MRCPsych Paper A – preparation, resources and courses for IMGs 

  • June 21, 2022

Overseas doctors often have questions about the best ways to prepare for MRCPsych Paper A, particularly with the changes to the exam format and so many online materials geared towards UK applicants and trainees. 

So, what study preparation, materials, courses and support are available for international psychiatrists? We have compiled some of the best guidance and resources to help you in your preparation for the Paper A exam. We will also address some changes to the availability of test centres and exam delivery as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The topics we’ll cover are as follows: 

If you know what you’re looking for, skip ahead to the relevant section. 

For an overview of the entire examination series, have a look at our article in the IMG Resources library here

What is MRCPsych Paper A? 

Let’s begin with a quick recap of the first exam in the MRCPsych examination suite.  

MRCPsych Paper A is a three-hour written exam which covers the scientific and theoretical basis of psychiatry 

The paper is comprised of 150 questions and is worth 150 marks, with two thirds being multiple choice questions (MCQ) and the other third, extended matching item questions (EMI). 

The breakdown of the sections is as follows: 

For full guidance on the structure of the exam, see our detailed blog on the MRCPsych Paper A exam here


It can be tough to know the best place to start, so we’ve spoken to some IMG psychiatrists and the consensus was that the Royal College website is the best place to begin. There are some great resources on their website to help candidates in their preparation for the exam. These include: 

Syllabus: We always recommend this as the best place to start – plan your study around the curriculum topics for a road map to your success in the exam. You can find this here

Sample papers: These will help you perfect your exam techniques and are an effective way to benchmark your knowledge against the syllabus. They will also help you work quickly on the day as you will already know what to expect. The sample papers can be found here

Marking schemes: It’s always a good idea to understand how exams are marked so you can structure your revision accordingly, giving you the best chance of a pass. These are available here

Sample exam: Samples of the exam are also helpful in fully understanding the format and to familiarise yourself with the online exam environment, particularly as this is a more recent change to the exam. This is available here

Online exam guidance: This guidance has been written specifically to help candidates to prepare for sitting an online exam, including technology checks and timings that will be in place on the day. This will be more useful closer to the exam date. The guidance can be accessed here

Passing the MRCPsych - an insider’s guide: the Royal College suggest having a look through this guide, which is a helpful resource to help you to get over the first steps, available here

What other resources are available? 

IMG Connect has a library of written resources geared towards preparation for the Paper A exam. If you’re interested in any of these, please get in touch here and we would be delighted to share these with you. 

The most highly recommended resources are the SPMM and MRCPsychMentor resources. They are available in different formats depending on your revision needs: 

SPMM Starter Study Materials: A range of comprehensive study materials and subject-based question banks with evidence-based answers and explanations (SPMM HiYield and SmartRevise). These are available for 6 months from the date of purchase for the price of £299 and can be found here

SPMM Booster Mock Exams

These practice tests are simulations of the real exam prepared to the exam blueprint, allowing you to identify your weakest areas before the actual exam. This package includes access to 6 individual practice papers, comprising reconstructed questions from the most recent exams. Subscriptions can be purchased only 10 weeks before the College exam date. 





Next start date 

On demand 



MRCPsychMentor Revision Course: unlimited access to a bank of over 2000 questions, including some from previous exams. These are delivered in the same format as will be in the exam (MCQs and EMIs), with practice timed tests you can complete as many times as you like. You can access the course here

MRCPsychMentor Mock Exam

There are two three-hour long exams available here which simulates exam conditions with mock exam papers of questions not available in the question bank. They include a revision mode, timed tests, extensive performance analysis and powerful question review functions. 


6 weeks 


£15 each 

Next start date 

On demand 



Other online resources available for the exam include a mixture of paid and free resources: 

  • BMJ Revision Questions: The BMJ has created an app-based revision resource with over 270 core questions, including the SBA and EMQ formats that will be seen in the exam. They are available at several price points dependent on the duration of access, from £29.99 for one month to £129.99 for 12 months. These are available here
  • TrickCyclists Exam Notes: A series of psychiatry notes specifically tailored to the MRCPsych Paper A exam, including the nine topics covered by the exam and more. They are available in word and PDF format and are free to be used, distributed and modified. They are available here

How have the exams been affected by COVID-19? 

As a result of the pandemic, all MRCPsych exams have moved online. You can learn more about the online exams for MRCPsych here

The application process for the exam takes 15 – 20 minutes where candidates will need a valid debit/ credit card, as well as the email address and full details of your sponsor. Further details on the application process can be found here


  1. Start your revision early – starting in advance allows you to pace yourself and get ahead of the stresses of last-minute revision and anxiety. 
  2. Divide your study time according to the marks percentage for each section – dividing your time in this way will ensure you’re putting most of your time towards what will gain you the most marks. 
  3. Think about your personal learning style and use this to plan effective revision - consider the ways you study best and use them to your advantage. 
  4. Try to take some time off work before the exam – you’ll likely be preparing for the exam alongside full-time work, so, if possible, take around 5-7 days somewhere in the run up to the exam for some intense revision. 
  5. Join the online psychiatry community - for news and updates about all things psychiatry for IMGs, follow IMG Connect on social media and join the conversation here. 

Passed? What next? 

Great stuff, this is a fantastic achievement and you should take a well-deserved break! 

Once you’re ready, you can apply to sit the Paper B exam (or CASC if you started with Paper B). For more information, take a look at our blog, where we explore MRCPsych Paper B and everything you need to know about sitting the exam, including dates, results, fees and structure. 

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 Resources library

To receive the latest news and updates on all things psychiatry, including the Royal College, GMC registration and the NHS, follow us on social media and join the conversation. 



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