Specialty Certificate Examination (SCE)

The Specialty Certificate Examination or SCE (formerly known as KBA or Knowledge Based Assessment) is now a compulsory component of assessment for Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) for all UK respiratory trainees whose specialist training began in or after August 2007.

The SCE meets requirements for knowledge based assessments that are a part of the curricula developed by the Specialist Advisory Committees (SACs). UK trainees who have completed MRCP(UK) would normally take the Specialty SCE  during higher specialist training, and should have made at least one attempt by the time of their penultimate year assessment. The SCE is a prerequisite for attainment of the CCT. The first Respiratory SCE took place on Wednesday 22 April 2009.

The 2018 SCE examination takes place on Wednesday 3 October 2018.  Further information about the examination and the registration process is available on the SCE website - see link below.

All UK trainees who have obtained MRCP(UK) are eligible to take the SCE. UK trainees who are in a higher specialist training post but do not hold the MRCP(UK) are also eligible. Candidates who pass the SCE will be awarded a 'Certificate in Respiratory Medicine'. All UK trainees with a 'Certificate in Respiratory Medicine who are recommended to GMC by the JRCPTB for a CCT will be entitled to apply to the Federation of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the UK for the post-nominal 'MRCP(Respiratory Medicine)'.

Guidance for Candidates

BTS is keen to give up-to-date information and support and advice about the SCE and  the exam in particular. The following guidance has been provided by Dr Adam Hill and Dr Ian Coutts, current and past Chair of the Respiratory SCE Board respectively. For the time being, there is an annual diet each year. From 2013, the examination is held in October in order that the BTS Summer Meeting can help prepare you for this examination. There are two papers each lasting 3 hours.  Each paper has 100 questions. In each question there should be five plausible answers and you have to select the answer that is most likely to be correct. This replaces the old true/false questions which are less discriminatory. There is no negative marking.

How are the questions created?

There is a complex process which we will summarise below. The Specialist Question Writing Group (SQG) creates a bank of questions for the exam. The questions are based on the core Respiratory Curriculum. This group meet up, peer review the questions and check the correct answer.  These then get checked by the college for formatting and that the questions are written in the correct style.  If there are major changes, these questions will be resubmitted to the next SQG meeting. There becomes a bank of available questions and from this bank, the secretary of the SCE examination board selects questions for the examination. We then have an examination board meeting where we review all the questions, check the images or results, check they are appropriate for the examination and once again check on the correct answer. Following this, the final process is the Standard Setting Group - this is the group that creates the pass mark for the examination. This group review the papers set by the examination board and once again check that it is appropriate for the examination and agree on the correct answer.  Members of this group have to estimate what percentage of the just passing candidate will pass the question and after statistical analysis a pass mark is made for the exam. There is a pass mark (mean) but we have a potential range of pass marks (standard deviation), so the passmark can be adjusted to allow an appropriate number of candidates to pass. The aim is that we have an 80% or greater pass rate with the exam - we want you to pass! Sample questions are listed under Related Documents, providing a blueprint of the examination to give a flavour of the split of questions used.

When to sit the exam?

The examination is set at the level of a newly appointed Consultant. It is recommended you sit the examination in your penultimate year i.e. ST6 or above. Sitting it earlier is not advised as you will not have had enough experience to date.

Tips on how to prepare for the exam

  • Work hard.
  • Read the respiratory curriculum
  • Attend MDM meetings in the various specialty blocks.
  • Interpret lung function tests including spirometry, flow volume loops, full pulmonary function tests, exercise physiology and arterial blood gases.
  • Interpret chest radiology including chest radiography, CT scanning and PET scanning.
  • Read all the Guidelines by the British Thoracic Society and guidelines from other Societies such as the European and American Thoracic Societies.
  • Read the key Respiratory Journals and keep up-to-date, for example the Amercian Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Thorax, European Respiratory Journal, CHEST and many others.
  • Read relevant guidelines from NICE and SIGN.
  • Attend BTS Short Courses.
  • In certain areas, reading books can be very helpful and Thorax review new books.

The key advice if you are weak in certain areas, work at it and via multiple sources (e.g. short courses, guidelines, reading, talking with your educational supervisor) - you can master it!

The article "How to pass the SCE" by Dr John Mucklow, Associate Medical Director for the SCE, February 2010 is available from the Related Links list.

In addition, there is a revision tool available on the Learning Hub area of the website.  The questions from recent BTS SCE courses and a mock exam are available.

If you have any queries please contact: bts@brit-thoracic.org.uk