Australian trainee doctors to get $1.6 million payout over bungled exam

Hundreds of junior doctors in Australia will be refunded almost US$1.6 million they had collectively paid for an exam after it was botched by computer glitches.

Five hours into the recent test – which takes the best part of a day and for which people prepare for up to 18 months – computers began to malfunction, leading to distressed and angry medical graduates. They were told they would have to resit the exam on March 2.

“This is an exam that some people have studying for years for, and for it to come apart at the last minute because of a technical glitch without a backup system in place is incredibly distressing for these trainees,” said Dr John Zorbas, Chairman of the Australian Medical Association Council of Doctors in Training, as quoted by ABC News.

The exam determines whether somebody who has completed medical training is ready to go on to become a physician or paediatrician. It has been described as “like the hardest, broadest university-level final exam you have ever sat.”

Testing company Pearson Vue will now refund the AU$1,800 (US$1,400) per person – the fee required in order to sit the exam, reported The Age.

A statement from the Royal Australiasian College of Physicians (RACP), which runs the exam, said that “last week, the RACP requested an explanation from Pearson Vue detailing the cause of the exam computer shut down.”

“Pearson Vue’s preliminary view was that it related to human error in the quality assurance phase of the exam set up,” it said.

For many, however, the refund may not be enough.

“Candidates were seen outside examination venues crying, distressed, struggling to come to terms with the fact that what was meant to be an evening of relief, was one of more anxiety and uncertainty,” wrote one junior doctor anonymously, as quoted by ABC News.

Sanj Mudaliar, a doctor who completed the RACP examinations in 2017, wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald last week that a computer glitch in the “hardest exam of your life is unforgivable”.

“It is the final hurdle, the finish line, what many see – correctly or incorrectly – as the point where they can stop striving for a life and start actually living one,” he said. “Holidays, weddings, even births, have all been put on hold, planned around this last brutal test.”

A typical Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) in Australia will take four to six years to complete. Students then enter a medical specialty (such as general practice), and this postgraduate study will take an additional three to five years.

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