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With thousands of applicants worldwide currently filling in their forms to apply for a foundation job in the UK, the question remains how to reliably distinguish between so many high scoring, high achieving, and competitive candidates?
Currently the form allows candidates to score a maximum of 100 points; 50 of which come from five white space questions, which are short answer questions around scenarios commonly encountered by junior doctors. Candidates must not only answer the question in less than 200 words but also demonstrate they meet the criteria laid out in the UK Foundation Programme Office person specification. Whilst allowing a degree of individual expression in a process otherwise devoid of personality, the questions have left candidates resorting to plagiarism, collusion, and paying to go on courses coaching students in how to answer the questions to score maximum marks.
Concerns about such unfair practices have led to the white space questions being scrapped next year, in favour of a situational judgement test. This consists of a one hour invigilated test, comprising 30 multiple choice questions around how you would react to different situations junior doctors commonly find themselves in. This method means students cannot prepare in advance, minimising the potential for cheating amongst applicants.
But, is a multiple choice exam really better at distinguishing the best candidates from the rest?