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Is the MRCPsych fit for purpose?

Lance Vincent Watkins (Learning Disability Directorate, Cardiff, UK)

The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice

ISSN: 1755-6228

Article publication date: 11 September 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine whether the current Royal College of Psychiatrists Membership (MRCPsych) written examination is a suitable assessment tool to distinguish between candidates in a high-stakes examination.


Review of current educational theory and evidence in relation to the use of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) as an assessment form.


When MCQ’s are constructed correctly they provide an efficient and objective assessment tool. However, when developing assessment tools for high-stakes scenarios, it is important that MCQs are used alongside other tests that may scrutinize other aspects of competence. It may be argued that written assessment can only satisfy the first stage of Miller’s pyramid. The evidence outlined demonstrates that this may not be the case and higher order thinking and problem solving can be assessed with appropriately constructed questions. MCQs or any other singular assessment alone, cannot demonstrate clinical competence or mastery.


Increasingly, the MRCPsych examination is used around the world to establish levels of competency and expertise in psychiatry. It is therefore essential that the Royal College of Psychiatrists lead the way in innovation of assessment procedures which are linked to current educational theory. The author has evidenced how the current MRCPsych, may at least in part, hold inherent biases which are not related to a candidate’s competency.



Watkins, L.V. (2017), "Is the MRCPsych fit for purpose?", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 12 No. 5, pp. 331-336.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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