What to expect from the MRCS Part A Exam

If you’ve made it this far, then you know that the MRCS, otherwise known as the Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons, is an intercollegiate exam. This exam is designed exclusively for surgical trainees who wish to become a member of one of the four surgical royal colleges within the United Kingdom and Ireland, and continues to evolve each year to find those worthy of specialising.

“Examinations are formidable even to the best prepared, for the greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer.” – Charles Caleb Colton

Be prepared for a long day when your MRCS Part A exam date rolls around. The exam is split into two written papers comprised of multiple choice questions, each of which takes two hours apiece, and both are taken on the same day. Be warned that as of January 2017 Paper 1’s duration will be extended to three hours, while Paper 2 remains at two hours. You will be given six attempts in total to pass Part A of the MRCS, but we’re hoping with our help you’ll only need the one! 


The MRCS will test you on your knowledge, skills, experience, and essential clinical competence in order to determine if you are potentially able to complete the core training, and move on to specialty training. Part A in particular will test you on general surgical sciences and relevant applied knowledge, covering all nine specialties, in this order:

Paper One – Applied Basic Sciences
Paper Two – Principles of Surgery in General

These papers will test your knowledge at the level that all trainees have been expected to reach at this point in their careers, completing their core training regardless of their chosen specialty. The syllabus is split into ten modules as follows:

Module 1: Basic science knowledge relevant to surgical practice
Module 2: Common surgical conditions
Module 3: Basic surgical skills
Module 4: The assessment and management of the surgical patient
Module 5: Perioperative care of the surgical patient
Module 6: Assessment and early treatment of the patient with trauma
Module 7: Surgical care of the paediatric patient
Module 8: Management of the dying patient
Module 9: Organ and tissue transplantation
Module 10: Professional behaviour and leadership skills

These modules are contained within the General Medical Council (GMC)-approved curriculum for the Early Years of Surgical Training in the United Kingdom, and also reflects the Core Surgical Training Syllabus of the Intercollegiate Surgical Curriculum Project. This curriculum is based around the trainee’s levels of competence, and requires demonstrations of both applied and theoretical knowledge and practical skills, alongside the professional behaviours described in the GMC's Good Medical Practice document.

To be able to sit this exam, you must already possess a medical degree accepted by the UK General Medical Council, or the Medical Council in Ireland, for full or provisional/temporary registration. If you’re a first time applicant, then please don’t forget to submit the original certificate of your medical degree to the councils of all four colleges. To pass the exam, you must be able to demonstrate the minimum level of competence by achieving (ideally exceeding) the combined total pass mark for Part A.

And last but not least, don’t forget:

Bring your ID (licence or passport)
Switch your mobile off

And good luck!

No comments have yet been posted