FRCPath in Medical Microbiology – an overview

  • April 08, 2020

Overseas Microbiologists wanting to secure a job in the UK via the postgraduate qualificaiton route will need to attain Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists or FRCPath in Medical Microbiology, a sub-specialty exam of FRCPath.

FRCPath is the UK qualification and a GMC Recognised postgraduate route.

International Medical Graduates (IMGs) from any country in the world can sit the sub-specialty FRCPath in Medical Microbiology examinations, provided certain eligibility criteria are met. These are summarised below along with a broad look at the following topics:

The Royal College of Pathologists is the professional body responsible for the various sub-specialties within pathology. Amongst many other duties, its role is to set and monitor the educational curriculum for those training to enter these professions.

What is FRCPath in Medical Microbiology? 

Set against the Medical Microbiology incorporating CIT curriculum, the examinations act as an early assessment of your understanding of the scientific basis of medical microbiology, virology and infectious diseases. 

The exams recognise microbiologists close to the end of their training who can demonstrate sufficient knowledge and technique for independent practice. In other words, completion of the full set of exams (Part 1 & 2) demonstrates your ability to work at consultant level.

Part 1 is usually taken in the UK at ST3/4 level, with Part 2 during ST5/6 of Specialty Training, the final stage of training.

The examinations are split into two parts:

  • Part 1 – single 3-hour paper with Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) 
  • Part 2 – four paper examination sat over two days

Eligibility for overseas doctors:

For international candidates, the eligibility criteria for FRCPath specialty examinations is not particularly clear when looking online. IMG Connect spoke to the Royal College directly in an effort to clarify this. In brief, the Royal College do consider equivalents to NHS training programmes however, they do not have an agreed list of countries with accepted training programmes.

As such, applications are treated on a case by case basis, so we advise speaking to the Royal College directly when making your application. Please note, there are many overseas doctors applying for all parts of the pathology exams so don’t be put off by the lack of information!

If you have the required months training in a recognised programme in your country for Microbiology specifically, the chances are you will be eligible.

Eligibility for Part 1:

You are required to have trained in a recognised training programme in microbiology for a period of no less than 12 months. 

Eligibility for Part 2:

You must have passed the Part 1 examination and have had at least 3 years microbiology training in a recognised training programme in your country. 

FRCPath in Medical Microbiology structure and format:

Part 1 Examination:

The exam focuses in particular on the scientific basis of virology, microbiology and infection. The exam is set against both the medical microbiology and virology curriculum. It is a single three-hour objective MCQ examination, with computerised marking sat over one one day. 

Questions are in two formats:

  • One-best answer
  • Extended-matching-question

Part 2 examination:

Part 2 consists of four paper examinations sat over two days. These are as follows: 

Paper 1 – two parts, 2.5 hours in total

  • One essay from a choice of two questions, usually including laboratory management issues, antimicrobial stewardship, infection prevention or all three.
  • One SAQ paper focused on clinical scenarios, infection prevention, laboratory practice and safety.

A brief vignette with interpretation of clinical, laboratory or infection control data is a common format for SAQs.

Paper 2 - two parts, 2.5 hours in total

  • Critical appraisal of a journal article 
  • SAQ paper with similar content as Paper 1

Paper 3 – one part in laboratory scenarios, 3 hours in total

  • Complex clinical and laboratory scenarios in microbiology and infection prevention.

Questions cover similar content to Paper 1&2 SAQs though their format is longer. Clinical and laboratory data and images may be presented.

Paper 4 – one part, 3 hours in total

  • Objective Structured Pathology Examination (OSPE) format. 

Comprises of 15 stations, each of 9 minutes duration with variable rest stations.The exam allows for broad sampling of the curriculum and involves two face-to-face stations with a pair of examiners.

Pass criteria for FRCPath Microbiology Part 2 Exams:

In order to achieve an overall pass, you must achieve a pass in both combined scores for: 

  • Papers 1+2 
  • Papers 3+4

Failure of either of the two components will result in an overall fail.

As an overseas candidate where can I take the exams and how much will they cost me?

Part 1 overseas examination centres:


Part 1 Overseas Fees

Cairo (Egypt)




Hong Kong

Irbil (Iraq)


Jeddah (Saudi Arabia)


Khartoum (Sudan)




Delhi (India)


Rawalpindi (Pakistan)




Part 2 examination centres: 

Part 2 can only be taken in the UK. The exam costs £1361.

How do I apply?

Applications must be made via the Royal College of Pathologists website, with applications only available once an application window is opened by the Royal College.

How to prepare and what resources are available?

With lots of resources available online, we have discussed with consultants the best place to start looking for materials relating to the exams. Most recommended starting with the Royal College, who have created useful resources to help you to prepare for the exams. 

Below we have included resources available through the Royal College and a few other resources recommend by doctors that have passed.


The content of the exam is set against the Curriculum for Specialty Training in Medical Microbiology. This curriculum incorporates the Combined Infection Training developed in conjunction with the Joint Royal Colleges of Physicians Training Board. 

Part A is set against both the medical microbiology and virology curriculum.

We recommend getting to know the curriculum as early as possible and using it as a road map for your study plan. 

Regulations and Guidelines:

Before applying for FRCPath examinations, the Royal College recommends you read both the General & Specialty Specific regulations and guidelines:

Past papers: 

Test your knowledge using example questions from the current exam syllabus provided by the Royal College:

IMG Advice:

Part 2 – food and drink: 

With multiple exams taking place for Part 2 in one day bring supplies! It will be a long day and there may not be access to food.

Hiring a microscope:

For Part 2 you will be required to sit examinations in the UK and will require a microscope. The examination centres will not provide equipment for any applicants so you will need to hire a microscope in advance.

There are a few companies easily accessible through a web search, find a microscope and book well in advance of the exam. You can arrange for the company to drop off and pick up the microscope from the exam centre, don’t worry!

At IMG Connect we recommend speaking to anyone you know who has sat and passed the exam and get their personal hints and tips. We would also be happy to help you arrange anything you need for the exam day. 

Passed? What next?

First of all, congratulations! After you have passed all parts of FRCPath in Medical Microbiology you can apply for full registration with a license to practice. Once the GMC have approved your application, you can work as a doctor in the UK. 

To help you find a job in the NHS simply follow these easy steps:

Searching for Medical Microbiology & Virology jobs in the NHS could not be easier

If you want to find out more about the many different Microbiology roles available within the NHS - it only takes a minute to register with IMG Connect and receive expert advice and representation. We have helped many overseas Medical Mircobiologists secure consultant, specialty doctor, registrar, clinical fellow and staff grade NHS jobs, whilst offering expert guidance to many more IMGs on NHS doctor pay, FRCPath exams and English language testing. We’d be happy to help you!


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