Assessments are an essential part of university life. The responsibility of medical schools is particularly great when it comes to assessing students, because medical schools are entrusted by the public and the regulator to produce not just knowledgeable but capable and safe doctors. Assessment is therefore an important tool in both monitoring the progress of students and demonstrating that graduates are of the standard required to practise medicine.
Ensuring the validity and reliability of medical assessments is a complex task. They come in various forms, from online assessments to practical clinical examinations, and each type requires specific expertise to make it rigorous and fair.
Variation and collaboration
Medical school assessments must address the required educational outcomes set by the General Medical Council in Outcomes for graduates (previously Tomorrow’s Doctors). Beyond these minimum outcomes, each medical school is free to set its own curricular and assessment aims. This variation is important to the quality and innovation for which UK medical education is known globally. At the same time, medical schools always seek to provide greater public assurance that new doctors are of the highest quality.
This led to the Medical Schools Council becoming involved with assessment in two ways. The first is through its Assessment Alliance, which has signalled an unprecedented level of collaboration between medical schools in developing assessment questions and sharing of best practice. The second is in the creation and running of national assessments which are taken by all medical students.
By working together, medical schools are continuing to repay the public’s confidence in UK medical education – while preserving the independence which has made that education great.