Overseas Microbiologists wanting to secure a role 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 Microbiologyexaminations, 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.
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 virologycurriculum. It is a single three-hour objective MCQ examination, with computerised marking sat over one one day.
Questions are in two formats:
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.
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:
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
Jeddah (Saudi Arabia)
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.
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.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with an IMG Consultant to discuss UK job options in Microbiology and Virology, including discussions regarding a typical doctor salary in the UK and the most suitable locations for you.
For more useful blogs & articles on exams, registrations & qualifications to help you find your dream job in the NHS - take a look at our IMG Library.