Doctor found guilty of professional misconduct over cheating in exam

Tue, May 22, 2012, 01:00

A CO Roscommon doctor has been found guilty of professional misconduct for cheating in membership exams for a professional body.

The behaviour of Dr Irfan Ullah Khan (32), a senior house officer in Roscommon General Hospital, was described by the fitness to practise committee of the Irish Medical Council as “disgraceful or dishonourable”.

He was before the committee yesterday on charges of twice procuring answers to multiple choice questions from other candidates in exams in 2009 and 2011. He sat the exams for membership of the Royal College of Physicians at an exam centre in Belfast.

Having been identified by the college as having cheated in 2009, he was barred from resitting the exam for one year.

The committee heard that a software system which examined all the scripts found Dr Khan had again cheated in 2011.

Lliana Chis, a statistician with the college, gave evidence by Skype from London. Anomalous pairing software could indicate when a pair of candidates shared an inordinate number of correct answers, she said.

There had been 200 multiple choice questions in part one of the exams with five possible answers – one correct and four incorrect.

In the 2009 exam Dr Khan and another candidate, candidate X, had 122 of the same answers correct. Though neither candidate X nor any of the invigilators was interviewed, Dr Khan was found to have been guilty of cheating.

In 2011 he sat the exam again. He and another candidate, candidate Y, had the same answers to questions 41 to 88 – 35 correct and 13 incorrect.

Kevin Brophy, for Dr Khan, asked Ms Chis whether the software took into account how difficult or easy the questions were, to which she answered it did not. He asked whether, if the questions were easy, it would be likely that two candidates would give identical answers.

“The whole case being mounted against Dr Khan rests on statistics. Have you looked at the probability of a candidate sitting beside two cheats on separate occasions?”

Ms Chis said she had not.

In his final submission, JP McDowell, for the Medical Council, said while there was no corroborative evidence from the other candidates or from invigilators, the two sets of statistical results “corroborate each other”.

Mr Brophy said “no stone should be left unturned” in investigating the matter and this had not been the case, as no corroborative evidence had been presented.

The committee found the charges – that he procured one or more answers to the questions and that he breached college regulations – had been proven. It concluded the acts amounted to professional misconduct. It would recommend that Dr Khan be censured.