Virtual Simulated Office Oral Examinations FAQs
Why does the CFPC hold virtual simulated office oral (SOO) examinations in addition to written exams?Examinations are an important final step in assessing the skills, expertise, and competence of family medicine learners. The exams help validate the knowledge and skills they have gained through their competency-based medical education. The oral component remains an important aspect of testing candidates’ abilities and readiness for practice using a real-world approach.
Why has the CFPC moved to the virtual delivery of SOO examinations?The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented the CFPC from delivering the SOOs in their traditional, in-person format. At the same time, the pandemic has provided an opportunity to review and improve the SOO experience for candidates and examiners in several ways, including:
- Greater convenience and enhanced flexibility as candidates and examiners may not need to travel
- The avoidance of sudden hindrances or limitations that the pandemic or other unanticipated circumstances or environmental factors could cause
- The optimal and progressive use of technology to support high-quality examination delivery
What will not change in the delivery of the virtual SOO examination?While the SOO examination will be delivered differently, the high-quality standards of evaluation remain in place to ensure candidates meet the necessary requirements. The SOO examination will continue to include:
- Extensive planning and the leveraging of internal and external subject matter experts’ knowledge
- Structured development and design of SOO examination questions (cases) and approval by the Committee on Examinations – Family Medicine
- Oversight by the Board of Examinations and Certification
- Use of experienced examiners who serve an integrated role as patient and assessor
- Training sessions for examiners
- Exam calibration
Have examination fees changed as a result of the shift to a virtual format?Approved examination fees did not change as a result of the shift to a virtual format. Fees are subject to an annual review.
Is there a limit to how many people can sit the examination?The CFPC has secured sufficient places to accommodate all candidates who apply and qualify to take the virtual SOO examination.
Will the CFPC offer the virtual SOO examination more frequently?There are no plans to offer the virtual SOO more frequently than in past years. Spring and fall sittings will continue for the foreseeable future.
Will the virtual SOO examination be recorded? If so, will I be allowed to access the recordings?As of the 2022 examination sessions, and in accordance with the examination terms and conditions to which candidates agree at the time of application, the virtual SOO examinations will be recorded for purposes of quality assurance and improvement, exam security, and non-nominal and anonymized data for research. Recordings may also be used in connection with investigations of any alleged examination irregularity, disruption, or misconduct as well as any request for reconsideration and/or subsequent appeal, or allegations of irregular behaviour, including misconduct.
Recordings will not be used for the purpose of rescoring an examination. Candidates will not be allowed access to the recordings.
Pre-Exam and Preparation
What is a virtual SOO examination?A virtual SOO examination is administered through remote proctoring.
With remote proctoring, you take the examination (structure, format, and length) online in a quiet, secure place of your choosing and at your own computer instead of travelling to an examination centre.
Exam proctors confirm candidate identity, monitor the examination, and as an enhanced security measure, observe candidate sessions randomly at any or all examination stations. Once candidate identities are confirmed, candidates will not be able to see or hear proctors.
Will the SOO continue to be delivered in a virtual format?The CFPC currently has no plans to return to in-person examinations. It is unlikely that future certification examinations will be offered without the use of computer-assisted technology.
Where will I take the virtual SOO examination?You can sit the examination at a place of your choosing (for example, your home or work environment). Examination centres are no longer available, nor are you required to attend one to complete the virtual SOO.
It is your responsibility to ensure that the location you choose is private, undisturbed, and appropriate for taking a certification examination. You must be alone in the room for the entire duration of the exam, including the time within each station when the examiner is marking the encounter. You should not speak with anyone other than the examiners and examination proctors/personnel until your examination is completed and has been submitted. The exam is expected to take approximately 2.5 hours. Candidates must ensure they have a reliable Internet connection that is not compromised by institutional firewalls, such as those commonly found in academic institutions and other major public and private organizations.
Candidates should also ensure that there is adequate and appropriate lighting in the room to ensure that the proctors and examiners can see their faces and facial expressions.
I do not have a stable Internet connection or a quiet place in my home to take the virtual SOO examination. What are my options?The examination can be taken at any location of the candidate’s choosing—home, workplace, educational institution, hotel, etc.—where a private, comfortable, and confidential environment can be assured. Given that candidates must use their own electronic devices to participate in the examination, obtaining a reliable laptop computer is advisable to allow for location flexibility in the event a planned or preferred site becomes unavailable.
Candidates are cautioned to ensure Internet connectivity is not compromised by institutional firewalls, such as those commonly found in academic institutions and other major public and private organizations.
Device and system requirements are listed in the Candidate Technical User Guide.
How do I schedule my virtual SOO examination?Approximately four to six weeks prior to the virtual SOO examination, each registered candidate will receive an email from the CFPC with their assigned date.
Five days prior to the virtual SOO examination, each registered candidate will receive an email from the CFPC with their login credentials and start time.
The CFPC will use the email address on file. Remember to check your spam folder if needed.
Can I request a specific exam date or time?Depending on the session, the virtual SOO examination may be held on multiple days, during one or two weekends. Candidates registering for the examination must be prepared to take the SOO exam on any of the published dates for the session.
If I don’t like my scheduled date and time, can I request a change?Once candidates are assigned to an examination date, there is little if any room for change in the schedule. Candidates registering for the examination must be prepared to take the SOO exam on any of the published dates for the session. In the event of a significant conflict impacting the candidate’s ability to take the exam on a specific date or weekend, they are advised to notify the CFPC in writing as soon as possible and ideally at the time of application. The CFPC staff will do its best to accommodate the request; however, this cannot be guaranteed.
When will I know the time at which I will be expected to log in/connect for the examination?Approximately five days prior to the virtual SOO examination, each registered candidate will receive an email from the CFPC with their login credentials and start time.
Please log in precisely at your instructed time to allow for the check-in process, including identity validation, before your first SOO encounter starts. Attempting to log in earlier than instructed may result in an error message; logging in later than instructed may impact the required check-in process and may, in turn, result in lost exam time.
What equipment do I need to take the virtual SOO examination?To sit the examination, you must have a laptop or desktop computer that is equipped with a built-in or external camera and microphone. You must also have a reliable Internet connection. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are not suitable for this examination.
Only one screen/monitor must be functional. The use of multiple screens is not permitted.
You may keep your mobile phone in the same room, fully charged in the event it must be accessed for login or other technical support purposes only. It is advised you disable notification alerts to avoid any unwanted distractions during the exam. Please note your phone can be located in the same room but it is not permitted on or immediately adjacent to your person, chair or computer work surface during the exam. Once you have logged into the examination, you may not use your phone during any part of the exam, including each virtual SOO’s marking time, unless needed for technical support.
What are the technical requirements for taking the virtual SOO examination?The following technical requirements are necessary to ensure full functionality of the examination management application (Practique) and facilitate an optimal candidate experience:
- Web browser (Chrome, Firefox, or Safari) with pop-ups enabled
- Sufficient hard drive storage space, minimum 20 GB free space on PC/laptop
- 8 GB of memory is recommended, but 4 GB is minimum
- Operating system: Windows 7 for PC and 10.15 for Mac; Linux does not meet requirements
- Your Internet speed must be 0.5 Mbps upload and 1.6 Mbps download
What software program is used to run the virtual SOO examination?We have partnered with a reputable, international software company to facilitate the administration of the virtual SOO using a web-based platform called Practique. The vendor (risr/) offers a robust examination management application with proven success in Canada and abroad. The software allows audio and visual interaction between candidates and examiners and the use of other examination materials to assist with the oral simulation of clinical cases. The application, which was successfully used for the first virtual SOO in the fall 2021 session, also allows for the use of proctors to facilitate examination security.
Does the CFPC provide instructional material to help me familiarize myself with the virtual SOO examination platform?Yes. The CFPC provides resources to familiarize candidates with the examination experience, including:
- Candidate guide
- Instructional videos
- Sample virtual SOO encounter
- Simulated office oral overview and Q & A (webinar)
What can I expect after I log in to my virtual SOO examination?After successfully logging in at the assigned time, there will be a waiting period until your examination starts. Once you have logged in, you must remain visible at your computer until the waiting period is over and your exam starts. You are not permitted to leave the room or access your phone, other websites, or online or paper materials.
Prior to starting your first SOO encounter an examination proctor will validate your identity. At this time, you will need to present your current passport or driver’s license.
What will happen if I am unexpectedly delayed and do not log into the examination at the scheduled time?It is expected that candidates log in to the examination at their instructed login time as indicated in the email notification from the CFPC, sent approximately five days before their exam. The virtual SOO examination uses a synchronous start—all candidates in a session commence and rotate through each station at the same time. This configuration does not allow for late starts.
Please plan ahead to ensure that you are able to log in on time. This will allow for time to deal with any unforeseen login issues, validation of your identity, and a smooth start for you and all candidates in your session. If you experience any login or technical issues on exam day, please call 1-800-387-6197 (choose option 1 for English or option 2 for French, then choose option 4 for examinations).
Candidates whose first SOO encounter is impacted by a late login will not be provided with additional time and may not be able to start the exam.
When and how will you validate my identity for taking the virtual SOO examination?All candidates are required to provide visual evidence of their identity at the beginning of the SOO examination. This will be facilitated by an examination proctor. Only government-issued identification that includes your picture will be accepted. Permitted forms of identification are:
- A current passport
- A current driver’s license
What will happen if an examiner does not show up?The CFPC understands that unforeseen circumstances do occur despite best efforts in the planning for, and participation in, virtual SOO examinations. Examiners may be delayed in accessing the system or unable to take part in the examination entirely. To manage the risk of this occurring, the CFPC has recruited additional trained examiners who serve in a standby role and are prepared and available on immediate notice to fill any vacant examiner positions. This ensures that the examination can be completed as scheduled.
