ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) has set up centres in wedding halls for holding Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT) across the country.

An official of the PMC said the project of establishing 21 exclusive examination centres was in the pipeline but it was a time consuming endeavour.

The PMC had collaborated with a company named SOAR Education (Private) Limited after evaluating proposals and credentials of 14 companies to set up a computer-based examination system.

“The system will also provide online results immediately and allow forwarding of results to medical and dental colleges as well as providing mock tests for students to prepare for the exams. PMC requires the examination system on a long-term basis to conduct its MDCAT, National Licensing Exams (NLE) and National Examination Board (NEB) exams as well as revalidation exams in the future,” a statement issued by PMC said.

“It was therefore necessary to establish independent centres to ensure a controlled environment and absolute security to guarantee the integrity of the exam and flexibility of scheduling, which was not possible in the other proposals received, based on sharing for a short period existing facilities such as computer labs at colleges and universities,” the statement added.

“The computer-based examination system project being set up by PMC in collaboration with SOAR is a state of the art first time facility in Pakistan and PMC has already offered to the Ministry of Education and HEC the facility for use for other public exams. PMC shall also receive a share from any revenue generated from other use of these examination centres,” it added.

However, a student, requesting not to be quoted, said as halls were not available in some cities, some of candidates had been advised to go to other provinces to appear in the test.

A faculty member of a medical college said that the PMC had claimed that the testing company will provide independent centres.

“However, it seems that portable servers and devices will be used for the tests and as exam will be held for one month from Aug 30 to Sept 30, so results may be announced after one month,” he said.

Earlier, exams used to be held in a single day and result announced on the same day.

“As portable servers will be used across the country so we cannot reject the chances of hacking,” he said.

“PMC had started to envision a computer-based examinations approach in January, giving us less than six months to bring these modalities to fruition. As we had to conduct this year’s MDCAT within the given timeframe, it was important to find venues to meet this year’s timelines. It was also necessary to meet stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs) as directed by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) and the government of Pakistan.

“To comply with these directives, large venues were required to ensure distancing between the students is maintained,” he said.

“Furthermore, the MDCAT is spaced out over one month with over 60 slots ensuring the health and safety of the students during the Covid-19 pandemic. Only 6,250 students will sit for the MDCAT every day across Pakistan, reducing the risk of the virus exponentially while ensuring standardised testing via a competency based training (CBT) system. To understand that the PMC was established just 10 months ago and the reforms taken by the healthcare regulator within this short period is reflective of the commitment to improve healthcare education and healthcare delivery,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2021

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