The MRCS Part B exam is the second and final examination required to gain membership of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) and it assesses whether a surgical trainee has the correct knowledge, skills and attributes to progress beyond basic training, to higher levels of specialist surgical training.
The MRCS exam is made up of two parts. Part A is a written paper, while Part B is an Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE). This complete guide supports candidates in their preparation for MRCS Part B.
Those who complete both parts of the MRCS exam are awarded the postgraduate diploma, which grants membership to one of the four Royal Colleges of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland.
The awarding bodies of the MRCS are:
- The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
- The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
- The Royal College of Surgeons of England
- The Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland
MRCS Part B consists of 17 examined stations, each lasting 9 minutes. In total, the exam takes approximately 3.5 hours. An examiner overlooks every station, with some stations requiring two examiners, while others only need one. For stations with two examiners, each examiner will be assessing different aspects of a candidate’s performance.
The various stations will examine the knowledge and skills of each candidate covering the following topic areas:
- Applied knowledge: anatomy, surgical pathology, applied surgical science and critical care.
- Applied skills: communication skills in giving and receiving information, history taking and clinical and procedural skills.
Requirements for MRCS Part B
Candidates must demonstrate an understanding of the four key content areas of anatomy, surgical pathology, applied surgical science and critical care. In addition to this, candidates will be required to show a range of applied skills across a variety of topics. To successfully pass MRCS Part B, candidates must complete both the knowledge and skill components of the exam. Candidates will have a maximum of four attempts to pass Part B of the MRCS exam.
MRCS Part B eligibility criteria
Candidates must have passed Part A of the MRCS before they can take Part B.
In order to be eligible for the MRCS exam, you need to have a medical degree. It is essential that this is deemed acceptable by either the UK General Medical Council (GMC) or the Medical Council in Ireland, so you can be fully, provisionally or temporarily registered.
First time applicants not on the registers of the GMC or the Medical Council in Ireland, must submit their original medical degree certificate or an authenticated copy to the councils of colleges.
Our blog on MRCS for Overseas Doctors provides further information for those not in the UK.
For further support in helping you find out whether you are an eligible candidate, you can check the intercollegiate MRCS exam website for more information.
Applications for Part B of the MRCS can be submitted through each of the Royal College of Surgeons websites. In total, there are four colleges where you can complete an application. These are the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow; the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh; the Royal College of Surgeons of England; or the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland.
MRCS Part B Exam dates
There will be three MRCS Part B exams in the UK and Ireland in 2022. These will take place on the following dates:
- 5 – 20 February 2022
- 7 – 22 May 2022
- 1 – 16 October 2022
There will be an additional MRCS Part B exam in July 2022, although this will only be permitted for CT/ST2 candidates in the UK or Ireland who pass Part A of MRCS in May 2022. This gives these candidates an opportunity to complete the MRCS before the end of CT/ST2. Further information about this additional MRCS Part B exam will become available towards the start of 2022.
MRCS Part B results
Each individual station within the MRCS Part B is assessed in two ways:
- Firstly, a structured mark sheet determines the award for each domain, while generic descriptors are used to identify and guide examiners in allocation of the marks. There is a standardised distribution of marks across the broad content areas.
- In addition, an overall judgement is made on the candidate’s performance at the station as a whole, concluding in either a pass, borderline or fail.
For each station, the candidates will receive a mark out of 20, alongside an overall judgement of their performance. The marks and global ratings are then employed to construct the overall pass mark for each station. This is done by a recognised approach known as borderline regression methodology.
MRCS Part B questions
The MRCS syllabus provides an insight into the necessary knowledge and skills that are needed to pass the exam. For MRCS Part B, the individual stations are grouped into two separate content areas.
Knowledge (8 stations)
- 3 surgical anatomy stations
- 2 surgical pathology stations
- 3 applied surgical science and critical care stations
- 1 generic critical care
- 1 generic interpretation of written data
- 1 generic interpretation of visual information
Skills (9 stations)
- 4 communication skills stations
- 2 generic history taking
- 1 generic giving information to a patient/relative
- 1 generic giving information to another health professional
- 5 clinical and procedural skills stations
- 3 physical examination
- 2 generic skills
The primary focus of the MRCS is to test the basic components of knowledge and skills that all surgical trainees are required to have. A set of domains are used to design the stations in order to help construct the questions. This is to ensure that the important areas identified by the GMC’s “Good Medical Practice” are adequately covered by the examination. These domains are:
- Clinical knowledge and its application
- Clinical and technical skill
- Professionalism including decision-making, problem solving, situational awareness and judgement, organisation, planning and patient safety
How to Pass MRCS Part B
MRCS Part B revolves around the knowledge and skills of each candidate. Therefore, it’s important that you know how to effectively demonstrate your skill set in front of the examiners. You can pick up a significant amount of marks within the exam by displaying a good sense of communication skills. These skills can be improved before Part B of the MRCS by working with others and reflecting on how you can benefit by communicating effectively.
There are many resources that can help you to prepare for MRCS Part B. These generally include the MRCS syllabus, textbooks, practice questions and mock exams. Using a mixture of these tools will mean that you are likely to be well prepared, giving you a higher chance of passing MRCS Part B.
To pass both parts of the MRCS exam, candidates will have to display the correct knowledge, skills and attributes to complete basic training. By doing this, candidates will be able to progress to higher levels of specialist surgical training. Our blog will help you prepare for your MRCS exam.
The MRCS syllabus is a useful resource for candidates who are preparing to take both parts of the exam. Within the syllabus, there are several sections that provide candidates with helpful information. These include a background and overview of the MRCS exams, as well as the recommended textbooks that candidates can base their revision and preparation on. The syllabus also indicates the topics and skills that might be examined in the MRCS exams. The final section of the syllabus is dedicated to MRCS Part B sample questions. Going through a range of practice questions allows you to determine a response to each of the scenarios that you are likely to come across.
MRCS Part B books
The Royal College of Surgeons website provides an extensive list of books that can help you to prepare for the MRCS exams:
- Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy (13th ed.)
- Ganong’s review of medical physiology (25th ed.)
- Last’s Anatomy: Regional and Applied (12th ed.)
- Essential revision notes for Intercollegiate MRCS : book 1 (2006)
- Access to surgery : 500 single best answers in general & systemic physiology (2007)
- Surgical critical care for the MRCS OSCE (2015)
- Physical examination for surgeons : an aid to the MRCS OSCE (2015)
- SBA MCQs for the MRCS Part A (2013)
- MRCS Part A : 500 SBAs and EMQs (2013)
- Intercollegiate MRCS part A : SBAs and EMQs : mock papers with comprehensive answers (2013)
There are also several titles that are available as EBooks:
- Principles and Practice of Surgery (7th ed.)
- Robbins Basic Pathology (10th ed.)
- Gray’s Basic Anatomy, (2nd ed.)
- Gray’s Atlas of Anatomy (2nd ed.)
- Gray’s Anatomy (2016)
- Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy (7th ed.)
- Last’s Anatomy, (12th ed.)
- Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology, (13th ed.)
- Netter’s Clinical Anatomy (4th ed.)
Is the MRCS Part B Exam Difficult?
The highest pass rate for MRCS Part B is 75%, which was recorded during the autumn 2020 exams. More candidates tend to pass Part B of the exam than Part A. However, you only get four attempts to complete Part B, whereas with Part A you get six opportunities.
The difficulty in which you find MRCS Part B will largely depend on how well you prepare. While knowledge is an integral component of MRCS Part B, making use of the right exam technique is crucial. Therefore, it’s important that you learn how to extract and present your knowledge in response to each exam question.