This Post is Part of a Series on All You need to know about the Medical Career Pathway in Australia.
If you search enough on Google and look enough on facebook you will readily find lots of opinions about the Australian Medical Council examinations process. Given that a lot of the readers of this blog are international doctors we wanted to present you with some factual information about the AMC exams. So we have engaged some real doctors who are currently going through or have been through the process.
In relation to the question about how hard the Australian Medical Council Exam is. The answer to this obviously depends on a range of factors, including how much time you put into preparing for the exam and how close your own medical school training is to the Australian context. There are actually two separate exams to complete the AMC. A Part 1 Multiple Choice Exam and a Part 2 Clinical Exam. According to the latest report from the AMC in one year, there were 2663 AMC MCQ (Part 1 Exams) sat with 1,559 candidates passing. That’s a pass rate of about 58%. For the AMC Clinical Exam 597 candidates passed out of 2,165 candidates assessed. That’s less than a 28% pass rate. So we would say that the first part of the AMC exam is fairly hard and the second part is extremely hard.
Read on to find out more about the process of the AMC Exam, including how best to prepare.
Eligibility Requirements for the Australian Medical Council Exam
In order to be able to sit for the AMC Exams you must first establish what is called a portfolio
- You first create a registration with the AMC website.
- You should also check that your medical degree is awarded by an institution recognized by the AMC. The AMC recognizes most but not all medical schools which are listed with the World Directory of Medical Schools. There is a handy search on the AMC site.
- You must then also create an EPIC account and confirm your identity with the ECFMG (located in the United States).
- You get an EPIC id in about 3 working days, which you use to establish your AMC portfolio.
- You upload your qualifications to EPIC. As you do so YOU MUST REQUEST that EPIC send a report to the AMC.
- EPIC notifies you and the AMC when they have completed their check.
This whole process will cost you $500 AUD to register with the AMC and about $205 USD for EPIC (more if you are wanting more than one qualification verified).
Once EPIC reports back in the affirmative to the AMC you will be allowed to request to sit for the AMC Part 1 Examinations.
There is no actual work experience requirement to sit the AMC Part 1 Examination and you can, in fact, start preparing for this whenever you like. But of course, you will not be able to sit the exam without a verified medical degree. So you can start studying for it in medical school but won’t be able to sit it till after you graduate.
The Part 1 MCQ Examination
The AMC Computer Adaptive Test (CAT) MCQ Examination is a computer-administered fully integrated multi-choice question examination delivered in one sitting that lasts 3 and a half hours.
There are regular invigilated examinations in Australia as well as a number of sessions available in examination across the world.
The examination itself consists of 150 “A-type MCQs”. You must select the one correct response from amongst five options. 120 of the questions are “live” questions, which mean they count towards your score. The remaining 30 questions are being piloted and don’t count towards your final score. You do not know which questions are being piloted so you have to give your best for all 150.
You are expected to complete all 150 items and must complete the 120 scored items. Failure to complete all 120 scored items in the examination may lead to insufficient information for a reliable determination of your ability and therefore a result on the AMC adaptive scale.
According to the AMC the MCQ Examination
focuses on basic and applied medical knowledge across a wide range of topics and disciplines, involving understanding of the disease process, clinical examination, diagnosis, investigation, therapy and management, as well as on the candidate’s ability to exercise discrimination, judgment and reasoning in distinguishing between the correct diagnosis and plausible alternatives.AMC MCQ Examination Booklet
So the questions are a mix of more basic knowledge as well as clinically focused. The standard is set at the level of a newly qualified graduate of Australian medical schools, who is about to commence intern training.
The content is “blueprinted” according to patient groups as follows:
|Adult Health (Medicine)||Adult Health (Surgery)||Women’s Health (Obs) (Gyn)||Child Health||Mental Health||Population Health||TOTAL|
There are many different books you can study to pass the exam but there is no right or wrong answer to which book needs to be studied. The AMC has a long list of books and other sources that they recommend for the examination some of which can only be bought in the AMC bookstore.
You may read all the books in this world and still fail or you may read just one book and pass the exam. Many candidates are currently preferring to study John Murtagh’s General Practice book. Along with this it is important to be practising examination questions. So you really should study the Handbook of Multiple Choice Questions with explanations and try to do as many past papers as possible.
Some candidates still prefer to do Kaplan USMLE Step 2 lecture notes in place of John Murtagh. The advantage of Murtagh over Kaplan notes is that Murtagh can be studied for the clinical exam also.
You should practice as many MCQs as you can. There is also an official online practice exam through the AMC website.
Strict Rules For the MCQ Examination
Sitting the AMC Exam involves first registering to do the exam with the AMC and then paying the required fee. You then must register with the exam centre vendor which is currently Pearson-Vue. You have a 12-month authorisation period to select an exam. You can change your exam venue within a limited period of time but once you are locked in it is difficult to alter your date and time.
You need to bring appropriate identification with you on the day.
There are strict rules for the MCQ exam which you must abide by. You should read all the official instructions carefully. You are not allowed to bring tissues (e.g. Kleenex), paper of any kind, pens/pencils, or rulers. Your mobile phone must be switched off and placed in an allocated area of the room. Bags are also placed in the allocated area of the room. Food and drinks are not allowed in the computer examination room.
