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MRCP (UK)

May 13, 2024

16 Min Read

The Complete Guide to the MRCP (UK) Exams 2024

Being a doctor is not a profession but a passion. And to fuel this passion, you are always on the lookout for the best opportunities available around the world to refine your skills and create diverse experiences. The healthcare system in the UK is one such destination for ambitious medical professionals. 

Moving to the UK offers several exciting opportunities in the medical field. The UK offers a promising career path for MBBS graduates, especially with opportunities to work in a well-structured healthcare system. However, it requires proper planning, preparation, passing specific exams, and obtaining further qualifications.

The biggest step towards your dream job in the UK is getting the General Medical Council (GMC) registration. You need this registration to practise medicine in the UK.

To apply for GMC, you must have a GMC-recognised degree. The next thing required is proof of your proficiency in English. For this, you must clear tests like IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or OET (Occupational English Test) Medicine. 

Typically, as an international medical graduate, you need to pass the PLAB (Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board, now transitioning to MLA) test before applying for GMC. PLAB includes an exam conducted in two parts designed to assess your knowledge and skills in medicine. It's the most common route for international candidates to obtain GMC registration.

Do note that PLAB is under transition to Medical Licensing Assessment (MLA) in 2024. However, this does not change the exam pattern as you will still be assessed on core knowledge, skills, and behaviour needed for UK practice. 

While PLAB is the standard route to GMC registration.  A better alternative route exists - a postgraduate qualification. Certain postgraduate qualifications, like MRCP(UK) for medicine and MRCS for surgery, exempt you from the PLAB test and offer faster access to specialist training (ST3+).  

The GMC recognises the Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians (MRCP) as an alternative to the PLAB test for doctors. All you need to do is attempt and pass the membership exams hosted by the relevant Royal colleges, clear your English proficiency test (IELTS or OET), and apply for GMC registration. 

Holding an MRCP also makes you a more competitive candidate for ST3+ posts. It’s a highly recommendable and recognised standard of excellence in medical knowledge and practice. 

Here is how MRCP offers a better career prospect than PLAB: 

PLAB vs MRCP 

PLAB

MRCP

It’s just a licensing examination.

It’s a postgraduate medical diploma.

Easy to pass as compared to MRCP (UK) Exam

Might be difficult to clear when compared to PLAB but offer better job opportunities 

A recognition of your general medical knowledge and skills.

A testament to your specialised knowledge and skills in internal medicine.

With PLAB, you become eligible for GMC only.

With MRCP, you can register for GMC and specialist training. 

You can only apply for junior-level doctor (FY2 - ST/CT2).

Being specialised, MRCP opens your path to getting ST3+ senior positions (high-paying jobs).

Work in general medicine.

Work in medicine or acute medicine specialist.

PLAB is recognised only in the UK.

MRCP is an internationally recognised degree.

By far, we have explored how you can get your licence to practise medicine in the UK and get medical employment. Now, let’s dive deep into the MRCP(UK) exam framework.

Did you know? MRCP(UK) is a postgraduate degree and has been recognised as equivalent to the MD/DNB degree by NMC (National Medical Council) India.  - As per the MCI Amendment Notification, March 2017

What is the MRCP (UK) Exam? 

The Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom (MRCPUK) is a postgraduate medical examination series conducted globally by the Federation of Royal Colleges of Physicians. The exam is designed and developed to assess the knowledge, skills, and behaviour of doctors who wish to become specialists in internal medicine in the United Kingdom. 

Recognised as a gold standard qualification for physicians worldwide, MRCP (UK) is also highly respected by employers across the globe, including the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, Gulf countries, and India.

The Federation of the Royal Colleges of Physicians is a collaboration between -

  • The Royal College of Physicians
  • The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
  • The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.
Did you know? There are about 17 Medical Royal Colleges in the UK, each focusing on different areas of medicine like Surgery, Anesthesia, OBGYN, or Psychiatry. They offer medical training programs, conduct assessments and examinations, and uphold standards of practice for their respective specialities in the country. 

How many exams are conducted for the MRCP (UK)?

MRCP (UK) involves the successful completion of the entire three-part examination - 

MRCP Part 1: This is a theory, computer-based multiple-choice exam developed to assess your basic knowledge and understanding of medicine.

MRCP Part 2: This is again a computer-based MCQ exam designed to assess your clinical skills and ability to apply your knowledge to patient management.

