MRCPsych - a comprehensive guide for Hong Kong psychiatrists
November 22, 2021
Many Hong Kong psychiatrists complete MRCPsych as part of their training or are at least aware of the exam. Membership of the Royal College of Psychiatrists examinations (MRCPsych) is one of the best ways for Hong Kong psychiatrists to register with the GMC and find psychiatry jobs in the NHS.
The exams can be taken by International Medical Graduates (IMGs) from any country in the world, provided certain eligibility criteria are met. Here we provide a summary of these exams from a Hong Kong perspective, along with a broader look at the topics below:
Skip ahead to the relevant section if you know what you’re looking for.
Where does MRCPsych fit in for Hong Kong Psychiatrists?
Postgraduate training in Hong Kong is governed by the Hong Kong College of Psychiatrists, and historically, psychiatric training in Hong Kong has aligned closely with the UK system of postgraduate education. Most psychiatrists in Hong Kong obtain membership of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (MRCPsych) as part of their post graduate training.
The structure of postgraduate training in Hong Kong also closely follows expectations for UK Trainees by covering the same 6 years of higher specialist training. In Hong Kong, the first three years of basic training incorporate the pre-MRCPsych training scheme, which gives the trainee the opportunity to take the MRCPsych examinations at a similar time in the process to the UK.
What does MRCPsych mean for Hong Kongers?
The mental health service in Hong Kong has undergone tremendous change over the last 20-30 years, developing a solid foundation in training, legislation, research and academic work. Hong Kong has fast developed a highly regarded psychiatry service and workforce. This level of training and service, coupled with membership of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (MRCPsych) means that Hong Kong Psychiatrists, including specialists and trainees, fit very well into the UK system.
Links through IMG Connect to several of the top performing trusts in the UK, has seen several Hong Kong psychiatrists flourish in the NHS, year on year.
MRCPsych can lead to CESR or Specialist Registration in the UK
With the parallels in post-graduate specialist training and qualifications like MRCPsych and FHKCPsych, and the high level of experience of Hong Kong Psychiatrists, Hong Kongers are able to enter CESR programmes successfully, gaining specialist registration in the UK reasonably quickly.
Hong Kong Psychiatrists possess the right level of skills, experience and qualifications required for a psychiatrist to apply for CESR. Upon entering the UK system, typically in a job with CESR support, HK psychiatrists can work towards completing the CESR application process with the support of their new employer, leading to being a specialist psychiatrist in the UK.
What is MRCPsych and how can Hong Kong Psychiatrists use it for GMC registration?
The MRCPsych examinations are the main component of specialty training for psychiatrists in the UK. The Royal College exams are designed to test your knowledge of basic medical sciences as well as the clinical skills required for diagnosis and management within psychiatry.
For IMGs from Hong Kong, MRCPsych is one of the two main routes to full GMC registration - you can find a range of articles covering these routes in our resource library here: Royal College or PLABroute.
For psychiatrists who wish to take more senior roles reflective of their current practice, IMG Connect advise that MRCPsych would be the best route to take, rather than PLAB.
As above, Hong Kong Psychiatrists who possess full MRCPsych can register to work in the UK. Whether 3 years into specialist training, or complete in all aspects of the postgraduate programme in Hong Kong, whether working as an Associate Consultant, Consultant or Professor, using the MRCPsych postgraduate route to GMC registration is applicable to you.
Psychiatrists in all main specialisms of psychiatry are eligible for registration and very much in demand to fill vacancies within the NHS.
A very successful route for Hong Kong Psychiatrists has been to secure a non-training post in the NHS, often appointed as a Specialty Doctor, Specialist Grade. Coupled with a developed CESR support programme, a non-training post can ensure swift progress to specialist registration in the UK. CESR will be a requirement for Hong Kong Psychiatrists to allow an appointment to a permanent consultant post.
For Hong Kong Psychiatrists who have not yet sat the examinations, in the following sections of this blog we will provide an overview of the format, dates, fees and exam centres, as well as look at how to prepare.
