Membership of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (MRCPCH) is a core part of Paediatric training in the UK. All Paediatricians must undertake this four part examination in order to become full members of RCPCH.
The exam is split into three theory exams and one clinical exam which are mapped to the RCPCH PROGRESS curriculum. These are normally taken over 2-4 years at the start of training, although some doctors from outside of training and outside of the UK will also sit the exams to improve their child health knowledge and evidence their capabilities.
In some ways MRCPCH is a rite of passage for UK Paediatricians, we have all been through it at some point and everyone has their own stories and experiences to tell. There are multiple courses throughout the region hosted at different hospitals as well as informal trainee-led revision groups. The ST1-3 regional study days also map to the MRCPCH curriculum in an attempt to highlight some of the more difficult to revise areas
There are three theory exams; Foundation of Practice (FOP), Theory and Science (TAS), and Applied Knowledge in Practice (AKP). They are each available to sit three times a year, and can be sat in any order. The exams are delivered by computer based testing, and are available throughout the UK in regional examination test centres on the same day.
We have highlighted below a number of RCPCH links for detailed information covering all you need to know about applying for the exams, the syllabus, and some sample papers;
The MRCPCH Clinical Exam is the practical component of MRCPCH. It assesses if a candidate has the clinical skills expected of a new ST4 Paediatrician. You can only apply to sit your Clinical Exam after you have passed all three theory exams. The Clinical Exam is run in multiple hospitals across the UK three times per year. You can tell the College where you live and work to be allocated an exam in your region of the country, but you should not normally sit the exam at a centre where you have worked.
Here are some links to the RCPCH Clinical Exam pages, explaining how the exam works;
Exams are stressful.
Plan ahead and pace yourself. Most trainees take 2-3 years to complete their exams and that is normal. It is not uncommon to fail at least one part of the MRCPCH exam the first or even second time around, and support is available locally and through the EoE School of Paediatrics and the Professional Support and Wellbeing unit for Trainees who are having difficulty with their exams.
We suggest that you use a variety of resources to help you revise. Tell your colleagues that you are practicing for your exams and seek out as many different resources as possible. It is common for trainees to travel to tertiary centres to see cases and practice for their Clinical Exam in particular. Plan this in advance and always seek permission from a consultant at that centre if you wish to attend their clinics or see ward patients. Exam host centres need trainees to assist their on-the-day running of the exam circuit; we suggest you do this during your preparations to give yourself experience of the exam circuit.
Exams are expensive.
You are entitled to claim tax back on your exams from HMRC. It is your responsibility to provide accurate information and RCPCH have produced a template to help you do this.
Exam preparation funding!
In recognition of the current challenges with “normal” examination preparation resulting from the COVID19 pandemic, HEE EoE are pleased to continue to provide additional study leave funding support to trainees in relation to exams for the 2021/22 financial year.
If a trainee has received study leave funding for an examination preparation course for a curriculum-required Royal College examination and then fails the examination, they may apply for funding to support further examination preparation course(s) prior to subsequent attempts at the examination. All other previous funding guidelines apply; a maximum of £1000 can be claimed per attempt at an examination (or part of an examination). Applications and claims can be managed locally, trainees will be required to follow the local study leave process and include relevant evidence with their claims.
In order to ensure that we make best use of the study leave budget and maximise your chances of passing the examination at your next attempt, can we also ask that, if you fail a part of an examination twice or more, you also self-refer to the Professional Support and Wellbeing Service (PSW), so that they can assess whether you might benefit from other forms of examination support: https://heeoe.hee.nhs.uk/psw/east-england-professional-support-and-well-being-service.
Should I use questions banks and commercial courses?
Question banks are a common way for doctors to revise for professional exams; they can be expensive and the questions are often of variable quality. There is no guarantee that the questions or answers are accurate, particularly with the fast paced nature of medical sciences. If you find them helpful, go for it, but be aware of their limitations and always check your knowledge with reliable resources such as textbooks or online platforms. The same goes for commercial courses; these can sometimes be more expensive than the exams and there is no evidence they help doctors to pass. There are numerous free or cheaper courses throughout the region, organised in conjunction with the School of Paediatrics, so plan ahead and save yourself some money. The RCPCH also conducts courses which are available via their website and provide accurate and up to date information regarding the exams.
What other revision resources are available?
There are a number of official MRCPCH textbooks available through RCPCH here https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/product-type/exam-textbook. Ask around in your department or your hospital library as you may be able to borrow one instead of paying for it!
Outside of textbooks there are loads of other useful learning resources, some of which we have linked below: