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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Dealing with Exams

To contact the Psychiatrists' Support Service please telephone: 020 7245 0412  or



Please visit the exams website for up to date information.


The curriculum defines the competencies, professional behaviour and attitudes which psychiatrists should acquire and demonstrate in their clinical practice.

Workplace-based assessments (WPBAs) will take place throughout the 6 years of specialist training and competencies will be rated according to the level of training.

Psychiatrists in training need to register with the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Portfolio Online and complete their mandatory WPBAs. The evidence collected in the assessments will form part of the annual review of competence progression (ARCP), at which educational supervisors and College tutors review your training.


MRCPsych examination

The College membership examination (MRCPsych) comprises of two Written Papers: Papers A, B and the Clinical Assessment of Skills and Competencies (CASC). Each paper is 3-hours long and contains approximately 200 questions. Both question papers consist of multiple choice questions (MCQs) and extended matching items (EMIs). The balance of the two types of questions will vary but will be approximately two-thirds MCQs and one third EMIs.


Following the written papers there is a Clinical Assessment of Skills and Competencies (CASC) examination. This is a 16-station examination, testing candidates’ competency in clinical skills, appropriate to their stage of training. The examination is split into two sets of eight stations. One set comprises stations linked in pairs; the clinical task in the first station will be linked to a related task in the second station. The other set is made up of individual ‘stand-alone’ stations.


Membership of the College is the accepted qualification for entry into higher training in psychiatry.


The current syllabus can be found here


The current critical review syllabus can be found here


  • MRCPsych Paper A -The Scientific and theoretical basis of Psychiatry.
    Paper A will be three hours long, containing 200 marks. The paper will comprise of approximately two-thirds MCQs and one-third EMIs. More information can be found 
  • MRCPsych Paper B - Critical review and the clinical topics in Psychiatry.
    Paper B will be three hours long, containing 200 marks. The paper will comprise of approximately two-thirds MCQs and one-third EMIs. The critical review component will make up one-third of the paper, with the remaining two-thirds covering clinical topics (of which approximately 30% will be General Adult Psychiatry).
  • The CASC examination can be taken after successful completion of Papers A and B and if you have a minimum of 24 months’ experience in post-foundation training in psychiatry. Trainees are advised to start studying early in their specialist training years and to pace their studies throughout training.

The question papers for the Examinations are prepared by the Panels responsible for each paper. All results are monitored and determined by the Examinations Sub-Committee. Regular reports are presented to the Education and Training Committee to ensure that standards are maintained. The Head of Examinations is responsible for the overall management and delivery of the Unit’s activities and manages the Examinations team within the Royal College.


Further details regarding exams regulations can be found on the College website.


  • Access books/training materials
  • Study in a place that is quiet and comfortable
  • Build on your existing knowledge base and experience
  • Think about your personal learning style and use this to plan effective revision
  • Set aside a regular time to study
  • Allow time for preparation and breaks from studying
  • Keep a balance between work and personal life



The following tips may help you go through the assessments and examinations more easily:


  • Start preparing early in order to plan an effective revision programme.
  • Study the curriculum
  • Plan when you are going to take the examinations
  • Seek advice from those who have already passed the exam, especially those who have done so recently
  • Create your own study programme
  • Plan your application for study leave/revision courses early
  • Form a study group with others who are also preparing for the exam
  • Practise scenarios for the CASC with others who have done the exam before
  • Plan regular breaks away from the place you are studying in your revision period


Study skills and techniques

Postgraduate examinations require a significantly greater depth and breadth of knowledge than undergraduate examinations. Passing the MRCPsych examination does require learning large amounts of information.


It is important to reinforce memory by revising and by practising recall. Clinical scenarios are useful especially for the CASC- it can be helpful to practise these with others and to observe others practicing in order to obtain feedback.


Joining a study group may help you reduce your workload of finding information and will enable you to share experience and provide support to one another. Study groups also aid reflection on progress.


It is important to discuss learning and your progress with your educational supervisor. If you lack experience or would benefit from more training in a particular area, make sure these educational needs are addressed.



Core competencies are the basis of the new format for training so it is important to use every opportunity to learn and practise clinical skills. Practise a variety of scenarios to prepare for the WPBAs.


  • Find out what is required at your level of training
  • Try not to get downhearted if you do not achieve high marks in the early stages of training, your marks should improve during training
  • Plan your WPBAs at the beginning of each post and relate this to your learning objectives
  • Keep a record of WPBAs
  • Obtain feedback and take steps to improve your performance



The core curriculum has sections which must be covered. There are various ways of approaching this – some trainees skim all sections and then return to studying specific topics in depth, others methodically study each section in turn before moving to the next.


Stress management

Although the time frame for training has been set, trainees will inevitably face setbacks and sometimes fail to pass assessments or examinations on time. This can create pressure and lead to stress and disruption of training.


  • Speak with family and friends for support
  • Talk to your clinical and educational supervisor
  • Develop coping strategies to deal with anxiety
  • Stay healthy by looking after your body and mind.
  • Maintain a healthy work-life balance.



Ensure that you apply to take the examinations in plenty of time, as forms must be completed and returned to the College. On the examination day, make sure that you arrive at the examination venue in plenty of time.


If you are not successful

There may be various reasons why you were not successful and it is important to find out why it happened so you can address the issues. Feedback from the College’s Professional Standards Department will be sent to you.


It is also advisable to seek advice from your College tutor and your educational supervisor. Listen carefully to their suggestions and make notes so that you can look over them later. If you have failed a particular part of the examination, ensure that this area is an identified learning need. While you focus on this area, continue to revise the other sections of the curriculum, with a range of consultants. This should help you to regain your confidence. Changes may be needed in your knowledge base, skills or attitude and you may need to widen your clinical experience.


For further support please see our resource booklet.


The information should be used as a guide only and is not a substitute for professional advice. For further information on the MRCPsych examinations and the core competencies, see the College website.


If you need further advice and support, please contact the Psychiatrists’ Support Service.


© Royal College of Psychiatrists 2016


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If you require advice and support about a particular issue then please contact the Psychiatrists' Support Service at the Royal College of Psychiatrists on 0207 245 0412 or email

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