Second year medical exams have been surrounded by controversy again this year, after complaints that unhelpful phrasing, obscure content and inclusion of material not on the syllabus made them even more difficult.
The exams, known as 1st BM Part 2, take place after the end of Hilary, and candidates are due to receive their results this week.
The controversial questions, which appeared in the multiple choice section of the paper, asked the student to identify the incorrect or least likely answer rather than the correct one.
One second year medic, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “This made it incredibly easy to misread almost every question.’ Another pointed out that ‘the point of the examination [is] to test our core medical knowledge, not our grammar!”
A further objection was at the alleged inclusion of ‘extension’ material in the multiple choice sections. These are only meant to test a tightly-specified syllabus of ‘core’ knowledge, and typically carry a pass mark of 80% for each question.
Yet students claim that a significant amount of extension material was included in the examinations.
One question in particular, covering the mechanisms of diuretic drugs, asked for information that candidates claim was specifically excluded from the syllabus.
The University Press Office responded to the allegations, saying that if students were concerned, “There is a procedure for them to raise these concerns with the Proctors through their colleges. None of the First BM Part 2 candidates has done so.”
However at least two students, including Richard Rosch, a Magdalen second year, have instead contacted the Medical Sciences Teaching Centre directly.
The senior clerical officer, Ashley Morely, said that their complaints “may be reviewed during the post examination meeting.”
Last year students were unhappy about the content on the multiple choice sections, especially in the general pathology and microbiology paper. “Some of the questions [in this paper] were unbelievably obscure,” said one third year. “I remember everyone was very angry.”
A summary of the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) report for that year admits “general unhappiness” about the issue.
The examiners defended their position, claiming that while some of the “distracter answers” may have been off-syllabus, this was not the case for any correct answers.
However the examiners’ report for the 2007 papers shows that they lowered the pass mark for a large number of questions in the pathology paper, judging that it was too high for eight out of the sixteen questions.