Primary FRCA examinations

About the exam

The Primary examination is the first part of the Fellowship of the Royal College of Anaesthesia (FRCA) examination and comprises three separate summative examinations. To achieve an overall pass in the FRCA Primary, a candidate must pass all three components. A pass in the Primary FRCA is valid for seven years as part eligibility towards the Final FRCA examinations.

The Primary FRCA examination consists of three components: a Multiple Choice Question examination (MCQ), an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) and a Structured Oral Examination (SOE). Each exam has a pass or fail outcome. These components form part of a variety of assessment tools designed to support anaesthetic trainees demonstrate the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to meet the standard expected at completion of training. 

The purpose of the Primary FRCA examinations is to assess a candidate's competency across a range of disciplines through examinations that act in a mutually complementary way. All Primary examination content is aligned to the core level anaesthetic training curriculum. Questions used in each exam component are checked and verified by FRCA examiners and mapped to the relevant competencies set out in the core level curriculum. Successful completion of all three Primary examination components is required to complete core level training and proceed to the intermediate level of the anaesthetic training curriculum.

Preparing for the Primary FRCA examinations

Always practice as many MCQs as you can. Reading is important but practice is essential. There are many questions in the public domain.  Mock exams can be found on e-Learning Anaesthesia (e-LA), the FRCA guide to the Primary and there are a number of MCQs examples on the website.   Most candidates prepare well for the MCQ and practice hundreds of question. This will help considerably to improve the chance of success.

It is important that the same meticulous preparation goes into the oral exam.  If you are poorly prepared and with little knowledge of what is required, you will not do yourself justice. The SOEs require certain skills, practice answering questions under exam conditions allowing five minutes for each question, ensure you answer concepts in depth showing clear thinking and understanding, try and practice with tutors and educational supervisors, they will have knowledge of the process and will be able to guide you. The earlier you start preparing the more confident and competent you will appear on the day

For the OSCE try to practice the key aspects of performance for each station, watch the OSCE videos and try to attend at least one full practice session of OSCE.


The Primary FRCA examinations are challenging and cover a broad syllabus. Candidates will need to ensure they have a thorough preparation plan in place. We would suggest candidates start planning their revision at least three to four months before sitting each component.

Dr Chris Leng
Chair, Primary examination (2018 - 2020)

Guide to the Primary FRCA examination

The College provides an essential study guide to help you prepare for the Primary FRCA examination. 

Buy your guide at the RCoA shop.