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Medical Schools Council Assessment Alliance Common Content project


To realise patient safety and fairness for students, the passing standard set for graduation-level examinations should be equivalent across all UK medical schools. As part of its evidence-gathering process in determining the shape of the new UK Medical Licensing Assessment, The General Medical Council asked the Medical Schools Council Assessment Alliance to provide evidence as to the extent of comparability of such passing standards for graduation-level written examinations.

Policy and Practice Partners:

Medical Schools Council Assessment Alliance

General Medical Council

UK Medical Schools

Co-Funding partners:

Medical Schools Council Assessment Alliance

Aims and Objectives:

The aim of this project is to compare the passing standard set for a common set of written examination questions (in single best answer format) when used at different UK medical schools as part of their graduation-level examinations.


A repeated cross-sectional study was performed, undertaken each academic year from 2012/13 to 2020/21. The first two years of the study were used as pilots to establish an appropriate and acceptable method. Between 50 and 105 “common content” single best answer questions were provided to each participating UK medical school each academic year. Schools could choose which items to include in their examinations. Schools used their own standard setting processes and returned data on the standard set for each item. Data on student performance were returned so that overall item quality could be evaluated. Data on standards were analysed using a linear mixed model to account for missing data, to determine if the difference in the passing standard set for the group of common content items was equivalent across participating schools.

Main Results:

Please refer to publication



Please refer to publication


Implications for Implementation:

Schools are provided with feedback on how their passing standard relates to those set by other participating schools.

The GMC are now developing the UK Medical Licencing Assessment, and the methods used in this project will feed into their piloting processes.






Taylor, C.A., Gurnell, M., Melville, C.R., Kluth, D.C., Johnson, N. and Wass, V. (2017), Variation in passing standards for graduation-level knowledge items at UK medical schools. Med Educ, 51: 612-620.

Fri 10 Sep 2021, 15:26 | Tags: Celia Brown Methodology