College, the food must be in a clear plastic bag.

Q. Are the simulated office oral (SOO) examinations recorded?
A. No, the SOO examinations are not recorded. Video equipment/viewing mirrors are used for validating examiners’ performances and not the candidates’ performances.

Q. Can I get information about my performance on the oral exams from the examiner?
A. No, examiners are not permitted to provide any information to you.

Post Exam

Q. When will I receive my exam results?
A. You may access your results online approximately eight weeks after the examination. You will receive email notification when the results are available. You will also receive formal notification of your results by mail.

Q. Can I receive my exam results over the phone?
A. Results will not be released by telephone, fax or email.

Q. What information will I receive about my performance on the exam?
A. Results are reported as pass or fail. You will receive a result on each of the two components (written and oral) and an overall result. You must be successful on both the written and the oral components to achieve certification.

Q. Will you notify the Medical Regulatory Authority when I am certified?
A. As soon as your certification is awarded to you, we will inform all medical regulatory authorities in Canada.

Q. When will I receive my certificate?
A.
Certificates will be mailed to all new Certified members within 12 weeks after the certification date.

Scoring the Exam

Q. Does the day on which I take each component of the exam impact my results?
A.
After each examination, statistical analyses are conducted to determine whether candidates taking the examination on a particular day may be disadvantaged and these analyses are reviewed by the Board of Examiners prior to approving examination results. Consistently from year-to-year, our analyses have demonstrated that there is no significant impact of this "day effect" on either the SAMPs or the SOOs.

Q. Is there a minimum number of SAMPs and SOOs that I need to pass to get a successful result on the exam? If yes, what is the passing score for each?
A. Candidates are scored on their overall performance on the SOOs and their overall performance on SAMPs. There is no set minimum number of stations to pass or minimum passing mark for each SOO or for the SAMPs.                         

Q.  Is each question marked on the bell curve?
A. No. Each question is corrected by assigning marks according to a fixed answer key for that question and case. 

Q. How is the exam scored and what comprises a "passing" score?
A. Each candidate obtains a single total aggregate score on all the SAMPS and a single total aggregate score on all the SOOs. These two scores are subsequently considered entirely separately and candidates must obtain a passing score on each of the two components. The minimum passing score is determined from a statistical analysis of the aggregate scores of a group of reference candidates. This reference group is made up of graduates of Canadian residency programs in family medicine who are sitting the examination for the first time. All candidates are compared to this group. The statistical analytic approach used and the minimum passing score for each of the two components are approved by the Board of Examiners for every session of examination.   

Q.  Is it better to answer parts of a question that we know or should we go to the questions that we can answer in full first?
A.It is better to answer all the questions as best you can. If you leave a question blank, you cannot get any marks for that question. If you write something down, you might get some parts right, and score some points. 

Q.  What is the best way to score good marks on SAMPs?
A. The best advice is to read the questions very carefully. Make sure you understand what is being asked. Because these are short-answer questions, they are constructed to be targeted and to lead to specific answers rather than to general answers on the topic. If you read the scenarios carefully, and the questions, they should lead you to the right answers. You should read each question twice before choosing your answer, and make sure you give the answer that fits best with the case and the question.Follow the instructions in each question very carefully, and give the number of answers requested. 

Q. How do I know which guidelines to study? Will I be penalized for staying current (i.e., studying the latest guidelines that were published after the examination content was set)?
A. The answer keys to each exam instrument are determined by the examination committee and other peers shortly before each examination, and they are based on the best current clinical experience and evidence available at that time. Marks on each question at the time of correction are determined by how well the candidate's answers match the established answer keys. In the unlikely event that the "best" answers lose currency between the time of setting and the time of the examination, appropriate adjustments are made automatically in the marking stage. Therefore, candidates should always answer according to what represents the most accepted good practice of family medicine at the time of the examination. They will never be penalized for staying current.

Language Quality Assurance

Q. How does the CFPC ensure the quality of the translation of examination content?

A. After a rigorous process of question development by the Committee on Examination – Family Medicine,  the content is translated by an experiencedcertified medical translator.

The translated content then goes through two, subsequent independent reviews by native French-speaking bilingual physicians who have been involved in the development of the cases and who are familiar with the context of the questions and terminology that French-speaking physicians use in their everyday practice.

Once the French-speaking physicians are satisfied with the translation, the content is then reviewed by the CFPC translation team in order to correct any typographical or grammatical errors.

The translated content is reviewed once more after it has been transferred into the software that delivers the examination to ensure accurate presentation on the day of the examination.

Q. What is the process of post-exam quality assurance of the translated content?

A. Candidates’ comments are analyzed to detect potential issues with questions.

All French answers are scored by French-speaking physicians who are also able to identify potential quality issues with questions.

Questions for which quality issues are raised are reviewed individually and decisions are made as to whether those questions will be excluded from the examination.

Additional psychometric analyses ensure that the questions included in examination meet the expected performance standards. Specific attention is paid to any question where there is an inconsistency between English and French-speaking candidates’ scores.

If an identified error or flaw in a question is determined to have a potential effect on candidate performance, that question is removed from the examination content and the above mentioned psychometrical analyses are re-done.

Q. What is the process of quality improvement?

A. The Committee on Examination – Family Medicine reviews feedback from four main sources to identify areas for improvement:

  • Examination results and results of post-examination analyses
  • The report and recommendations from the examination coordinators post-administration of both components of the examination detailing any incidents or problems that occurred  
  • Written feedback from candidates
  • Written feedback from examiners

All candidate comments regarding translation are shared with the CFPC translation team.  The College of Family Physicians of Canada participates on a joint committee with representation from RCPSC, MCC, CMQ, FMRQ, and university representations from Laval, Montreal, Calgary to try to develop standardized lexicons.

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