They provide you with a whiteboard and pen for making notes. The whiteboard is collected by examination supervisors at the completion of the examination.
Family members are not allowed to wait in the examination venue. They must wait outside the building of the examination venue.
Because the MCQ exam is computerized you will receive your result fairly quickly in about 4 weeks. You get a print out which indicates where you performed overall, as well as the range for all candidates appearing for that particular exam. You also get a breakdown of your performance in the question domains. This is useful if you don’t pass to know where to put your efforts next time.
You need to score 250 or more to pass. Less than 60% of candidates pass. Although this score is probably depressed somewhat by those candidates sitting more than once.
It currently costs $2,720 to sit for the MCQ.
The AMC Clinical Examination Part 2
Once you pass AMC MCQ exam, you are then able to appear for the AMC Clinical exam. These are all held in Melbourne at the AMC’s purpose built examination centre.
Clinical Exam Format
The Clinical exam format is a 20-station multidisciplinary structured clinical exam which assesses your skills in Medicine, Surgery, Gynecology and Obstetrics, Pediatrics, and Psychiatry. There are 14 scored stations, 2 pilot (non-scored) stations and 4 rest (non-scored) stations.
As of 2019 the result is graded as either clear pass or clear fail. Prior to this borderline candidates were offered a retest. However, the AMC found that the time between examination and retest was becoming so long that the results were not meaningful.
You must pass 10 or more of the stations to pass the exam. The pass rate is incredibly low. About 28%
It is recommended that you should study the Handbook of Clinical Assessment and practice roleplays as much as you can. You may want to attend a course. Candidates also study different notes such as Karen notes, and the VMPF notes. John Murtagh’s General Practice is also worth revising.
It is extremely wise to form a study group and there are many groups around where you can practice what is called “recalls”, which is when a candidate who has previously sat the exam attempts to reconstruct the station.
The cost of sitting the Clinical Examination is currently $3,530.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What If the AMC does not recognize my medical school?
Answer: It is possible that your school is new or has not been considered by the AMC. Check first that it is on the World Directory of Medical Schools. You can enquire of the AMC if they will accept your school but there is no guarantee.
Question: How often can I sit the MCQ exam?
Answer: As many times as you want. But given its cost, most people try to only sit it once. Like most other exams your chances of passing are best the first time and diminish over time.
Question: How often can I sit the Clinical exam?
Answer: You can sit as many times as you want but there has often been a backlog so the AMC over the years has tended to prioritize newer candidates. Again it costs a lot of money to sit this exam and your chances of passing diminish as you repeat the exercise.
Question: Do you need to clear one of the English language tests, such as IELTS or OET to sit for the AMC MCQ Part 1?
Answer: No. It might be wise to put this off till after you have passed the MCQ Part 1 as there is a time limit over which the result can be accepted.
Question: Do you need to have cleared the English language requirements, such as evidence of comparability or the IELTS or OET to apply for an internship and a work visa?
Answer: Yes, you definitely do. Unless you can prove your English language proficiency in other ways, which is normally difficult for most IMGs.
Question: How high should you score in your English test?
Answer: From a regulatory point of view an overall band score of 7.0. with a minimum of 7.0 in each component is required for the IELTS. Similarly, for the OET, an overall score of B and a minimum of score B in all four components is required. However, many employers will look at these results and look for candidates with even better scores than the minimum.
Question: Do you need to clear the AMC Clinical Exam Part 2 to apply for a position?
Answer: No you don’t. But if you get a position prior to completing your Part 2, you will have to clear it as part of your provisional registration before you can apply for general registration. Generally speaking candidates with both AMC Part 1 and 2 are preferred by employers. over just Part 1.
Question: Are their alternatives to the AMC Exam process?
Answer: For an IMG coming through the Standard Pathway there is no alternative to sitting the MCQ.
If you don’t wish to come through the Standard Pathway then your only other options are to try to gain full registration in one of the other competent authority pathway countries first, for e.g. completed the PLAB in the UK. But if your ultimate goal is to work in Australia then this is really delaying things.
In relation to the clinical examinations, you may be eligible to undertake a workplace-based assessment as an alternative to the AMC Clinical Examination if you are able to gain a position at one of the 10 services which are authorised by the AMC to conduct a workplace-based assessment for the AMC Certificate.
Services which offer Workplace Based Assessment
Local Health District
|Gosford and Wyong,|
New South Wales
|Flinders Rural Health SA||Mount Gambier Hospital,|
|Hunter New England Local Health District||Newcastle, Armidale and Tamworth,|
New South Wales
|Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District||ISLHD Hospitals,|
New South Wales
|Launceston General Hospital||Launceston General Hospital;|
North West Regional Hospital,
Burnie; and Royal Hobart Hospital,
|Mid North Coast Local Health District||Kempsey District Hospital (with some support from Port Macquarie Base Hospital), New South Wales|
|Rural and Outer Metropolitan United Alliance (ROMUA)||Goulburn Valley Health, Shepparton,|
|WA Country Health Service||Bunbury, Geraldton and Kalgoorlie,|
|Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service||Hervey Bay and Maryborough Hospitals,|
|South West Sydney Local Health District||Campbelltown Hospital|