There are four Royal Colleges of Surgeons in the UK (Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland).
All four of these colleges are professional bodies responsible for the specialty of surgery throughout the UK. Amongst many other duties, it is their role to set and monitor the educational curriculum for those training to enter the profession.
What is MRCS?
The Intercollegiate Membership exam of the Royal College of Surgeons tests the knowledge, experience and clinical competence expected of a doctor at the end of their core surgical training (ST2 level) and can be taken through any of the Royal Colleges mentioned above.
The MRCS examination syllabus and the format & content of this examination are common to all four colleges (Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland).
Candidates can enter any part of the examination through any college, but may enter with only one college at each sitting. Completion of MRCS will allow you to work in the UK from ST3 level upward (ST3+), with seniority beyond ST3 level dependent on experience.
Upon successful completion of all parts of the examination, candidates will be elected as members of the college for which they have passed Part B of the exam. MRCS is one of two routes an overseas doctor can take full GMC registration (postgraduate qualification or PLAB route).
For doctors who wish to take more senior roles reflective of their current practice, IMG Connect advise that MRCS would be the best route to take and full MRCS is a pre-requisite for anyone looking to go onto a specialist training post as a surgeon in the UK.
What is the structure and content?
The MRCS exam is split into two parts:
MRCS Part A – written examination
MRCS Part B – Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)
Am I eligible?
To be eligible you must hold a Primary Medical Qualification (PMQ) that is recognised by the GMC for registration purposes.
Part B OSCE:
You must pass Part A before applying for Part B. You can attempt Part A of the exam six times, and Part B four times.
MRCS Part A - Written Examination:
The content is designed to test your knowledge of both applied basic science and the principles of surgery in general to a level of a UK trainee with two to three years of postgraduate experience.
Part A of the Intercollegiate MRCS is a five-hour multiple choice question exam with two papers sat in one day. The questions are in single best answer format. The morning paper is 3 hours long and the afternoon paper is 2 hours long.
MRCS Part B – OSCE:
The OSCE is set in a practical setting and tests your ability to to integrate knowledge and experience in the following two areas:
Knowledge - Your understanding of anatomy, surgical pathology, applied surgical science & critical care
Skills – your application of clinical, procedural and communication skills in a practical setting.
The OSCE consists of 18 examined stations, each 9 minutes in duration, broadly divided into the two components above – knowledge and skills. Each station reflects elements of day-to-day clinical practice.
The knowledge component makes up eight of the stations. The skills component makes up ten of the stations. Candidates must pass both the knowledge and skills components to pass Part B.
How much will the exams cost me?
Part A of the Intercollegiate MRCS is £539 in the UK
Overseas centres will cost upwards of £539 and can include a local administration fee.
Part B of the Intercollegiate MRCS is £977.
Please note, fees can vary dependent on location.
As an overseas doctor, where can I take the exams?
Part A & B of the exams can be taken in several countries across the world, with locations in the UK, Africa, Asia, Middle East, Central Asia and Europe.
Should you require a visa in order to sit your examinations, the College will provide support letters after the closing date and when an application has been checked and the candidate is eligible. Requests for a Visa support letter must be made in writing.
The full list of countries is below:
Country – Asia
Country – Middle East, Europe & Central Asia
MRCS Part 1 & 2 (OSCE)
United Arab Emirates
How can I prepare and what resources are available?
With lots of resources available online, we have discussed with IMGs the best place to start looking for materials relating to the exams. Most IMGs recommended starting with the Royal College, who have created useful resources to help you to prepare for the exams. See below:
The complete MRCS syllabus is contained within the General Medical Council approved curriculum for the Early Years of Surgical Training in the United Kingdom. It reflects the Core Surgical Training Syllabus of the Intercollegiate Surgical Curriculum Programme.
At IMG Connect we recommend getting to know the curriculum as early as possible and using it as a road map for your study plan.
The Intercollegiate Committee for Basic Surgical Examinations (ICBSE) produced this guide to the Intercollegiate MRCS examination which contains:
List of recommended textbooks and resources
Topics and skills that may be examined
Information and sample questions for both Part A & B
Intercollegiate MRCS Regulations:
Make sure to read through and familiarise yourself with the regulations for Membership Examinations. They are unilateral across all four colleges, you can find them here.
RCS Library resources:
The RCS Library contains excellent resources particularly useful for the MRCS examinations – they are available to affiliate members. Resources include Atlases, EBooks & Online Journals.
The Funky Professor:
These anatomy video lectures are available from the RCS. Each video is accompanied with a detailed slideshow, plus a test on content.
As ever at IMG Connect, we stronlgy believe in the right preparation. In order to succeed in the clinical exam, IMGs have told us that it is vital that you practice your clinical examinations as frequently as possible, preferably under the supervision of a senior colleague. This will give you confidence in approaching and examining with examiners present.
Passed? What next?
Once you have passed both parts of your MRCS examinations you can apply for a full registration with a license to practice. Once the GMC have approved your application, you can work as a doctor in the UK.
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.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with an IMG Consultant to discuss UK job options in Surgery, including discussions regarding a typical doctor salary in the UK and the most suitable locations for you.