PACES: This is the practical exam developed to test your clinical knowledge and skills. It involves real-patient encounters and simulated scenarios.

Here’s a quick preview of the MRCP journey:

The MRCP exam process explained

Why should International Medical Graduates consider the MRCP (UK) Exam?

Offered in 30+ countries and over 100+ locations, MRCP (UK) is attempted by over 25,000 candidates, including overseas doctors, every year. But why is this so popular among international medical graduates (IMGs) like yourself?

  • It’s your entrance to specialist training in internal medicine in the UK. It allows you to pursue further training in a specific area of interest, setting the foundation for a career as a consultant. No additional entrance exam is required. 
  • You can appear for MRCP without sacrificing your current course or job.
  • You get access to higher-paying jobs. You can apply for ST3+ level positions - senior roles in the medical hierarchy, offering the chance to engage in more specialised, higher-responsibility jobs.
  • Doctors with MRCP are often seen as better prepared for the challenges of the healthcare environment in the UK. The UK's National Health Service (NHS) prefers doctors who have completed the exam, as it is a rigorous and internationally recognised qualification.
  • And as discussed before, it helps you get your GMC registration. 

Who Is Eligible to Take the MRCP (UK) Examination?

Now, you know about what the MRCP (UK) exam is and the career opportunities it opens up. Let’s find out the eligibility criteria for the MRCP (UK) exam. 

To appear for MRCP (UK) as an International Medical Graduate (IMG), you must have completed your primary medical qualification (like MBBS) recognised by GMC.

You also need a mandatory 12 months of post-graduation experience (internship). Without this, you can not fill out the form. 

The Three Parts of the MRCP (UK) Examination

The MRCP (UK) exam is conducted frequently every year. However, to appear in MRCP part 2 - written and clinical (PACES), qualifying MRCP part 1 is mandatory. 

The Last leg of the exam, PACES,  tests applied knowledge, diagnosis, and patient management skills more deeply. So, we recommend gaining additional clinical experience, preferably at least two years, before appearing for the PACES exam. 

The MRCP part 1, part 2, and PACES examination explained 

MRCP Part 1: Entry-level Examination

Part 1 of the MRCP is the first step in your journey towards MRCP (UK) qualification. It is an entry-level written examination to assess your understanding of the clinical sciences vital for practising medicine. This exam focuses on common and important disorders you will encounter during your medical career. 

Frequency: MRCP UK exams are conducted four times a year. You must submit your application around two months before the examination date. For 2024,  the MRCP Part 1 exam will be conducted on 24 January (already done), 17 April, 14 August, and 16 October.  

MRCP Part 1 Exam Dates

Exam pattern: MRCP (UK) Part 1 is a one-day computer-based exam

  • There are two papers. Each paper has 100 MCQs, and you get three hours for each paper.
  • There are no image-based questions
  • The questions are in the best-of-five pattern. There are five options - one correct answer and four alternatives to the correct answer. You have to choose the best answer from the five possible answers. 
  • Each correct answer is awarded one mark; there is no negative marking.
  • You need to visit your test centre in India administered by Surpass to take this exam. In the UK, students can give online via a proctoring service.

Syllabus: A fixed number of questions are composed from broad clinical topics. 

  • Cardiology
  • Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics
  • Clinical sciences
  • Dermatology
  • Endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolic medicine
  • Gastroenterology and Hepatology
  • Geriatric medicine
  • Haematology
  • Infectious diseases
  •  Neurology
  • Oncology
  • Medical ophthalmology
  • Palliative medicine and end of life care
  • Psychiatry
  • Renal medicine
  • Respiratory medicine
  • Rheumatology
 

Passing marks: 

  • To clear the examination you need to get a scaled score of 540
  • The overall result is calculated using a process called equating, which is based on Item Response Theory. Instead of an overall percentage score, you are given an overall scaled score.
  • The score is calculated from the number of questions you have answered correctly in the two examination papers and also takes into account the relative difficulty of the examination. 

Attempts: You get six attempts to clear this exam. After which no more attempts will be provided 

Test centres: MRCP UK is conducted in around 40 countries, including but not limited to the UK, USA, UAE, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Hong Kong, etc. You can check the complete list of countries here.

 In India, the centres are in New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kerala.

MRCP Part 1 and Part 2 Test Centres in India

 

MRCP Part 2: Written Examination

MRCP (UK) Part 2 is a written exam taken by physicians in training who have passed MRCP (UK) Part 1. Building further on the knowledge assessed in the first exam, it tests the medical knowledge, skills, and behaviour as specified in the UK Specialty Training Curriculum for Core Medical Training. 

Eligibility: You can apply for MRCP Part 2 only after you have passed MRCP 1. Also, you can take this exam within seven years of passing Part 1. Otherwise, you will have to reappear for Part 1, and passing the same will open the next seven-year window. 

Frequency: MRCP (UK) exams are conducted frequently. Here are the details of application dates and MRCP Part 2 examination dates for 2024:  

MRCP Part 2 Exam dates

Exam pattern: MRCP (UK) Part 2 Written is a one-day computer-based exam.

  • There are two papers. Each paper has 100 MCQs, and you get three hours for each paper.
  • There is more focus on clinical scenarios and patient management.
  • The questions about the diagnosis, investigation, management, and prognosis of patients are in the best-of-five pattern. There are five options - one correct answer and four alternatives to the correct answer. You have to choose the best answer from the five possible answers. 
  • Each correct answer is awarded one mark; there is no negative marking.
  • The questions will usually have a clinical scenario, may include the results of investigations, and may be illustrated with images.
  • For India-based exams, you need to visit your test centre to take this exam. In the UK, students can give online via a proctoring service.

Syllabus: A fixed number of questions are composed of broad clinical topics like

  • Cardiology
  • Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics
  • Clinical sciences
  • Dermatology
  • Endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolic medicine
  • Gastroenterology and Hepatology
  • Geriatric medicine
  • Haematology
  • Infectious diseases
  •  Neurology
  • Oncology
  • Medical ophthalmology
  • Palliative medicine and end of life care
  • Psychiatry
  • Renal medicine
  • Respiratory medicine
  • Rheumatology
 

Passing marks: 

  • The passing marks of MRCP Part 2 is a scaled score of 454
  • The overall result is calculated using a process called equating which is based on Item Response Theory. Instead of an overall percentage score, you are given an overall scaled score.
  • The score is calculated from the number of questions you have answered correctly in the two examination papers and also takes into account the relative difficulty of the examination. 
  • Attempts: You get six attempts to clear this exam. 
  • Test centres: Test centres for MRCP Part 2 (written) are the same as for MRCP Part 1.
Protip: There is no sequential order to be followed while giving Part 2 written and Part 2 Clinical (PACES). However, as PACES is comparatively more difficult, it is advised that you appear for Part 2 Written first. 

MRCP Part 2: Clinical Examination (PACES)

MRCP (UK) PACES is a Clinical exam taken by physicians in training who have passed MRCP (UK) Part 1. It evaluates your clinical competence and communication skills in real-life scenarios. PACES is the most difficult of the three sets. It tests your competence across a range of skills to ensure that you are ready to provide a high standard of care to patients. 

Eligibility: You can apply for PACES only after you have passed MRCP Part 1. It is also recommended that you take MRCP (UK) Part 2 Written before this exam. Two years of working experience is also a plus to have.

Frequency: MRCP (UK) exams are conducted frequently. However, the exam dates can vary based on the centre selected.

Exam pattern: MRCP (UK) Part 2 Clinical is a half-day exam conducted in hospitals or clinical skills centres. 

  • You will be assessed for your ability to carry out essential clinical skills. 
  • There are five clinical stations. Each station has a patient with a given condition or trained stand-ins called surrogates.
  • Each station will have two independent examiners. 
  • An interaction with the patient or surrogate is called an encounter. There will be eight encounters.
  • Stations 2 and 5 involve one encounter, whereas stations 1, 3, and 4 have two encounters.
  • For each of the eight encounters, examiners will complete a mark sheet assessing a combination of skills. 
  • Stations 1, 3, and 4 get ten minutes of encounter. At stations 2 and 5, the encounter duration is 20 minutes. You will get a 5-minute interval to finish the clinical assessment between each station. 

