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The Definitive Guide To The Canadian Family Medicine / CCFP Examination

The Certification Examination in Family Medicine is the final step before you obtain your CCFP designation (Certification in the College of Family Physicians of Canada - CCFP) and it is run each year by the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), usually in the spring and the fall.


It consists of an oral component (SOOs - Simulated Oral Office Exams) and a written component (SAMPs - Short Answer Management Problems). While the Covid-19 pandemic caused significant changes to the exam delivery format in 2020 we expect the oral SOO component to return in 2021. The written component was delivered remotely (I.e. you could undertake it at home) for the first time in 2020 during the fall sitting of the examination.

In this guide, you'll find the following topics. Read straight through, or use the links below to jump to the section that interests you:


What Is On The CCFP Exam?

The exam can be broken up into 2 distinct parts, the oral and the written components. 

The written examination is the ‘SAMPs’ which are created to test your ability to recall factual knowledge and to test your problem solving ability in terms of health problems, their management, and critical appraisal. The test is designed to assess the full breadth of practice which includes care in the “office, hospital or home as well as a variety of other settings for both female and male patients of all age groups”. The exam is available in both English and French. 


The second component of the exam is the SOOs which are made to duplicate the office setting where a family physician conducts their routine practice. The patients are actors (real family physicians) who are given a script to memorize with specific presenting complaints and they are the markers of the SOO as well. The SOOs assess both the definition and management of health problems and the scoring focuses on the candidates approach to dealing with the patient, ability to understand the unique experience of the patient, and the establishment of the doctor-patient relationship. The correct diagnosis, while important, plays only a small part in your overall score. Examples of SOO scripts and videos are available on the CFPC website. 


How Long Is The CCFP Exam?

Written Component - SAMPs

You are allocated 4.5 hours for the written part of the examination and the CFPC does not state a standard number of questions for the examination. The total 4.5  hours includes 4 hours for the actual test and 15 minutes for tutorials on the software, non-disclosure etc. and then 15 minutes for you to take any unscheduled breaks (bathroom etc.). This part of the examination is done on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. 

Oral Component - SOOs


The oral components (SOOs) are done on Saturday or Sunday and consist of five, 15-minute simulated office oral exams (SOOs). These have traditionally been done at a testing site and it is recommended that you plan for 3 hours at the testing site. 


What Is The CCFP Exam Pass Rate?

While the CFPC does not release the pass rate and breakdown of the exam results. Some studies have been done comparing Family Medicine Residents writing the examination and International Medical Graduates writing the examination in Ontario and Quebec. The overall pass rate for Canadian Residency Graduates is approximately 90% and for International Medical Graduates it ranges between 65-75% annually.

When Should I Take The CCFP Exam?

The examination is traditionally available in the Spring and the Fall, so twice a year. In general, those in a residency training program will write the examination in the Spring. Remember to check the deadlines for applying to write the examination as they are months in advance and different for residency trained applicants and those that are challenging the examination through the practice eligible route. 


There is no good answer as to when you should write the examination. Pass rates for residents and International Medical Graduates do not widely differ between the two exam settings so it’s important to decide when is best for you and your study schedule. 


How Do I Study For The CCFP Exam?

The best place to start is with yourself. What is the best way you learn and retain information for a test that is both written & oral AND that contains such a wide breadth of information? 


A great place to start is our Resources page, where we have compiled peer-reviewed ratings for all of the free and paid resources available to study from for the examination. 


Starting early is another great way to break up the large volume of information and updated guidelines you need to know for the exam. Signing up to CFP:Distilled, monthly summaries of the need to know clinical information from the CFP journal is a great place to start. Take 15 minutes a month to review the archived blog posts on our website as well. 


Ensure that you review the sample SAMPs on the CFPC website EARLY in your study plan. They are a different style of question and knowing the architecture of the questions will make your studying more efficient. An excellent way to start studying early is to sit down and attempt one of the national practice SAMP exams that have been produced by recent Family Medicine graduates who are now faculty at The Review Course in Family Medicine"

CCFP Exam Guidelines & Helpful Links

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. Guidelines change regularly; be sure you are using the most recent guideline (may not be listed here). Feel free to suggest changes!

Final Thoughts

I hope that this page has given you some structure and answered your questions about the exam! Don’t forget that the only way to really cover all the topics in one high energy weekend is to attend The Review Course in Family Medicine and Vital FM UPDATE to really maximize your learning and your time! 

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Disclosures: The Review Course founders have no conflicting commercial interests. As is the case with any private events hosted on a university campus or hospital, this event is not affiliated with nor endorsed by the host venues. Our materials are peer-reviewed and prepared by Canadian physicians; we do not guarantee that our preparation materials are representative of any Canadian examination and we do not provide questions from any other examination nor are they intended as medical advice. The College of Family Physicians of Canada does not affiliate with nor endorse any exam preparation course.

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