||NUMBER OF ALLOCATED QUESTIONS
||60 type X & 20 type A/B
||44 type X and 16 type A/B
||43 type x and17 type A/B
Candidates are still required to achieve the pass standard in
each discipline to be successful at this examination.
The suggested time allocation for the Anatomy paper is:
- 100 minutes for the 80 MCQ's
- 50 minutes for the 20 SPOT test questions
APPLICATIONS RECEIVED AFTER THE CLOSING DATE (5PM AEST)
WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED
Please be advised examination application documents will
not be accepted as faxed copies, under any
circumstances. All examination application documents are to be
either scanned and emailed, or posted to the College by the
published closing dates (see below). .
Dates and locations
The Surgical Sciences Examination is conducted twice per
The Surgical Sciences Examination is offered in the following
- Australia: Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra,
Hobart, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney
- New Zealand: Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin,
Closing date - Monday 3 December 2012
SET Surgical Science (Generic) - 13 and 14 February 2013
SET Surgical Science (Specialty specific) - 15 February 2013
Examination session times (daylight saving
times in Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, Adelaide, Canberra and New
Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart and Canberra - 10am to 12.30pm
Brisbane - 9am to 11.30am
Adelaide - 9.30am to 12pm
Perth - 8am to 10.30am
New Zealand - 12pm to 2.30pm
Closing Date - Thursday 11 April 2013
SET Surgical Science (Generic) - 5 and 6 June 2013
SET Surgical Science (Specialty specific) - 7 June 2013
Examination session times:
Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart and Canberra - 10am to
Adelaide - 9.30am to 12pm
Perth - 8am to 10.30am
New Zealand - 12pm to 2.30pm
- The venue at which you choose to present for the examination
must be recorded on the application form and cannot be altered
after the closing date.
- The underlying regulations apply to candidates withdrawing from
the Surgical Sciences Examination and/or Clinical Examination or
when transferring to a future Surgical Sciences Examination and/or
Withdrawals from examinations
- withdraw from the examination prior to the
examination closing date will be refunded 100% of
the examination fee
- withdraw from the examination more than 10
working days prior to the first scheduled day of the examination
will be refunded 50% of the examination fee
- withdraw from the examination 10 working days
or less, of the first scheduled day of the examination will be
refunded 25% of the examination fee.
Special circumstances and disability
Trainees and IMGs may apply for Special Circumstances if they
believe that their examination performance or preparation has been
hampered by illness, disability or other causes to such a
substantial degree that it is likely to adversely affect the
outcome of an examination. Read more about special circumstances and disability.
Examples of questions
Anatomy Spot Test Questions - example paper
Anatomy MCQ - example paper
Each of the MCQ papers contain 3 sections, with different types
The 3 types are:
- type A single response questions (Type A, Hubbard and Clemans,
1961), each of which calls for a single best response
- type B relationship analysis questions (Type E, Hubbard and
Clemans, 1961), which test factual knowledge as well as
- type X multiple true-false questions (Type X, Hubbard and
Clemans, 1961), where each question has 4 statements to each of
which candidates respond.
The 3 types of questions are used with the intention of testing
different cognitive abilities:
- Type A - attempts to test judgmental ability.
- Type B - ability to understand relationships.
- Type X - factual knowledge and its application.
Visual questions - A proportion of questions
used in an MCQ examination will refer to photographs,
photomicrographs, radiographs, computed tomography scans, etc.
Candidates are required to respond to questions based on visual
trigger materials, such as histology micrographs, photographs of
gross specimens and radiographs. These questions test recognition
of structures, as well as recall of information.
Examination papers may include illustrations from:
- Color Atlas of Anatomy, 5th edition, - Rohen, J.W. &
Lutjen-Drecoll, E., Williams & Wilkins
- Colour Atlas of Anatomical Pathology, 2nd edition, 1995 - Cooke
R., Stewart B., Churchill Livingstone - The illustrations from this
publication are from the files of the Royal Brisbane Hospital.
- CD-ROM McMinn's Interactive Clinical Anatomy - Mosby - Williams
& Wilkins Pty. Ltd.
