FRCR (Oncology) Part 1 – preparation, guidance & resources for overseas doctors

  • May 02, 2022

Are you an oncology IMG looking to sit your FRCR (Oncology) Part 1 (CO1) exam? 

International doctors often wonder about the best ways to prepare for the first FRCR (Oncology) exam. There are many resources available online, but with so much geared towards UK applicants and trainees, it can be difficult to decide what is best suited to you as an overseas candidate. 

Here we have compiled some of the best resources and guidance for overseas FRCR CO1 applicants preparing for the exam. We will also touch on some of the recent changes to the format, delivery, and availability of the exam in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The topics we’ll be discussing include the following – skip ahead to one of these sections if you know what you’re looking for: 

FRCR (Oncology) Part 1

As a reminder, FRCR (Oncology) Part 1 or CO1 is the first exam in the FRCR (Oncology) examination suite. The full set of exams, Part 1, and Part 2A and 2B, or CO1, CO2A and CO2B are the exams required by international doctors to satisfy the requirements for GMC registration through the postgraduate route.  

The assessment expects that candidates have a broad knowledge of subjects that relate to the investigation and management of patients with cancer. 

The exam consists of five modules which are taken through four exam papers over two days. On each day, candidates may attempt any number of modules. Altogether the FRCR CO1 exam has 180 SBA (single best answer or multiple choice) questions. 

The exam structure is as follows: 

For an in-depth breakdown of each of the FRCR (Oncology) Part 1 modules, see our detailed blog, FRCR (Oncology) Part 1, through the IMG resources library, where you can also read an overview of the full FRCR (Oncology) examination suite

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


We have discussed with IMGs the best way to prepare for the first FRCR (Oncology) exam and most recommended beginning with the Royal College website and resources, which they have compiled to aid in your preparation. 

Curriculum: The FRCR (Oncology) exam is based on the Specialty Training Curriculum for Clinical Oncology, and as a rule of thumb, your revision should start here to ensure you are focusing on the exact material that will be in your exam. Knowing the curriculum is key and you can find these on the Royal College website here

Royal College resources include: 

  • Learning hub: the learning hub is available to members and contains many useful learning resources. This can be found here
  • Purpose of assessment: this will help candidates understand the examination's purpose, the required level of candidate training and the application of results, available here.
  • Implementation tools: this is a range of tools which have been compiled by the College to support the new curricular which all students should have transferred to by August 2022 at the latest and can be accessed here
  • Guidance notes – a document with detailed guidance on exam structure, content, requirements and marking which you can find here
  • Sample questions: sample SBA questions with answers which can be 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
  • Examiners’ reports: this is a collection of generic reports written by examiners on the overall performance of candidates and individual questions as a guide for applicants for future sittings. These are available here

Other helpful resources

There are several other resources available online, from flashcard-style revision materials to tips and advice from former candidates who have passed the exam:

The Clinical Oncology Registrar

This former candidate has compiled tips, guidance, and notes (including revision notes) on the First FRCR exam. These include revision advice, downloadable materials on key topics and links to good books and core materials to use. You can find the full blog here

FRCR Oncology

A compilation of recommended books and notes shared by a former FRCR oncology candidate. There are general tips, as well as more detailed notes on the exam modules. These can be accessed here

British Medical Journal

The BMJ has created an app-based physics revision resource with core questions on elements of the physics module, in the same multiple-choice format as will be seen in the exam. They are available at several price points depending on the duration of access, which ranges from £24.99 for one month to £139.99 for one year. This can be accessed here


A set of flashcards with over 1300 questions across all modules. This free resource can be used as either revision or practice material and is located here

FRCR Exam Prep

This website is home to exam tips, an online revision course for the physics module (including timed mock exams), sample cases and articles. The price of the physics course ranges from £25 for one month to £115 for one year. This can be found here

How the exam has been affected by COVID-19

First FRCR (Oncology) is still taking place in person, but the number of exam centres has been reduced. For now, these are Belfast, Birmingham, Bridgend Wales, Crewe, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, and London. Overseas centres for now are in Hong Kong, India, and Malta. 

For advice on preparation before applying for the exams, see the Royal College website here

#IMG Tips 

  1. Start preparing early, but not too early – you want to avoid the misery of last-minute cramming, but not to burn out. Former candidates recommend starting about 6 months beforehand. 
  2. Get familiar with the curriculum – this is the home of the exam’s content – get to know this as well as possible to jumpstart your preparation for the exam 
  3. Go through as many exam questions as possible – we know these are scattered all over the internet, but from those we’ve compiled in this handy guide you should have enough to keep you busy! 
  4. Join the conversation – IMG Connect are regularly sharing interesting tidbits, news, updates on social media. We also have study and support groups where you can join likeminded international doctors from all over the world in one communicative and moderated space to share exam tips, wins and woes, and buddy up with peers to help boost your chances of passing first time. 


If you would be interested in joining the Final FRCR (Oncology) group, please email to speak to our oncology specialist and reserve your place today. 

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. Nice one. 

We hope this is helpful for any overseas doctors preparing to sit their Final FRCR exam and the team here at IMG Connect wish you the best of luck! 

Don’t forget to share your progress and successes with us using the hashtag #imgstories on social media, we love to hear from you.


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