COVID-19 - FAQs on anaesthesia exams for 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has already had a major impact on where and when we run our exams.

Dates and locations for the primary and final exam are listed on the anaesthesia exams page

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions in relation to our exams recognising that further changes may be required should the COVID-19 pandemic create circumstances beyond our control.

General questions

Why is ANZCA running exams this year?

We know that the majority of trainees are eager to progress through the training program in spite of difficulties created by the pandemic, so enabling this to happen is a priority for ANZCA.

We have a responsibility to assist those candidates from the first sitting in 2020 to complete their exams. 

The reasons for continuing with the second sitting are twofold. The first is the desire of the candidates to progress, and we acknowledge the hard work and sacrifices already undertaken by them. The second focus is that of potential workforce congestion and the difficulties that will develop across Australia and New Zealand should exams not occur and progression be restricted.

Does ANZCA have a plan to conduct regional viva exams in place of a central exam?

If exams in Sydney and Melbourne are not possible due to travel and/or quarantine restrictions a regional approach may be implemented. This will require exams to be conducted in each state and New Zealand. The ability to do this is dependent on the number of examiners available. Delivery of regional exams may require some vivas to be delayed and a “rolling schedule” conducted. Every effort will be made for candidates to be able to complete exams. The decision on whether or not to expand into regional areas rather than in Sydney and Melbourne will be made on 31 August 2020 or earlier. It is anticipated that the Auckland exams will go ahead as planned.

If we had regional exams would trainees be examined by the same examiner for multiple viva stations?

The examination sub-committees are planning for multiple examiners to be available in each state should this be a required exam method. We will explore enlisting the help of recently retired examiners to assist, and will aim to have multiple examiners so that candidates are not examined by the same examiner more than once. This may not always be possible. It is a requirement within the primary exam that candidates are examined by two examiners and this requirement will be maintained regardless of the examination process adopted.

Why is ANZCA not using an online solution for the viva exams?

We have explored a number of options for holding viva exams online, either fully or in part. While we have made the decision not to adopt the implementation of online vivas for everyone in 2020 there may be circumstances for this to occur, and it may be introduced in 2021. 

The examination sub-committees feel that a large-scale implementation of online vivas would potentially impact on the integrity of the exam through, for example, potential technology interruptions for either the examiner or candidate. This is deemed a very high risk

Candidates are also often required to draw images, analyse and describe investigations and are asked clarifying questions based on what they present. This may create difficulties if vivas are online. However, ANZCA is confident that a modified online/virtual viva could be implemented if absolutely necessary whilst maintaining our high standards.  

Does ANZCA have sufficient examiners to conduct all the viva exams?

There are enough examiners for primary and final viva exams in a central location in October and again for the primary viva exam in November. 

There would not be sufficient local examiners should a regional approach be required for either exams. Solutions being explored include rolling exams over an extended period of weeks. Logistics associated with this approach would be released as soon as practical.

Are all trainees guaranteed of completing the viva in 2020?

It is possible that not all trainees will complete the viva in 2020 should the pandemic cause the situation to deteriorate and create circumstances beyond our control. Our priority is to allow primary and final first sitting (20.1) candidates to complete their exams. Should the situation deteriorate and exam schedules need to alter, and if you are in a state that does not have the examiner capacity to deliver local vivas, there is a possibility your viva may be delayed, possibly into 2021. However, It is our intent to deliver the exams in 2020 if at all possible. There are sufficient examiners to examine New Zealand candidates in both primary and final exams in October 2020.

Can trainees sit both first sitting vivas and the second sitting exam?

No, a candidate can only be actively sitting one exam at a time. 

Is it a failed attempt if you are unable to attend the exam due to travel or health issues?

ANZCA is considering whether those who have had a delay in the first sitting (20.1) viva as a direct result of COVID-19 would have this attempt included in their total sitting number if they were unsuccessful. It likely an additional attempt would be permitted for this cohort of trainees only. It is anticipated that an ANZCA Council decision regarding this will be released shortly.

Up to what date can a trainee withdraw from the second sitting of the exam?

The dates for withdrawal from the primary and final exams for the second sitting are located on the Anaesthesia exam page.

Should there be an exceptional circumstance requiring you to withdraw after the cut-off date, you should contact the Primary exam or Final exam team seeking clarification regarding withdrawing without penalty

Primary exam

Is the November viva exam sitting in Melbourne necessary?

The November viva exams are necessary as there have been a higher number of applications for the second exam sitting than can be accommodated with the number of examiners potentially examining both 20.1 and 20.2 sittings. We expect there may be more candidates invited to the viva than can be catered for with the number of examiners we have.

The decision for an additional viva sitting in Melbourne takes into account current travel restrictions and infection rates in Victoria. 

Is the November exam in Melbourne only for Victorians?

The November exam in Melbourne is for Victorian candidates and any others who are unable to complete their viva in October due to illness or other extenuating circumstances that may occur immediately prior to the October exam.

Final exam

Will ANZCA consider conducting the final written exam at more sites?

ANZCA is planning to hold written exams at additional sites for the final exam. This has resulted from candidates not needing to attend a medical clinical exam. 
The additional sites will be restricted to venues that now host the primary written exams. This will help ensure the exam protocols are adhered to.


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Last updated 15:22 7.08.2020