MRCP PACES Examination process explained

Syllabus: You will be examined for seven core skills

  • Physical examination
  • Identifying physical signs
  • Clinical communication
  • Differential diagnosis (DD)
  • Clinical judgement
  • Managing patient’s concerns
  • Maintaining patient welfare

There are five stations where you will be examined for the above skills. These stations are:

  1. Station1: Communication & Respiratory Examination 
  2. Station 2: Consultation
  3. Station 3: Cardiovascular & Nervous System Examination
  4. Station 4: Communication Skill & Abdominal Examination
  5. Station 5: Consultation

How the exam is conducted: some text

  • You need to score a scaled score of 130 to pass the PACES Exam. 
  • You will receive 16 marksheets at the examination centre to complete and will be assessed by ten examiners, two at each of the stations.
  • You will need to hand the appropriate mark sheets to the examiners when you arrive at each station.some text
    • At Stations 2 and 5: Hand one marksheet to each examiner 
    • At Stations 1, 3, and 5: Hand 2 completed marksheet to each examiner
  • Marksheets are graded as Satisfactory (2 marks), Borderline (1 mark), or Unsatisfactory (0 marks).

Attempts: You get six attempts to clear this exam. 

Test centres: In India, PACES are conducted at centres Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, New Delhi, Puducherry, Pune, and Thiruvananthapuram. For other international locations, please refer to the official MRCP UK website.

The PACES test centres in India 

The MRCP UK Exam Fees: How much does it cost?

MRCP(UK) fees are going to change starting July 1, 2024. Below is a detailed list of their current and updated fees.

MRCP UK Exam Fees 

Exam

Current Fee
(Great British Pound)

Updated Fee from July 2024
(Great British Pound)

Part 1 (Entry Level)

UK 

£460

£489

International 

£616

£655

Part 2 (Written)

UK

£460

£489

International

£616

£655

PACES (Clinical)

UK

£657

£698

International

£1,202

£1,278

When and How to Apply for the MRCP UK Exam? 

Each exam of MRCP UK is a milestone, and thus, careful planning and preparation are needed for a successful outcome. While there is no specific time frame between each exam, you must allocate sufficient time to improve your chances of qualifying. 

MRCP(UK) recommends practising the gap between each exam you take -

  • MRCP Part 1: Attempt it within the first 12 to 24 months after completing graduation.
  • MRCP Part 2: Within 36 months of graduation. 
  • PACES:  After completing 36 months and attempting Part 2 Written exam. 

The MRCP (UK) Exams application process for International medical graduates (IMGs):

  1. Online registration - Create your online account on the My MRCP(UK) portal. This is your portal for applications, results, and exam resources. Apply only when you meet all the requirements and have completed graduation and 12 months of internship.
  2. Complete your application - Fill out all required information accurately. Fill in your personal details, qualifications, and exam preferences. For PACES, you can select four centre choices. There is a one-week application period.
  3. Get your RCP - Once you have created your account and applied for an examination, you will be provided an RCP number. This number is unique to you and should be used when contacting the colleges.
  4. Submit documentation - Upload scanned copies of the evidence of your primary medical qualification and other relevant documents as requested.
  5. Wait for three weeks - Once your application is accepted, you will be notified about it via email within three weeks. You have approximately two weeks from here to pay the examination fee. 
  6. Get admission documents - MRCP(UK) sends out examination admission documents a minimum of six weeks prior to the examination date. 

For more details and to know upcoming examination dates, please visit MRCP(UK). You can also find sample questions and relevant mock questions on the website.

How TERN’s Innovative Approach to Healthcare Recruitment Can Make Your Move Easier 

The world is full of opportunities to explore. All you need is a map and a compass. To practise medicine in the UK, you will need GMC registration - that’s your map. And TERN is your compass, always there to help you sail in the right direction and towards your goal.

Once you have completed your MRCP(UK) Diploma and are ready to apply for roles in reputable firms, including NHS, then all you need is TERN. From personalised job matches to comprehensive relocation and integration support, we stand out as a holistic solution for international healthcare professionals looking to advance their careers in the UK. 

With TERN, you gain access to top institutions known for their quality and commitment to supporting their staff, including sponsorship needs. These institutions undergo a rigorous vetting process to ensure they meet high standards. 

Beyond securing a job and assisting you in your VISA process, TERN helps you with the move as well. We arrange travel, accommodation, and essential local services like bank accounts and phone connections. We are a partner dedicated to ensuring your career and relocation journey is as seamless as possible.

Get in touch to know how TERN Group can help with healthcare jobs in the UK. 

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