Type A: Single-response questions (Hubbard & Clemans
Each of these questions has only one correct response. The
question consists of a stem, which is an incomplete statement or a
question, followed by a series of 5 alternative completions or
answers to the stem. The candidate is instructed to select the 1
completion or answer to the stem that is considered most
Example 1 - The most important factor
increasing blood flow through an active muscle is:
A) adrenaline release during exercise
B) activation of sympathetic dilator fibres
C) reduced constrictor tone in the arterioles of the muscle
D) local action of metabolites on vessels in the muscle
E) the "muscle pump" action
Of the 5 alternatives, D is clearly the best, as local
mechanisms are the most important in maintaining the high blood
flow in skeletal muscle during exercise.
B is an incorrect statement.
A, C and E are incorrect responses as each, though increasing blood
flow, does not do so as significantly as D.
Thus the correct response is D.
Type B: Relationship-analysis questions (Hubbard &
Clemans Type E)
Each of these questions has a statement or assertion (S) and a
reason (R), each of which may be true or false. It is first
necessary to determine if each of S and R is true or false. If, and
only if, both S and R are true, a further decision
has to be made in determining if R explains S. The candidate then
marks the answer sheet according to the following key:
A - if S is true, R is true and is a valid explanation of
B - if S is true, R is true but is not a valid explanation of
C - if S is true and R is false.
D - if S is false and R is true.
E - if both S and R are false.
S - Vitamin C is necessary for normal wound healing
R - Vitamin C is necessary for the hydroxylation of proline during
In this question, both S and R are true statements, and R is the
reason for vitamin C being necessary for normal wound healing. Thus
the correct response is A.
S - After developing Cushing's disease patients can show a decrease
R - Abnormalities in muscle function are common in patients with
In this question both S and R are true as decrease in height and
proximal muscle weakness are clinical features of Cushing's
syndrome. The decrease in height is, however, due to osteoporosis
and pathological fractures of the spine and not to abnormalities in
muscle function. Thus the correct response is B.
Type X: Multiple true-false questions (Hubbard &
Clemens Type K)
In each of these questions, an incomplete statement or question,
which forms the stem, is followed by 4 suggested completions or
answers, each of which is either true or false. The examinee has to
identify each alternative as being either true or false.
Example 3 - The facial nerve:
A) contains taste fibres from the anterior two-thirds of the
B) arises from the pontomedullary junction medial to the
C) has a sensory root which is larger than the motor root
D) supplies the buccinator muscle
In this question, each of the completions A, B and C is false,
because the facial nerve contains taste fibres from the anterior
two-thirds of the tongue, arises medial to the vestibulo-cochlear
nerve and has a sensory root lateral to the motor root. Only D is
Scoring and answering
Before decisions are made at the meeting of the Surgical Science
and Clinical Examination Committee, discipline subcommittees study
question performance data provided by the computer centre, and
identify questions which may have been keyed incorrectly for one
reason or another. Such questions are usually very few in a given
examination. When detected, these questions are omitted from the
scoring and further analysis of the data. Reliability estimates of
the board's examinations have been consistently high
(Kuder-Richardson reliability more than +0.90), with
correspondingly small standard errors of measurement. Each
candidate whose score falls within one standard error below the
pass mark is carefully studied before a decision is made on his/her
A certain proportion of the questions in each examination has
been used in previous examinations and performance data are
therefore available on them. These questions serve as "marker
questions", which enable the board to determine the relative
difficulty of a given examination in relation to previous
examinations. The pass mark for each examination can thus be
adjusted to allow for slight fluctuations in examination
difficulty. The board's experience is that such fluctuation is
small, but not negligible, and borderline candidates may be
affected by it.
Many factors are taken into consideration before a decision is
taken on the fate of a borderline candidate. These include how
close the score is to the pass mark (for example, within one
standard error), performance of the candidate in previous attempts,
if any, and whether other extenuating circumstances may have
disadvantaged the candidate.
A minimum pass mark, which is somewhat lower than the aggregate
pass mark, is set for each of the components in the examination:
anatomy, physiology and pathology. A candidate whose aggregate mark
is above the pass mark, but whose mark in one or more components is
below the pass mark in that component, fails the examination.
