From summer 2008, veterinary nursing written examinations will be computer-based.
At its recent meeting (8 November), RCVS Council agreed to the new arrangements proposed by the RCVS Awarding Body, which manages the veterinary nurse training scheme.
It means that candidates will be able to take their multiple-choice question examinations on computer at one of 150 managed test centres across the UK - from the Hebrides to the Channel Islands.
The facilities will be open to VNs for four weeks during the year (a fortnight during July and two one-week blocks in March and November).
The RCVS Awarding Body is working with a company specialising in e-assessment to develop the new system, which will allow for the rapid analysis of data and speedier processing of assessment results.
There will be some increases in examination fees - £15 for the Level 2 exam and £77 for the Level 3 exam. However practices with more than one student are less likely to need locum cover (students can attend exams on different days) and travel and potential accommodation costs will be lower.
"This new approach will be much more flexible for candidates," according to Chairman of the RCVS Awarding Body Management Board, Neil Smith. "Previously, everyone had to come to one of only a few RCVS exam centres on a specific day. Now they can choose a date, time and venue to suit themselves - most candidates will be within 20 miles of a test centre.
"This should not only be more convenient and less stressful for most candidates, but will also be easier for those practices with more than one candidate to manage cover."
This adds to an earlier decision (May 2007) that, from 2008, veterinary nursing practical examinations will be held four times a year instead of twice, and over three-day weekends instead of during the week.
Again, the aim is to make assessment more user-friendly for both candidates and examiners. Portfolios now need to be 100% complete as a condition of enrolment for the practical exam, superseding than the previous 60% completion requirement.