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Preparing for the Certification Examination in Family Medicine

Candidate guide

The pandemic has provided us an opportunity to modernize and deliver our examinations virtually.  We are creating and updating our examination resources to support this transition.

Self-study

Because the certification examination is clinically oriented and reflective of the day-to-day practice of family medicine, the most effective way to prepare for it is to participate actively in clinics, family medicine offices, and learning opportunities such as case discussions, rounds, and journal clubs.

That said, it should be easy to study for the examination at home. Candidates should create an individual program of continuing medical education to fit their schedule.

There are many convenient ways of keeping up-to-date with developments in primary care and family medicine. A few of the most popular options are listed here. 

  • Review programs

    Self LearningTM Program

    The Self Learning Program is a voluntary, Internet-based, College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) educational program that allows physicians to evaluate how well they keep up with current issues in medical literature. Written by a group of family physicians from across Canada, the program is self-contained with all the information required to understand new research results and therapeutic techniques. Residents in family medicine may register for free online access to the Self Learning Program.

    Request more information about the Self Learning Program

    Home study and Knowledge Self-Assessment—American Academy of Family Physicians

    Audio, monograph, and combined subscriptions are available on topics of current interest. For more information, please visit the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) website or contact the AAFP by phone at (913) 906-6000, ext. 5298, fax (913) 906-6285, or by email.

  • Other programs

    Many other continuing professional development (CPD) formats, including interactive online CPD, are also available. For more information, please refer to the lists of CPD programs eligible for Mainpro+® credits.

  • Books and journals

    Many physicians preparing for the exam found it useful to quickly review the current edition of their favourite textbook in each of the major clinical disciplines contributing to family medicine: obstetrics, pediatrics, medicine, surgery and psychiatry.

    Journals also offer opportunity for review. Canadian Family Physician, the official publication of the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), publishes useful clinically-oriented articles pertinent to the practice of family medicine in Canada. Journals of other national colleges and academic associations of family medicine include American Family Physician, Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, and the BJGP: British Journal of General Practice. Journals, such as Journal Watch and the ACP Journal Club, provide critical summaries of the original research literature, and are intended to help apply relevant, high-quality research to the practice of medicine.

    The following three-part article may also be helpful: 

    Weston Wayne W., Brown Judith Belle, Stewart Moira A. Patient-Centred Interviewing Part I: Understanding Patients’ Experiences. Can Fam Physician. 1989;35:147-51.

    Brown Judith Belle, Weston Wayne W., Stewart Moira A. Patient-Centred Interviewing Part II: Finding Common Ground. Can Fam Physician. 1989;35:153-7.

    Stewart Moira A., Brown Judith Belle, Weston Wayne W. Patient-Centred Interviewing Part III: Five Provocative Questions. Can Fam Physician. 1989;35:159-6.

  • The Canadian Library of Family Medicine

    The College of Family Physicians of Canada’s (CFPC’s) library service is always ready to help with any information needs. CFPC members can request free literature searches and full text articles.

    Contact the library for more information or to request help with preparing for certification:

    Library Services

    [email protected]

Simulated office orals (SOOs)

The Certification Examination in Family Medicine is comprised of two components: a written examination and an oral examination. 

The oral examination is comprised of five simulated office orals (SOOs), each 15 minutes in length. SOOs take place on Saturday or Sunday of scheduled exam days.

SOOs are designed to duplicate, insofar as possible, the actual “setting” in which the family physician conducts a practice. Family physicians are trained to role-play patients with specific complaints. The physician playing the role of the patient notes how the candidate manages the case and will score the candidate according to predefined criteria.

This examination will assess both the definition and management of health problems. The scoring system focuses on the candidate’s approach to dealing with patients—including their ability to understand the patient’s unique experience and to establish a positive doctor-patient relationship.

Getting the “right diagnosis” plays only a minor role in the scoring. There are no hidden agendas.

The College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) believes that physicians who use a patient-centered approach best meet their patients’ needs. The patient-centered clinical method is explained in detail in the book, Patient-Centered Medicine: Transforming the Clinical Method.*

*Stewart M, Brown JB, Weston W, McWhinney I, McWilliam C, Freeman T, eds. Patient-Centered Medicine: Transforming the Clinical Method. 3rd ed. London: Radcliffe Publishing; 2014.

Short-answer management problems (SAMPs)

 

The Certification Examination in Family Medicine is comprised of two components: a written examination and an oral examination.

The written examination is comprised of short-answer management problems (SAMPs), which are designed to test a candidate’s recall of factual knowledge and problem-solving abilities with respect to the definition of health problems, management of health problems, and critical appraisal. This portion of the examination will be delivered using computer-based technology administered by Prometric Canada. The video demonstration is designed to provide an orientation to the functionality and features of the Prometric testing interface candidates will use on exam day. Follow the link entitled “What to expect” for a description of the registration process that occurs in all Prometric administered testing centers. It will be approximately four hours in length and will take place on Friday. An additional 15 minutes has been incorporated into the exam session time to allow candidates to take a rest/refreshment break. This break is optional and can be taken at any time during the examination.

For the SAMPs basic information regarding the presentation of the patient will be provided and a series of three or four questions will follow for each scenario. When answering questions in this examination, the candidate must read the question carefully, and provide only the information that is requested. For the most part, each question will require a single word, short phrase or short list as a response. This portion of the examination will be four hours in length.

To help candidates prepare for the family medicine examination, the Committee on Examinations has authorized the release of some SAMPs used on previous examinations. The purpose is to give candidates some sense of the format and content they can expect during the exam, and to demonstrate the correct way to answer questions. These SAMPs are not intended to be study aids.

SAMPs Instructions to the Candidate

Frequently Asked Questions

What to expect

Video Demonstration

SAMP Software Tutorial

Sample SAMPs

Assessment Objectives for Certification in Family Medicine

Assessment Objectives for Certification in Family Medicine (previously titled Defining competence for the purposes of certification by the College of Family Physicians of Canada: The evaluation objectives in family medicine) describe the essential skills and observable competencies that are expected from residents at the end of their training. As such, the document serves as a major guide to both in-training assessment and the content of the Certification Examination.

Competencies are described in terms of their most salient key features and observable behaviours. Each competency is specific to the situation’s context and to the phases of the clinical encounter; furthermore, each competency is linked back to the appropriate skill dimension, reinforcing this essential relationship.

Assessment Objectives for Certification in Family Medicine

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