Critical Essay Question (CEQ) Examination

This page contains information about the Critical Essay Question Examination (CEQ exam).

About the exam

This exam assesses the capacity for critical thinking about issues relevant to the practice of psychiatry.

It is set at the standard expected at the end of Stage 3.

Examiners seek broad and deep knowledge of clinical psychiatry, governance and the practice of psychiatry in cultural and political contexts. 

This exam is a summative assessment and is a requirement of the RANZCP Fellowship Program.

Structure and format

The CEQ exam is a paper-based, hand-written exam that you complete at a testing centre.

The exam asks you to respond to one critical essay question, worth 40 marks.

The exam starts with a quote related to psychiatry. You will be asked to respond to the quote in an essay format, critically discussing this statement from different points of view and providing your conclusion.

You are allowed 50 minutes to complete the exam, including reading time.

Exam Dates

  • 21 February 2023
  • 22 August 2023

For more details, please refer to the exam timetable.


You are eligible to apply for the CEQ exam after you have completed 18 months FTE training.

The RANZCP recommends that you take the CEQ exam in Stage 3, as the exam is set at the standard expected at the end of Stage 3.

You should have successfully completed the exam by 60 months FTE training.

How to apply

Please note the February CEQ has closed. August applications will open on Friday 19 June 2023.

For exam day

Contingency planning

All RANZCP examinations have contingency plans in the event of covid or other emergency circumstances. Details of contingencies are published closer to the exam dates.


The College is mindful of the stress associated with examinations and the welfare of trainees and SIMGs. The RANZCP website has information about a variety of supports that may be accessed.

These include discussing issues with your DOT, principal supervisor and the confidential welfare support line on 1800 941 002 (AUS) or 0800 220 728 (NZ).

Proof of identity

On the day of the examination, you must provide a government issued photographic proof of identity (ID) at registration before you will be allowed to sit the exam. The ID must be either a valid passport or driver's licence (must be original and unexpired – not a photocopy or digital ID).

Incident report

If an incident occurs during your examination that could affect your performance or the outcome of the examination, please complete an Incident Report form within 5 working days of taking the exam.

Incident report form – August 2022

A response to your incident report will be included in your result letter.


Results are published on the Results, timetables, fees page on the dates specified in the examination timetable.

Scoring of exams

The CEQ tests the following:

  • Ability to evaluate and critically appraise a proposition concerning psychiatry.
  • Ability to apply an evidence-base in the critical assessment of such a proposition.
  • Capacity for balanced reasoning.
  • Ability to consider different points of view. 
  • Awareness of broader social, cultural and philosophical models of illness.
  • Ability to express a professional opinion clearly in written prose under time pressure.

CEQ scoring is tailored for each exam. Each marking domain is weighted according to its relevance to the exam question.

Not all domains will be relevant for each exam. The weightings attached to each domain may vary from exam to exam, as will the key requirements and descriptors.

Example generic scoring key [PDF; 102 KB]

Preparing for the exam

Past Critical Essay Questions

Past Critical essay questions


A guide to the Critical Essay Question [member sign-in required].

The module includes:

  • Concept of the CEQ
  • Scoring system
  • Question samples to comment on and compare with examiner’s comments
  • Tools and methods to formulate your approach to the CEQ.

Advice for structuring and planning a critical essay

Detailed advice on structuring and writing a response to the critical essay question - 2018 CEQ Workshop Presentation from Dr Lisa Lampe [PDF; 58 KB] 

Strategies for writing a critical essay – ‘Thinking on writing a critical essay’ by Dr Lillian Lywan Ng in Australasian Psychiatry [PDF; 431 KB]

Writing advice and common mistakes – ‘Reflections of a CEQ Marker’ by Dr Rob Selzer in Australasian Psychiatry [PDF; 81 KB]


Preparing for the Critical Essay Question (CEQ) Examination


A behind-the-scenes look at the Writtens Examinations [PDF, 635 KB]


For detailed policies, please refer to Essay examinations under Examinations of the 2012 Fellowship Program regulations, policies and procedures.


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