FRCA Primary MCQ examination

About the MCQ

The Primary FRCA Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) examination is a summative assessment aligned to the core level training curriculum. It forms a gateway exam to further detailed and focussed assessment in the Primary FRCA SOE and OSCE components.

The successful MCQ candidate will have demonstrated an appropriate breadth and level of knowledge and understanding of core sciences and their relevance to practical anaesthesia and anaesthesia related medicine. Candidates must pass the Primary FRCA MCQ before they can apply for the Primary FRCA OSCE and SOEs.

Due to COVID-19, the Primary MCQ examination will be sat online with remote invigilation. More information on this delivery method is provided in taking the written exams online - guidance

The Primary FRCA MCQ currently comprises, 90 MCQs in three hours, 45 Multiple True False (MTF) questions and 45 Single Best Answer (SBA) questions. 

Each MTF question has a question stem and five options. Candidates must decide which of these options are true and which are false. 

The 45 MTF questions are in three categories, comprising approximately:

  • 15 questions in pharmacology
  • 15 questions in physiology including related biochemistry, and anatomy
  • 15 questions in physics, clinical measurement, statistical methods and data interpretation

The 45 SBA questions cover a broad spectrum from the whole curriculum but with the majority of questions from the categories listed above. 
Each SBA question has a stem or vignette, a posed question and five plausible options. Candidates must decide which of the five options is the correct or best answer. 
This format will be used for exam on 1 September 2020 but from March 2022 the format will change (please see ‘planned changes to the examination’).

How it is marked   

One mark will be awarded for each correct answer in the MTF section of the paper and four marks will be awarded for each correct answer in the SBA section. Negative marking is not used. The marks for each section of the MCQ are combined to produce the total mark. With 45 MTF and 45 SBA questions, the maximum mark obtainable for the MCQ paper is 405 marks. 

The pass mark is provisionally set by examiners using a modified Angoff method. This mark is then reduced by one Standard Error of Measurement (SEM) to give the pass mark. The core group reserve the right to remove questions from the overall marks where error or ambiguity is found. Candidates will not be disadvantaged where this occurs.
 

A quick guide to eligibility is set out below.
You must be:

Primary MCQ – maximum six attempts – pass valid for three years
Registered with the GMC or other National Medical Council AND
Currently registered with the RCoA as a UK trainee in Anaesthesia, or as an ACCS, a Foundation Programme trainee, ICM trainee or registered as a trainee in Anaesthesia with the College of Anaesthetists, Ireland (ACCS, FTs and ICM trainees are registered with the College on registration for exam purposes only) OR
An Anaesthetist who is registered with the College in a recognised membership category (not affiliated) (see Related Information) OR

Has previously successfully applied for Temporary Examination Eligibility (TEE)

Has not exceeded the maximum number of attempts (six).  If failed at the fifth attempt, as submitted an Advanced Educational Training form (AET form) three months before the date of the exam being applied for. Information and AET form is available at Paragraph 8 and Appendix 8 of the Examination Regulations

The full eligibility for this exam is listed at Section 5 Paragraph 13 of the Examination Regulations.

Language

All FRCA examinations are conducted in English. Where a candidate’s first language is not English, the College recommends that an applicant’s communication and written skills in English are at least equivalent to the level at which a doctor could successfully pass the PLAB (Professional Linguistics Assessment Board) tests or at a level where they would expect to gain an average score of approximately 7.5/9 across all bands of the IELTS (International English Language Testing System). However we do not require you to provide us with a certificate proving competency in English.

Primary MCQ Examinations Calendar; August 2020 to July 2021

Application opening date

Monday, 19 October 2020

Monday, 21 June 2021

Application closing date

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Examination date

Thursday 18 February 2021

Tuesday 7 September 2021

Examination fee

£350 £350

 

Apply and pay online.                                                                                                                 

The online application process will be open for each exam from 0900 on the exam opening date to 1700 on the exam closing date (see dates and fees in the section above).  Applications are not accepted outside the application window.

Reasonable adjustments: Any applicant who has a physical or mental disability, specific learning difficulty (SpLD) or on-going or fluctuating medical condition may be entitled to reasonable adjustments. When applying online, check the ‘I have a disability’ and ‘I require exam adjustment’ boxes . Applicants requiring reasonable adjustments should book as early as possible to ensure that there is sufficient time to put in place any specific requirements.  For more information on reasonable adjustments, please refer to the Examination Regulations.

Withdrawals: withdrawals before the closing date may receive the full fee paid. Candidates withdrawing after the closing date may be entitled to a full refund, providing the request is made within 14 days of receipt of the application. For withdrawals greater than 14 days, the refund is subject to an admin fee.  A candidate who withdraws in any other circumstance within 7 working days of an exam date, including non-issue of entry visas or failure to appear for an examination, will not be entitled to any refund of fee. Exceptional circumstances will be considered on receipt of written evidence. Fees cannot be deferred from one exam to another. 

Tax deductibility.  The College and faculties are aware that trainees who sit examinations as part of a training programme can claim tax relief on their exam fees. Whilst in a training programme trainees can also claim tax relief on membership fees.  Please visit HMRC for further information on how to claim. 

The pass/fail results for the Primary MCQ exam held on 19 November will be released at 2pm on Friday 4 December 2020 by email. The official results letter will follow by post 7-14 days after results are released to the address provided on booking. This will include a breakdown of performance on the exam. Please contact the College at exams@rcoa.ac.uk if you need to update your address.                                

No results will be given or confirmed by telephone.

Candidates sitting the Primary FRCA MCQ exams are provided with a breakdown of question performance against the areas of the curriculum tested in the exam. This allows trainees and trainers to identify shortfalls of knowledge so that focussed preparation can be put in place prior to the next attempt. 

Guidance interviews are not normally provided to candidates who fail the Primary MCQ.  However, if a candidate fails the MCQ at the fifth attempt,  a one-to-one session with a member of the MCQ examiner core group may be possible. Please contact the exams department exams@rcoa.ac.uk

SBAs are used in UK undergraduate and postgraduate medical assessments, and are widely used by medical colleges, faculties and the GMC. Over the next 3 years, the MCQ examination will increase the number of Single Best Answer (SBA) questions, whilst reducing the number of Multiple True False (MTF) questions. This change will not affect the exam blueprint for the MCQ and the College will continue to test the same areas of the curriculum across the exam overall.

During transition the papers will change as follows: 

  • From March 2022, papers will comprise 30 MTF and 60 SBA questions
  • From September 2023, papers will no longer contain MTFs. The final number of questions and paper format at this stage has yet to be finalised.
     

Candidate resources are a consolidation of the various example questions, videos, courses and guides, any of which may guide a candidate in their preparation for the various FRCA examination components.