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ASCO Oncology Exam Tests Fellows' Competencies

-- Eric Metcalf

Friday, February 20, 2009

FRIDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- The development of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 200-question Medical Oncology In-Training Examination required four years and contributions from a testing organization and volunteer question-writers, according to an overview of the process published online Feb. 17 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Frances A. Collichio, M.D., of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and colleagues write that the goals of the examination included assessing strengths and weaknesses in individual programs and creating a tool to improve training. The exam used case-based clinical vignettes with a single best answer format.

Working with the National Board of Medical Examiners, ASCO assembled a group of physicians to write questions. These covered matters including legal and ethical issues, basic science principles, and specific cancer types. The first examination was given in February 2008 to more than 1,000 test-takers, roughly evenly divided between first-, second-, and third-year fellows.

"In a 2008 ASCO survey of training program directors conducted before the examination results were disseminated, 78 percent of the program directors who responded (N=102) placed a high value on the ITE (in-training examination). In an informal survey posted on ASCO's program director Listserv, several program directors said they appreciated the examination, and they were using the results to redirect program activities. For example, a number of programs saw poor examination results in gynecologic oncology. These programs plan to improve exposure and didactic teaching in this area," the authors write.

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