MRCPCH FOP/TAS, June 2021 exam: Instant Insights

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Updated following the 2021/2 exam.

We’ve been gathering feedback about the June 2021 MRCPCH FOP/TAS exam from numerous sources including video calls with candidates and customer surveys, so that we can share some key insights and give YOU the Pastest Advantage!

Once again, the RCPCH provided many candidates with the option to sit the exam remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with around 52% of our survey respondents stating they sat it this way (down from 70% in the February 2021 diet). Read on for some unique insights, including pros and cons of this online experience.

This blog will continue to be updated with new information as and when we find out more, but here’s what we know so far:

Content of the June 2021 MRCPCH FOP/TAS exam

Foundation of Practice Paper

  • The vast majority of candidates reported that the FOP paper was the easier of the two, and several noted that it contained fewer data interpretation questions than they were expecting.
  • Some candidates felt the question stems contained a lot less information than normal and that there was an emphasis on GP/pre-hospital medicine in this sitting. 
  • Many questions had two or three highly plausible answer options, making it difficult to choose the most appropriate answer as differences could often be subtle.
  • Timekeeping was an issue for some sitting the FOP paper, as a number of questions were case-based. This resulted in more time being required to read through a comprehensive vignette and settle on the answer.
  • One candidate suggested that it’s important to revise the mechanisms of action of medicines such as chloramphenicol and the mechanisms by which fluoroquinolones have developed resistance.
  • Metabolism & Metabolic Medicine was considered the most difficult topic by over 54% of respondents. This was was followed by Genetics & Dysmorphology (42%) and Cardiology (38%).

Theory and Science Paper

  • As usual, the TAS paper was considered the trickier of the two papers. The questions were more niche (asking for a particular condition or a particular electrolyte, for example) and featured many science-based themes.
  • Candidates felt that it was a very difficult paper to revise for as almost anything could appear including knowledge of names of specific antibodies in certain diseases.
  • Mechanism of action was mentioned heavily, and there were also a number of Ophthalmology questions. There were also a few questions on specific bacterial classification and morphology.
  • Question length in the TAS paper was shorter than FOP; many questions had either very short vignettes or no vignettes at all.
  • Metabolism & Metabolic Medicine was clearly considered the most difficult topic in the TAS paper, with 50% of our survey respondents stating they struggled with this specialty. This was followed by Pharmacology (38%), Cardiology (29%) and Endocrinology & Growth (21%).

Common topics

According to Pastest users, questions on the following topics have appeared at least twice in the last three MRCPCH FOP/TAS exams:

  • Developmental milestones.
  • Inheritance patterns.
  • Management of diabetes.
  • Mechanism of action of diuretics.
  • Cardiac murmurs.
  • Vitamin D metabolism and related disorders.
  • Drug side effects.
  • Asthma pathways.

Sitting the MRCPCH FOP/TAS Exam Online

52% of our survey respondents sat the exam remotely in the June 2021 diet; this was down from 70% in February 2021. 60% of surveyed candidates said that they would prefer to sit an exam remotely in the future.

Many candidates preferred the remote option due to the convenience and cost savings compared to attending a physical exam centre; however, not everyone agreed. Some reported that taking it at home meant that they struggled to get into an ‘exam mindset’ and that distractions in their home environment and technical issues added to their stress.

We asked our customers what advice they would give to future online exam candidates. Here’s what they suggest:

  • Ensure you’re in a calming environment, that all distractions are removed and that family members are aware that you cannot be disturbed. Easier said than done during a lockdown!
  • Check that you have a stable internet connection, advise fellow household members to perhaps not download the latest series from Netflix while you’re taking the exam.
  • If your Wifi speed is a bit flaky, use an ethernet cable for more stability.
  • Ensure all of your devices are fully charged and plugged in if possible. The last thing you want is to suddenly find your laptop has run out of battery.
  • Be aware of your movements: Do you gaze off into the distance whilst trying to remember the answers? If so, be aware that the proctor may ask what you’re looking at and wish to see your room again.

Are you preparing for the MRCPCH FOP/TAS exam? We can help! Take out our free MRCPCH FOP/TAS trial today, and see what it’s like to get the Pastest Advantage.

Insights from the February 2021 Sitting

FOP Paper

  • Ethics and Law was considered the most difficult topic by many, with over 41% of respondents reporting this a tricky specialty. It was followed closely by Pharmacology and Metabolism & Metabolic Medicine
  • If you’re an international candidate, make sure that you’re up to speed with UK ethics and law, as the regulations may be different in your country.
  • In addition, candidates mentioned particularly difficult questions on lung function, pain management, and mechanism of action / side-effects of drugs.
  • Many candidates reported that the Extended Matching Questions were challenging – often repeating the same vignette with very subtle differences.
  • Look out for image-based questions, this paper included an aetiology question regarding a newborn child with a bilateral white reflex.

TAS Paper

  • Metabolism & Metabolic Medicine was considered the most difficult topic by many, with over 54% of respondents reporting this a tricky specialty. It was followed by Genetics & Dysmorphology (42%) and Cardiology (38%).
  • There was a heavy emphasis on science-based questions, often preceded by a general clinical scenario which wasn’t relevant to the question being asked. It can be better to tackle these questions by reading the final line first – you may find that you wasted time reading and understanding the vignette!
  • Candidates recommend going back to your medical school pathology and physiology, which will help with the science-based recall questions on this paper.

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