Setting the standard: How does the MCC establish the pass score for an examination?

We recognize that when an examination determines a professional’s future, a lot depends on the score needed to pass. It sets the standard for physicians in Canada. How is that pass score determined? Who makes that determination?

We recognize that when an examination determines a professional’s future, a lot depends on the score needed to pass. It sets the standard for physicians in Canada. How is that pass score determined? Who makes that determination?

The MCC ensures that the standard is arrived at by a rigorous process that uses best practices and methods accepted worldwide. One of the things we do routinely is to assess what level determines competency and provides regulatory authorities with a standard that we can stand by.

Panels set the standard

The process starts by recruiting panels of physicians from across Canada to take part in a standard-setting exercise. The MCC does not set the standard; the standard is recommended by panels. Such exercises are conducted every three to five years, to reflect the rapid pace at which medicine and medical education evolve. Major changes to examinations can also trigger standard-setting.

To ensure panels are as representative as possible, they are balanced by region, years of practice, specialties, gender, language and whether physicians were trained in Canada or abroad.

The rigorous process for standard-setting offers both patients and candidates confidence in the steps taken. The intent of the MCC examinations is to protect the safety of the public. Candidates can also take comfort in the fact that we use an extremely high-quality process to arrive at this score, and we involve their professors, peers and colleagues to do so.

For more on this topic, read the full article and for detailed information on standard-setting methods, read the most recent technical reports on the exercises for the MCCEE, MCCQE Part I, MCCQE Part II, and NAC Examination.