FRCR (Oncology) Part 1 – a detailed guide for international oncologists 

  • March 24, 2022

FRCR (Oncology) Part 1 or CO1 is the first exam in the FRCR postgraduate qualification.

The completion of all the exams in the Fellowship of the Royal College of Radiologists (FRCR) examination suite leads to eligibility for GMC registration. The exams can be taken by IMGs from any country, provided certain criteria have been met. In this article, we’ll take a look at the following: 

Skip ahead to the relevant section if you know what you're looking for.

An overview of FRCR (Oncology) 

FRCR (Oncology) is the set of postgraduate examinations administered by the Royal College of Radiologists to test a candidate’s knowledge and clinical understanding within the scope of the Specialty Training Curriculum for Clinical Oncology

The exams are as follows: 

Please note that only full FRCR satisfies the postgraduate requirements for overseas doctors. 

You can read an overview of the full FRCR (Oncology) examination suite here via our IMG Resources section. 

Alternative routes to GMC registration include PLAB or other recognised GMC qualifications or licensing exams, such as UMSLE or FRANZCR (radiation oncology) which you can find out more about here

For doctors who are interested in securing senior roles in the NHS which are reflective of their current practice or grade, we advise that FRCR is the best route to take to GMC registration. FRCR is often a requirement for NHS locum consultant job postings where candidates are not already on the Specialist Register for Clinical or Radiation Oncology. The FRCR route allows senior candidates to better align their qualifications with the specifications of relevant jobs. 

A deep dive into FRCR (Oncology) Part 1 

FRCR (oncology) Part 1 is the first in the set of FRCR (oncology) exams. The assessment expects that candidates have a broad knowledge of subjects that relate to the investigation and management of patients with cancer. 

This includes a good understanding of the sciences that underpin clinical oncology, including:  

  • Radiobiology 
  • Cancer biology (including molecular biology) 
  • Physics (as applied to radiotherapy) 
  • Pharmacology of systemic anti-cancer treatments 
  • Medical statistics 

You can find the full purpose of assessment for FRCR Part 1 on the Royal College website here

FRCR (Oncology) Part 1 structure 

All three parts of the FRCR (Oncology) exam are assessed against the specialty training curriculum for clinical oncology and the clinical oncology syllabus. A new curriculum has been implemented as of summer 2021, and all trainees are expected to have transferred to this curriculum by August 2022. For more information on this, visit the curriculum webpages

The First FRCR (Oncology) exam comprises four modules of 180 single best answer (SBA) questions. 

Candidates can enter any number of modules per sitting, though there is a limit of six sittings per candidate within which they must pass all four modules. 

Each individual SBA question has a stem (a question or statement) and five answers, and candidates must decide which of the five best represents the answer to the stem question. Essentially, this is a multiple-choice exam. 

Here is a breakdown of the exam: 

Cancer Biology & Radiobiology - the processes of cancer cell transformation and tumour development and how these processes may be demonstrated and the response to ionising radiation of cells both individually and grouped as tissues 

Clinical Pharmacology - the structure, action, use and evaluation of drugs used in the treatment of a patient with cancer 

Physics - with special reference to clinical trials and assessment of results, and the epidemiology of cancer 

Medical Statistics - the application of physical principles and methods in clinical radiotherapy, physical basis of the therapeutic uses of radioactive isotopes, radiation hazards and protection 

A knowledge of SI units is also expected. 


The exam is marked by a computer, with one mark given for each correct answer and zero marks for incorrect answers. As the exam is not marked negatively, candidates are encouraged to provide an answer to all the questions. No marks are awarded where multiple answers have been selected or where answers are not sufficiently clear as the College does not interpret candidates’ answers.  

Results and feedback 

Candidates will receive details on scores and the level of performance required to pass each module. A further breakdown for each module will be provided, detailing incorrect questions numbers along with the corresponding syllabus section for each question. 

For more information on the exam content and structure, read the guidance notes for candidates on the College website here

Exam centres

The current venues for the First FRCR (CO1) exam are: 

Belfast, Birmingham, Bridgend Wales, Crewe, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and London. Overseas centres for now are in Hong Kong, India and Malta. 

The exam is typically held twice a year over two consecutive days, in February and either August or September.  

For updates on exam dates, including the application window, keep an eye on the Royal College website here

Exam cost

First FRCR (CO1) 2021 exam cost: 

  • Members - £138 
  • Non-members - £163 


UK trainees are given priority for examination places, followed by those who have had exams deferred over the last year due to cancellations. The remaining places are offered to all other candidates through a ballot system following the close of priority applications. 

All candidates should apply for the exams through the Royal College website here.  

FRCR (Oncology) Part 1 Preparation

Although there are many online materials to aid in your preparation for FRCR (Oncology) Part 1, as always, we recommend you start your preparation on the Royal College website, particularly with the Specialty Training Curriculum for Clinical Oncology and the Clinical Oncology syllabus

In using these as a blueprint for your preparation, you will ensure your study is focused on the most relevant and useful information as prescribed directly from teaching materials. 

Useful resources include: 

Learning hub: available to members through the Royal College website and contains many useful learning resources and available here.

Implementation Tools: a range of tools compiled by the RCR to support the implementation of the new curricular which all candidates should have transferred to by summer of 2022 at the latest. This can be found here.

Sample Questions: sample SBA questions with answers which can be found here

Examiners Reports: a guide for candidates for future sittings, based on the experiences of examiners with previous applicants, found here

Speedwell instructional video: a walkthrough video of the FRCR Part 1 exam format with guidance and instructions which can be found on the College YouTube channel

Suggested reading list: a suggested list of core texts and additional reading put together by the College which is available here

For other great resources including videos, courses, and flashcards, check out our blog on preparation for the First FRCR (Oncology) exam here

#IMG Tips 

  1. Prepare early – the best way to avoid stress and last-minute cramming is to get started as soon as possible. 
  2. Get familiar with the exam content – during your study (at least to start off with), the curriculum should be your guide to the FRCR (Oncology) exams. 
  3. Join the conversation – for regular news and updates on the Royal College and all things clinical oncology, including more #IMGTips, follow IMG Connect on social media 



I’ve passed the First FRCR (Oncology) exam, what’s next? 

Firstly, congratulations! This is an incredible achievement, and you deserve to treat yourself after all that hard work! With a pass in the First FRCR (Oncology) in hand, you can look ahead to the Final FRCR (Oncology) CO2A and CO2B exams. Once you have completed all parts of FRCR (Oncology), you can apply for full GMC registration with a license to practice. 

The team at IMG Connect wish all First FRCR (Oncology) aspirants and IMGs the very best of luck with their exams!


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