Overseas Haematologists 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 Haematology, a sub-specialty exam of FRCPath. FRCPath is the UK Royal College qualification and the recommended route for histopathologists looking to work in the UK as a specialist or consultant.
International Medical Graduates (IMGs) from any country in the world can sit the sub-specialty FRCPath in Haemotology examinations, provided certain eligibility criteria are met. These are summarised below along with a broad look at the following topics:
Set against the Specialty Training Curriculum for Haematology, the examinations are designed to assess a trainee’s knowledge, skills and behaviours in field of Haematology. The exams recognise haematologists 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.FFRCPath, along with MRCP(UK), is a mandatory requirement for Specialist Registration in Haematology. You can read our overview on MRCP(UK) here.
The FRCPath exam is split into 2 parts:
Part 1 – two written papers sat on the same day, comprised of essay and multiple-choice questions.
Part 2 – held over three days, the exams comprise of three written components and one oral examination
Eligibility for FRCPath in Haematology:
Below we outline the eligibility for overseas doctors looking to sit both FRCPath Haematology exams. For international candidates, the eligibility criteria for FRCPath specialty examinations can be a little confusing when looking online so IMG Connect spoke to the Royal College directly to clarify this.
Time spent in haematology training is stated as a requirement of eligibilty. The Royal College do consider equivalents to NHS training programmes though there is no definitive list of countries with accepted or unaccepted training programmes. The royal college advises you should speak to your Educational Supervisor or Sponsor (if you have one) who can advise you if you are ready or eligible to sit the Examinations if you are unsure. Remember, there are many overseas doctors applying for all parts of the FRCPath exams so don’t be put off applying!
Top Tip: If you have the required months training in a recognised programme in your country for Haematology specifically, the chances are you will be eligible.
Eligibility for Part 1: You are required to have trained in a recognised training programme in haematology for a period of no less than two years.
Eligibility for Part 2: The Royal College expects you to have at least three years of specialty training specific to Haematology in your own country before applying. Furthermore, you cannot sit Part 2 examination until 12 months after successfully completing Part 1.
Structure of FRCPath Haematology:
The exam is split into 2 parts with 5 individual examinations in total. This makes it one of the more complex examinations
Structure and content for FRCPath Haematology Part 1:
The exam is split into 2 parts with 5 individual examinations in total.
Part 1 comprises two written papers, Paper 1 (Essay Paper) and Paper 2 (MCP Paper)
Part 2 comprises three written papers, and one Oral exam
Part 1, Paper 1 (essay paper) – four essay questions each addressing an important area of laboratory or clinical practice in one of the four areas:
Haemostasis & thrombosis
Part 1, Paper 2 (MCP paper) – 125 questions of both multiple choice and extended matching format. 50 questions will be best from five whilst 75 are extended matching and examines knowledge of:
blood transfusion 25%
general haemotology 25%
haematological oncology 25%
haemostasis & thrombosis 25%
Most questions are structured around clinical or laboratory vignettes and are designed to assess clinical judgement and ability to apply, rather than just recall knowledge. Questions map to the Haematology training curriculum. The blueprint from which the questions are developed can be found on the Royal College website.
Structure and content for FRCPath Haematology Part 1:
3 written papers and 1 oral examination as below.
Morphology, Long cases
12 short answer questions
3 questions long answer
The exam is held simultaneously over 3 days in the UK only and evaluates your knowledge, skills and clinical judgement in important areas within the Haemotology. The questions in the written papers adopt a short answer format which requires you to provide a concise response, these answers can be given in short words, phrases or lists.
Top Tip:A series of questions may relate to ‘clinical vignette’ building on case information. Clinical vignettes are patient related cases and scenarios that have educational value for a wider audience.
Morphology - SAQs: This section is up to 12 questions answered in 1 hour 30 minutes. Each question requires you to examine 1-2 of either of the following:
flow cytometry plots
additional laboratory data
Morphology - Long cases: This sections comprises 3 questions answered in 1 hour 30 minutes. Each question will provide a case history and contains several parts which require either:
Interpretation of slides, lab results or other clinical investigations
Provide a report and make diagnosis
Recommend clinical investigations and interventions
Transfusion: This section consists of 10 questions answered in 2 hours. Each question will provide a case history or lab results requiring you to:
Recommend further investigation or treatment
Coagulation: This section consists of 8 questions answered in 2 hours. Each question will provide a case history or lab results requiring you to:
Recommend further investigation or treatment
Oral Examination: The oral examination assesses your ability to evaluate problems and demonstrate good clinical judgement whilst assessing your ability to communicate clearly and effectively. The exam covers 8 topics over 1 hour, with two 30-minute oral exams with two pairs of examiners.
First Exam - 2 topics in coagulation & 2 topics in transfusion medicine
Second Exam - 2 topics in general laboratory haematology & 2 topics in haematological oncology
Where can I take the exams and how much will they cost me?
FRCPath in Haematology - Part 1: In Spring 2021, the Part 1 examination will be offered using online delivery to candidates. This means you can take the exam remotely and will not need to travel overseas to sit the exam, or attend an examination centre. The College will deliver the written components of these examinations through a company called TestReach, the Oral components (including oral OSPE stations) will be delivered using a video-conferencing platform such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams and for the written examinations, candidates will be given the opportunity to trial the TestReach system to familiarise themselves with it ahead of the examination. You can read more about the new, remote examination process further here on our website. Previously, the Part 1 examination was sat in multiple overseas centres and once the pandemic is under better control globally, it is highly anticipated the Royal College will return to previous set-ups.
The FRCPath Part 1 exam costs £622. You can see how the Royal College breaks down the cost here on their website.
FRCPath in Haematology - Part 2: Haematology Part 2 is one of the few exams that can be sat overseas. Availability of overseas Part 2 examination centres will be indicated on the website and candidates should contact the Examinations Department to express their interest in taking the examination in the available centre. In 2021 no overseas Part 2 examinations will take place in the Spring session, and it is highly unlikely an overseas centre will be available for Haematology in 2021.
The FRCPath Part 2 exam costs £1,308. You can see how the Royal College breaks down the cost here on their website.
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.
Curriculum:The content of the exam is set against the Haematology Training 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:
Blueprint for MCQ Examination: The blueprint from which the MCQ questions are developed..
British Society of Haematology guidelines: Compulsory reading material for exams and day-to-day clinical practice. Make sure to read them, understand them and know the recommendations made in bold. Be aware that the guidelines are a few years old and imminently due for review.
British Society for Haematology educational resources: Click here for the British Society for Haematology edcuational resources. Morphology image bank, case reports, practice essay questions, EMQs, MCQs and tutorials. Signup and login required but you don’t need to be a member to make use of the BSH’s bank of essay questions, MCQs and EMQs
Blood Journal: How I treat articles: Click here for easy-to-read helpful overviews of most haematological conditions
Haembase: Click here for Haembase. This is a general revision resource for those preparing for FRCPath examinations
Our on-the-day exam 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!
Top Tip: 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.
I passed the FRCPath Heamatology exams! What next?
First of all, congratulations! After you have passed all parts of FRCPath Haematology 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 and given the high standards of the FRCPath Haematology examinations, you will most likely be eligible to practice as a consultant in the NHS.