Candidates are advised to refrain from neglecting any discipline in
preparing for the examination.
Neurosurgery Specialty Specific Examination
Since 2011 the Board in Neurosurgery has adopted a modified
version of the standard setting procedure to that applied by
General Surgery, Urology, Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery,
Cardiothoracic Surgery and Vascular Surgery for the Specialty
At a workshop prior to the examinations for the coming year,
consultants in Neurosurgery will determine the pass mark for the
examinations by undertaking a modified Angoff method of standard
setting. This panel will collaborate to make a judgement of the
expected performance of a borderline candidate at each question
that will be included in the examination. By undertaking this prior
to the examinations, it will allow the Board in Neurosurgery the
ability to ensure the pass mark remains consistent.
This is not a change in the current methodology of determining
the pass mark or the standard applied. Rather it is a reversal of
the procedure so that the pass mark determines the selection of
questions for each examination as opposed to the selection of
questions determining the pass mark. The pass mark must be variable
if the Angoff method is undertaken after the examination to ensure
the standard of the examination remains consistent. The Board in
Neurosurgery has recommended that the pass mark will be up to 75%.
A review of the questions used in the examination will be
undertaken to ensure the examination was valid; however, there will
be less consideration required of the performance of borderline
candidates as the pass mark was determined prior to the
Also view: Neurosurgery
SSE - Recommended reading list and advice
Answering system - Answer sheets for the Surgical
Science Examination are read by an optical scanner. Therefore,
- use lead pencil
- blacken the circle corresponding to selected response.
Note: A wrong answer may be erased but, unless
the eraser is complete, the optical scanner may read 2 marked
responses to a question, and register an incorrect response.
Candidates are advised to quip themselves with a spare lead pencil
and an eraser.
The difficulty and discriminating indices of each question are
determined by computer analysis after each examination. The former
is a misnomer and should really be called the easiness or facility
index as it represents the percentage of candidates who answered
that question correctly. This index is spread throughout the
percentage range, showing that questions are of varying difficulty,
though the majority are in the 20% to 80% range.
The discriminating index of a question (which is also known as
the biserial-r correlation coefficient) is an estimate of the
extent to which candidates' scores on that question correlate with
their scores on the whole examination. Theoretically, this value
could range from -1.00 to +1.00, though for the majority of the
questions it is positive, as is to be expected. If for a given
question this value is below +0.20, and especially if it is
negative, the question is reviewed carefully to determine whether
any flaws in construction or in keying exist.
Intermittent workshops are held for examiners on the
construction of multiple choice questions and on the use of
performance data. Particular attention is paid to the avoidance of
ambiguity of wording, clues and other common construction errors.
In all questions, standard international units are used. Where this
may be confusing the more common alternative is given in
parentheses, for example 10 kPa (75mm of mercury).
Standard symbols include:
- metre = m
- millimetre = mm
- kilogram = kg
- gram = g
- litre = l
- millilitre = ml
- mole = mol
- millimole, milliosmole = mmol
- degree celsius = °C
- second = s
- millisecond = ms
- Ampere = A
- Hertz = Hz.
Abbreviations or acronyms when used to save repetition are
initially included in parentheses after the full term. For example,
endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP) and intravenous
Preparation for the Surgical Science
Examinations (online resources)
These online resources are for members only (login
View detailed features
of each area of the Generic SSE
View the frequently asked questions about the Generic Surgical Science Examination and
the Specialty Specific Surgical Science
The College takes great care to ensure absolute security in the
- Candidate credentials and particulars are carefully
- All examination material is prepared at the College in
Melbourne and sent under seal to examination sites where it is
opened under supervision.
- The examination is held simultaneously in all centres. Each
copy of the examination paper is collected at the end of each
- Used and unused papers are packed, sealed and returned to the
College for checking.
- Visual material is included with the Surgical Sciences
As a result of these precautions any missing examination
material can be traced.
Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
College of Surgeons' Gardens
250-290 Spring Street
East Melbourne VIC 3002 Australia
Telephone: +61 3 9249 1244
Fax: +61 3 9249 1298