Study tip – interpreting examiner reports

The examiner report for an exam is an aid to study. Today I’ll try to give you some insight into what the examiner is thinking when they write them so you can put your own use into context.

The report for each question is written by the examiner who marked that question, so there will be variability between question reports in any paper. The exam report is usually written just after marking the papers, and while examiners mark they’ll usually keep notes of what people are struggling with. Many reports become an example of reporting by exception – the key points that everyone has gotten right aren’t mentioned, just the ones that everyone hasn’t. The examiner may also feel that it is not worth adding factual material which is well covered in the books – as it is well covered in the books.

Over the years there has been a spectrum of interference by the exam chair regards editing of the reports. So sometimes the examiner’s disappointment has shone through, particularly in the clinically relevant questions where it seems many candidates have not been able to apply science to everyday practice. Remember, the examiners are clinicians who consciously apply the primary material to their work every day which is a major reason why they find the material so interesting and memorable.

I would recommend you therefore read the examiner reports in the context of what you have learnt from other sources on the topic. They are not model answers.


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