What will happen if I know my examiner?A candidate-examiner relationship may occasionally constitute a conflict of interest. The CFPC completes comprehensive checks regarding examiner-candidate pairings to ensure that no genuine conflicts of interest exist, and the examination can be conducted without any relationship bias.
Examples of conflict of interest are:
- Being related to each other, including being a spouse
- Being a close friend
- Having a financial or business relationship with each other
- Having an ongoing learner-supervisor relationship where a pass/fail decision is involved
In the event that you are assigned an examiner with whom you have a genuine conflict of interest, you should immediately inform the examiner that you have a conflict. The examiner will notify the exam administrators, who will inform you of next steps.
What am I allowed to do or have with me during my virtual SOO examination?You may:
- Take notes using the electronic (digital) notepad available within the examination platform (Practique). All digital notes created by a candidate will be erased automatically at the end of each station. You are not allowed to take notes using pen and paper.
- Make a request to the examiner at the start of the 12-minute marking time if you need to use the washroom
- Have a drink with you, visible at the location of your computer, provided it is in a clear container.
What am I NOT allowed to do or have with me during my virtual SOO examination?Although you may be sitting the examination in your own home, the same requirements of professional conduct apply as if you were taking the exam at a test centre. The examiner or proctor may stop any candidate suspected of misconduct, issue a warning during the examination, and, if necessary, expel the candidate from the examination.
Failure to follow the on-screen instructions and rules may be grounds for a finding of misconduct.
Examples of offences include:
- Moving out of the examiner’s sight without approval
- Having unexpected external events occur, such as another person entering the room and/or speaking with another person directly or through the use of an electronic device
- Using or possessing prohibited items such as books, notes, or additional electronic equipment. This includes looking at your phone, smartwatch, another device, or a second screen while you wait for your next SOO station to begin.
- Having other software or applications open on your computer
- Helping or receiving help from another candidate or person
- Writing down notes on pen and paper
- Writing down or otherwise attempting to capture any details of the exam questions
All candidates agree to the examination’s code of conduct at the time of application.
What can I do and not do during the marking time after each SOO encounter?After each 15-minute SOO encounter and before moving on to the next SOO station, there is a 12-minute period during which the examiner marks the encounter. During marking time, the candidate:
- May not access their phone (unless needed for technical support), smartwatch, other device, any website, or other written material
- May not type or write down any information
- May not read any information other than what is on the Practique screen
- May not contact or speak with another candidate or person
- Must remain at their computer station, visible on-screen (although candidates may not see the examiner while they are marking, both the examiner and exam proctor are able to see the candidate)
- Must make a request to the examiner, at the start of the 12-minute marking time, if they need to use the washroom
What’s the procedure for continuing the virtual SOO examination after taking a break during a marking time?A further identity check with passport or driver’s license may be required following a washroom break.
The examination timer will not stop during the marking time, and your next encounter will start immediately afterward.
Will I be able to go back to previous cases to contribute additional information to my responses when taking the virtual SOO examination?A return to previous cases is not permitted. Once you finish a simulated case that encounter will be locked and, after the examiner’s marking time, you and all other candidates will be moved automatically to the next station or case.
What if my Internet connection drops during the examination?If your connection drops momentarily, you will be reconnected and able to resume your exam. Immediate technical support is available, if required. However, it is your responsibility to ensure that your Internet connection is reliable enough for you to complete the examination. If in doubt, you should take steps ahead of the exam to improve your connection or arrange to sit the exam in a location with a more reliable Internet connection.
The Practique platform is designed in such a way that the 15 minutes of administration time (SOO encounter) is not reduced if the candidate or examiner is temporarily disconnected. Upon reconnection, the time in the yellow ribbon will restart where it left off when the disconnection occurred. To ensure all candidates’ stations end at the same time and maintain the overall exam schedule, the examiner marking period will be reduced by an amount of time equivalent to the disconnection time. For this reason, the timer in the blue ribbon at the top of the screen will not stop or be reset.
In the event of multiple or prolonged disconnections during a SOO encounter, the SOO station may be stopped and rescheduled to after the candidate’s last SOO station.
What do I do if I have technical difficulties?If you encounter technical difficulties accessing the examination management application Practique, there are a few simple troubleshooting suggestions you can try to establish a connection, in the following order:
- Refresh your browser
- Disconnect and reconnect the Wi-Fi on your computer
- Reboot the router
- Please also ensure that you have correctly entered the web address (URL/link) and login credentials (username and password) for Practique, as per the information sent to you prior to the examination
- Chat: Please use the chat function after you have logged in successfully and are within the examination management application Practique
- Phone: Only call if you are unable to access Practique*: 1-800-387-6197 (choose option 1 for English or option 2 for French, then choose option 4 for examinations)
If I experience a major technical issue that does not allow me to complete the examination on my assigned date and time will I be rescheduled?We will do all we can to support you in completing your exam. In the event of a significant issue that cannot be resolved, we will provide you with your options at that time.
Candidates are responsible for ensuring they have good Internet connection and the required equipment to take the exam. You can find more details on this in our Candidate Technical User Guide.