MRCPsych Paper A – a detailed breakdown for overseas psychiatrists

  • March 28, 2022

For many overseas psychiatrists, as well as UK based trainees, the MRCPsych exams can be overwhelming. Where do you turn for study materials? How do you prepare for the exams? What are the exams dates and fees? Where can I sit the exam? How can I find support online?  

To help a little, in this blog we will explore MRCPsych Paper A and everything that you need to know about how to sit the exam, taking a detailed look at the following topics: 

If you know what you're looking for, skip ahead to the relevant section!

An overview of MRCPsych 

The MRCPsych exams are the central components of psychiatry training in the UK. The examination series is designed to test the candidate’s knowledge of basic medical sciences as well as the clinical skills needed for diagnosis and management within psychiatry.    

Full MRCPsych satisfies the postgraduate requirements for full GMC registration for international psychiatrists taking this route towards working in the UK.  

The exams within the series are as follows: 

  • MRCPsych Paper A 
  • MRCPsych Paper B 
  • MRCPsych CASC 

For a more general overview of the MRCPsych examinations via our IMG Resources, please click here

MRCPsych Paper A 

Paper A is a three-hour written exam covering the scientific and theoretical basis of psychiatry. 

The exam, comprised of 150 questions, is worth 150 marks: 

  • two-thirds multiple choice questions (MCQ), and 
  • one-third extended matching item questions (EMI) 

Exam structure and marking 

Paper A covers the following sections of the current syllabus:


The percentage split and marks allocation on the 150-mark exam is broken down as follows:

Section Percentage Marks
Behavioural Science and Socio-cultural Psychiatry 16.67% 25 marks
Human Development 16.67% 25 marks
Basic Neurosciences 25% 37 - 38 marks
Clinical Psychopharmacology 25% 37 - 38 marks
Classification and Assessment in Psychiatry 16.67% 25 marks


Trainee psychiatrists from any country in the world can sit the MRCPsych examinations providing that they meet the eligibility requirements. 

You are eligible to sit Paper A if you are a fully registered medical practitioner. 

Exam locations and dates 

We have good news – in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has made the decision to move all MRCPsych exams online! This means you can sit the MRCPsych exams from your home country with submission and preparation details available on the Royal College website

This change makes it immensely easier for international doctors to complete their Royal College exams and work towards GMC registration within a normal timeframe and with reduced disruptions. 

Examination dates (at the time of writing) are as follows: 

Examination Date 

Application Period 

Results Publication Date 

1 December 2022

26 September - 7 October 2022 15 February 2023

Exams are usually held twice a year – and we will regularly check the Royal College website for updates and changes. 


To apply, you’ll need to complete the Royal College online application form. This form is only available during the published application dates and must be submitted prior to the closing date. If you miss the cut off, your application will not be considered. 

For new overseas candidates, you will need to register for a Royal College login first. 

You will need to provide the following: 

  • Personal details 
  • Primary Medical Qualifications & Registration 
  • Training 
  • Written paper selection 


At the end of your application, you will be directed to an online payment system where you can pay by credit or debit card, so make sure you have your details ready. 

Once your application is complete you will receive two confirmation emails, one to confirm receipt of the application and one to confirm the payment has been received. 

See below for MRCPsych Paper A fees for 2021: 

  • PMPT Trainees and Affiliates (UK & Ireland Centres) - £486 
  • Non-PMPT Trainees and Affiliates (UK & Ireland Centres) - £539 


With lots of resources available online, we have discussed with our IMG Psychiatry Community the best place to start looking for materials relating to the exams. Most IMGs recommended starting with the Royal College, who have created useful resources to help you to prepare for the exams. We’ve collated these 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 access this here

Sample Papers: These will help you prepare and polish your exam techniques and are a good idea to regularly benchmark your knowledge against the syllabus. In addition, sample questions will help you work quickly on the day, you will already know what to expect. The sample papers can be found here

Marking schemes: 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 marked, so you can maximise your exam skills and give yourself the best chance of a pass. Marking schemes can be found here

Sample exam: These can help you understand the exact format of the exam and to familiarise yourself with the online exam environment. This is available here

Online exam guidance: Detailed guidance written specifically to guide candidates in preparing for an sitting an online exam, including technology checks and timings. The guidance can be accessed here

The Royal College also suggest taking a look at Passing the MRCPsych - an insider’s guide - a useful resource to help you to get over the first steps. This is available here

#IMG Tips 

  1. Start early – preparation is key and the best way to avoid last-minutes stress and cramming. 
  2. Use the Royal College website – this should be your best friend...or at least one of them. There are so many useful resources on these – what better place to start your revision? 
  3. Join our online support community - for all things psychiatry, including access to a community of likeminded psychiatrists and MRCPsych aspirants, follow IMG Connect on social media and join the conversation  


Passed? What next? 

If you are completing the papers in order, the next step will be to apply for Paper B. For more information take a look at our blog where we explore MRCPsych Paper B and everything you need to know about how to sit the exam, including syllabus, dates, results, fees and preparation. 

For more useful blogs & articles on the MRCPsych exams, registrations & qualifications to help you find your dream job in the NHS - take a look at our IMG library.

Good luck in your MRCPsych Paper A exam!


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