Written exams weekly update: 12 October

12 Oct 2020

Restarting Written Examinations

Since May, a group with representation from Federation and each of the three Royal Colleges of Physicians, including trainees, has met weekly to plan and implement restarting of written exams (Part 1, Part 2, SCEs) during the Covid-19 pandemic. Needless to say, this has been a significant undertaking during a period of great change and uncertainty. There are now clear plans in place for restarting each of our written exams, and these are detailed below under the relevant headings. We will continue to engage with the trainees’ committees of the three colleges, as well as with all other stakeholders, on a regular basis.

Part 1 examinations

We are pleased to report that the Part 1 exam restarted successfully, with the largest ever Part 1 diet (> 5000 candidates in total) having run on 15 September in both paper form, for the majority of candidates, and in a new online (remotely proctored) format for several hundred UK candidates. A few of the candidates taking the online exam experienced some display issues with 11 questions in paper 2 – see further details below. Aside from this, and a small number of the candidates being unable to enter the online exam due to technical problems, the great majority of candidates were able to complete the online exam successfully. Those candidates unable for technical reasons to take the online exam, and the few candidates who could not be accommodated to sit the paper exam in September due to venues cutting numbers they could accommodate at a very late stage, will be offered the opportunity to sit an extra diet of the exam, which is scheduled to take place on 10 November; again, this is for UK candidates only and they will be offered the choice of taking this on paper or online.

Some online candidates experienced issues with the display of 11 questions in paper 2. These 11 questions will be removed from scoring for the examination for all candidates who sat the exam, both the paper and online versions. It is within the MRCP(UK) regulations, to remove questions from scoring when they do not perform as they should, so long as the reliability of the exam is not significantly compromised (as is the case here). Therefore, no appeals will be accepted from candidates who fail the exam on the basis that they think that they would have passed if those questions had been included in the scoring.

The next diet of Part 1 will be on 12 January 2021, and we plan for this to be offered once again as a hybrid model, with candidates sitting it in both standard paper and in online (remotely proctored) format – but with a larger number of candidates taking the online version than in the September diet, and this will now also include a number of international candidates. Candidates who have taken the November backup exam but who fail this attempt will be offered the opportunity to sit in January; we are aware of issues with regard to the application window and further details of arrangements for this will follow shortly.

Part 2 examinations

The restarted Part 2 exam is scheduled to take place on 27 October and, as with Part 1, most candidates will be sitting this in the standard paper format, with a number of UK based candidates taking it in remotely proctored form online.

The subsequent diet of Part 2 will take place on 23 March 2021 and, as for Part 1, we will be using a hybrid model of offering both paper and online formats, again increasing the number of candidates whom we accommodate in the online exam and extending this to a number of international candidates also.

Specialty Certificate Exams / European Specialty Exams

SCEs and ESEs have also restarted since September, with the delayed Medical Oncology and Respiratory SCEs having run on 9 and 30 September respectively, and the delayed ESE in Gastroenterology and Hepatology on 16 September. The Dermatology SCE has also run, on 8th October. These have taken place in Pearson Vue centres as normal.  For the most part these have run successfully, although unfortunately a small minority of candidates have been affected by Pearson Vue centre closures due to local Covid-19 restrictions in different parts of the world.

Discussions are currently ongoing with all SCE and ESE Boards to decide how affected candidates can be accommodated without having to wait one year until the next diet and, in particular, how we can prioritise candidates who are nearing CCT completion. Further details on this will be provided in the coming weeks.

Still to come over the next few months are the SCEs in: Rheumatology (22nd October), Acute Medicine (11th November), Palliative Medicine (11th November), Neurology (18th November) and Endocrinology & Diabetes (9th December).

Live MRCP(UK) Twitter Q&A

Prior to the Part 1 restart, we held two 1-hour long live Q&A Twitter events for candidates. These proved extremely popular, and as a result we were also able to incorporate many of the questions into our FAQ on the website. We will continue this initiative and will now be holding live written exams Q&A sessions on our Twitter account every second Tuesday afternoon at 3pm BST in the run up to the upcoming Part 2 restart and the Part 1 backup date. Follow us at @MRCPUK for more details.


We are always keen on feedback. If you have specific queries relating to your exam day please contact the exams office at your College of entry here.

For other general queries or suggestions please email: Policy.Officer@mrcpuk.org.