Eligibility for Hong Kong Psychiatrists
The MRCPsych examinations can be taken by any registered doctor in Hong Kong.
Each examination has different criteria, to complete the full MRCPsych a Hong Kong doctor must be registered with the medical council of Hong Kong, or any recognised medical board if working elsewhere overseas. They must also complete the Assessment Portfolio for Overseas Candidates demonstrating that they have complete 3 years of equivalent training.
For each part of the exam the Royal College suggest the following eligibility criteria:
MRCPsych Paper A
You are eligible for Paper A if you are a fully registered medical practitioner (in Hong Kong or elsewhere)
MRCPsych Paper B
It is a recommended to have at least 12 months experience in psychiatry before taking this examination.
Clinical Assessment of Skills and Competencies (CASC)
You have a pass in both Paper A and B; AND
You can demonstrate you have sponsorship in place. Sponsorship forms must be submitted by an appropriate medical education lead confirming that the eligibility requirements to sit the MRCPsych examinations have been met; AND
You have 24 months post internship experience in Psychiatry; AND
(Overseas candidates) Assessment portfolio
Exam content and format
The MRCPsych examinations consist of two written papers (Paper A + Paper B) and one clinical examination (CASC).
Paper A – The scientific and theoretical basis of psychiatry
This is a three-hour written paper, worth 150 marks and comprising of 150 questions made up of approximately two thirds multiple choice questions (MCQ) and one third extended matching item questions (EMI).
It covers the following sections of the syllabus:
Behavioural Science and Socio-cultural Psychiatry
Classification and Assessment in Psychiatry
Paper B - Critical review and the clinical topics in psychiatry
This is a three-hour written paper, worth 150 marks and comprising of 150 questions. The content includes one third critical review and two thirds on clinical topics.
It covers the following sections of the syllabus:
Organisation and delivery
Child & adolescent
CASC - Clinical Assessment of Skills and Competencies
The CASC is based on a format similar to OSCEs. Specifically, the examination consists of two circuits which must be completed on the same day.
In total, the circuit includes 16 stations, made up of:
Five stations on history taking, including risk assessment
Five stations on examination, including physical and mental state
Six stations on patient management
Stations consist of several elements with instructions provided to all candidates, marked against the examiners construct.
These have a standardised format with elements in common between stations of a similar type. Find out more here.
The assessment portfolio should demonstrate achievement of equivalent competencies to those defined in the ARCP documented on the application form, including competencies in Psychotherapy AND Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, or Learning Disability, by the time of application.
In addition, you must demonstrate that you have undertake the following activities as part of your structured job plans:
Observation in interviewing patients in ward rounds for specified reasons
Observation in interviewing patients in out-patient or community settings or other contexts for specified reasons
Assessment via formal presentation of cases with their medical notes; discuss management of cases with their Clinical or Educational Supervisor
Formal assessment of competencies in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry or Learning Disability AND Psychotherapy
Assessments and achievement of competencies should take place in a range of settings and psychiatric specialties with structured, documented feedback on performance having been provided.
Whilst there is no assessment criteria form available, (this is incorporated into the online submission), take a look at the ARCP assessment portfolio form for CT1-3 in the UK, which should help give you a starting point for your own portfolio.
For Hong Kong Psychiatrists, the good news is that since the Hong Kong College of Psychiatrists embarked on the expansion and development of formal specialisms in psychiatry, the core competencies required by the Royal College in the UK are easier to gain access to than in other parts of the world. At the time of writing, the Hong Kong College oversees the following clinical divisions: general adult psychiatry, old age psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, psychotherapy, addiction psychiatry, rehabilitation psychiatry and learning disability.
Postgraduate training in Hong Kong allows for MRCPsych aspirants to apply for the examinations with confidence.
Hong Kong MRCPsych candidates must have a sponsor in place in order to support evidence that their three years of training satisfy Royal College criteria of having achieved equivalent competencies at appropriate competency levels (year 1, 2, 3) for each component of the examination.
