The role of the examinations for membership of the Royal College of Pathologists (MRCPath) has evolved and matured over the 42 years of their existence. No longer viewed as the sole hurdle or ordeal to be overcome at the boundary between training and consultant practice, they have now taken their place as one of several assessments that enable a judgement that a pathologist possesses the competencies required for independent professional practice. For the specialty of Chemical Pathology, these competencies are defined in the Curriculum for Specialist Training in Chemical Pathology by the Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath), through its Joint Committee on Pathology Training. This curriculum has undergone extensive revision in the last five years to conform to a modern competency based model of medical education with clearly defined learning outcomes. The UK Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB) has approved this Curriculum, and has also begun the process of approval of all College assessment processes, including examinations, for all the specialties for which the College has responsibility for training. The Chemical Pathology Curriculum divides training into four Stages (A to D), and the two parts of the MRCPath examination are integral to progression between stages in that trainees must pass Part 1 before progressing to Stage C and Part 2 before progressing to Stage D. Another important recent development, espoused for all medical specialties by PMETB, is the process of workplace-based assessment (including directly observed practical skills (DOPS)).4 Workplace-based assessment is developing as a formalised method of competency assessment that will complement summative assesement by examination. and provide additional evidence towards certification of completion of training (CCT). A final key concept is that of blueprinting, whereby the Curriculum is referenced to General Medical Council principles (Good Medical Practice)5 together with definition of how each element of the curriculum is to be assessed (e.g. in which part of the MRCPath examination, or as workplace-based assessment).
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