MEDICS are worried that poorly trained doctors are being unleashed on Hongkong patients. They say an examination which qualifies overseas-trained doctors to practise in the territory must be tightened. The call came after it was announced yesterday that 25 out of 72 candidates had passed this year's licentiate exam. Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, dean of medicine at the Chinese University, which conducted this year's licentiate, said medics had long been worried that poorly trained doctors were slipping through the exam. He said the problem was that the kind of candidate sitting the exam had changed, but the exam had not. In the past, most candidates were experienced doctors, mainly from China. Now, fresh medical graduates - including some this year from small American colleges - make up the bulk of examinees. Professor Li said they included increasing numbers of local students who, having failed to get into Hongkong's two medical schools, obtain qualifications across the border and returned to sit the exam. He said such candidates had no experience of working with patients - yet the existing exam was inadequate to test them properly because it was entirely theoretical. Professor Li said his fears were borne out by this year's exam, which saw the pass rate drop to 35 per cent, from 42 per cent in 1992 and 54 per cent in 1991. He said the drop was largely because the Chinese University included a practical test which brought candidates face to face with patients for the first time - the clinical exam was a 20 minute oral test at the patient's bedside. Professor Li said a more thorough clinical exam was essential to test a candidate's ability to put his theoretical knowledge into practice. He was supported by Professor Miles Irving, one of the exam's three external examiners and a council member of Britain's Royal College of Surgeons. ''It was quite clear that some of the candidates who did well in the theoretical part of the exam did not do well when asked questions which involved the elicitation and interpretation of physical signs,'' he said. Hongkong University's pro-vice-chancellor, Professor Rosie Young Tse-tse, who was an examiner for this year's exam, also supported a clinical exam. She said candidates were not completely inexperienced because they would spend 18 months in government hospitals after passing the exam. A Health and Welfare Branch spokesman said a working group under the Medical Council was looking at ways to strengthen the exam as well as a possible new funding structure.