Sponsorship is required by all applicants for entry to the CASC exam and your sponsor should be an appropriate medical education lead, confirming you have met the requirements to sit the MRCPsych examinations.
Acceptable sponsors in Hong Kong include:
Training Programme Director
Head of School
Director of Medical Education (or equivalent)
Head of Department of Psychiatry
Consultant responsible for employee/trainee appraisal
Once your sponsor has authorised your application, you will receive a confirmation email from the Royal College, and you will be asked to complete your application and proceed to payment.
Applications for Hong Kong Doctors
To apply from Hong Kong, you will need to complete an online application form which takes about 15 – 20 minutes. Applications must be submitted no later than 3:30pm UK time (10:30pm HK time) on the last day of the application period.
Note: the online application form for Paper A, B and CASC will only be available during the published application dates and applications submitted after this will not be accepted.
You can sit Paper A and B in any order. You will be required to enter contact details and training history, including your medical registration. If applying for the CASC, you will also need to provide the contact details of your sponsor.
After you have completed the written exam, you have 1,643 days to sit the CASC – you can find specific time limits here.
Exam Costs and Payment
Payment is made by Visa or Mastercard credit/debit card, and the costs for 2021 are as follows:
PMPT Trainees and Affiliates (UK & Ireland Centres)
Non-PMPT Trainees and Affiliates (UK & Ireland Centres)
Due to the ongoing difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the CASC examination will not be run in Hong Kong in 2022.
The good news is that changes have been made and all examinations for MRCPsych can be taken online. Hong Kong psychiatrists can now sit all three MRCPsych exams without leaving the country, and even from the comfort of your own home. This makes it easier for HK doctors to complete the MRCPsych examinations and work towards their GMC registration within a normal time frame.
These are the exam dates available at the time of writing.
Date of Examination
Publication of Results
8 December 2021
4 - 22 October 2021
11 February 2022
14 June 2022
4 – 14 April 2022
22 July 2022
6 December 2022
3 – 14 October 2022
15 February 2022
Date of Examination
Publication of Results
29 March 2022
25 January – 4 February 2022
13 May 2022
4 October 2022
25 July – 5 August 2022
4 November 2022
CASC - UK & Ireland
Date of Examination
Publication of Results
10 – 21 January 2022
1 – 12 November 2021
25 February 2022
12 – 23 September 2022
6 – 17 June 2022
31 October 2022
How do I prepare for the MRCPsych examinations?
With lots of materials online, we have discussed with IMGs the best exam resources and materials for Hong Kong doctors. Most IMGs recommended starting with the Royal College, who have created useful resources to help you to prepare for the exams. See below:
Syllabus: We always suggest that this is the best place to start – plan your study around the curriculum topics and make a road map to your success in the exams. You can find this here.
Sample Papers: These will help you prepare and polish your exam techniques. They are helpful in familiarising yourself with the exam format to allow you to work quickly and efficiently on the day, and are a good way to benchmark your knowledge and progress against the syllabus.
Marking schemes (Paper A and B): Candidates pass or fail the written papers based on their performance, and not how well you perform against other candidates. As such, it is a good idea to understand how the exam is worked, so you can maximise your exam skills, giving you the best chance of a pass. Marking schemes can be found here.
Start preparing early - as ever at IMG Connect, we believe in preparation. Early preparation gives you the best chance for success and lessens the need for the dreaded last-minute cramming.
Join a study group – a great way to share resources, tips and meet new friends at the same time! To join an international study group, get in touch on our Facebook community group, see below.
Practise, practise, practise – psychiatry IMGs preparing in Hong Kong have told us that it is vital that you practise your clinical examinations, even better if under the supervision of a colleague who has already passed the exams
For regular news and updates on the Royal College and all things psychiatry, follow IMG Connect on social media using the links below:
Passed? What’s next?
Whether you completed MRCPsych as part of your postgraduate training some time ago, or have recently completed the examinations, you can apply for a full GMC registration with license to practice. Once the GMC has approved your application, you can work as a doctor in the UK.