What is MRCS?

Understanding the MRCS Part A exam

MRCS stands for “Member of Royal College of Surgeons.” The awarding bodies of MRCS are the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Royal College of Surgeons of England, and Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland. The part A exam is conducted jointly by all the 4 colleges. However, you will be applying through one of the 4 colleges for the exam. MRCS is an entry-level examination for specialist training. Upon clearing the MRCS examination, surgeons enter the NHS at an ST3 stage. One can enter as a “specialist registrar” if he/she has enough surgical expertise. Previously the MRCS examination had 3 parts, but due to modifications, there are now only two parts to the examination, (Part A and Part B).

The examination helps in the assessment of surgical trainees’ clinical competence, knowledge and skills at the end of their core surgical training. International surgeons/medical graduates can write the MRCS part A exam any time after their MBBS, even though we strongly recommend that people get some sort of surgical experience before they attempt MRCS part B.

Most International students and surgeons in-training usually opt for England and Edinburgh colleges as their exam centres are located more conveniently in countries like India and Pakistan and also provide a better international outreach. This is especially for part B where centres are in Chennai, New Delhi, Kochi, and Kolkata.

When is the MRCS Part A Exam conducted?

The MRCS Part A examination takes place thrice a year-typically in January, April and September. At some point during the pandemic, the part A exam could be taken at home. But now, it can only be taken in-person at centres run by Pearson Vue (the official testing partner) The centres all over the world in multiple cities open up on a specified date usually 50 days before exams and students choose the centres online. The race for centres is a real problem and many students fail to secure a spot in their desired session. This has become a real issue over the past few months.


Is MRCS Part A conducted online?

The first part of the MRCS examination, i.e. Part-A, includes a common test for the four colleges. However, the examinee has to apply for the exam through the specific college’s website and therefore the application fees might vary slightly for each college. Exams are no longer conducted in pen-paper method. The MRCS part A exam is now handled by Pearson-Vue (an online testing agency). The location of your testing centre has to be chosen online by you. You will have to be fast on the day centres are announced on the Pearson-Vue website. In-demand locations get filled within hours. The application period ends a few months prior to the exam. However, the centre choice through the Pearson vue website takes place 45 to 60 days prior to the exam. Be vigilant about the dates. If you need to be added to a WhatsApp group where >500 students are preparing together, WhatsApp the official Mortimer Green number insert link.

The Part B of the MRCS examination is an Objective Structured Clinical Examination with 17 stations. You will be eligible to apply for MRCS part B for 7 years after completion of MRCS Part A examination. The details of this will be covered in another blog but do watch this video to gain a basic understanding of MRCS Part B.

MRCS Part-A Examination Pattern

How many parts does MRCS Part A have?

The MRCS Part A examination paper is divided into Part 1 and Part 2. Part 1 is “Applied Basic Sciences.” This part consists of 180 questions and has a three-hour time limit. It covers anatomy, pathology, physiology, surgical microbiology and a few other small topics. 75-80 of the total 180 questions are based on Anatomy topics. It is essential to acknowledge that without studying anatomy, it is difficult to pass the MRCS Part A examination.

Part 2 of MRCS Part A is “Principles of Surgery in General” or “POSG”. This part consists of 120 questions and has a two-hour time limit. This part contains questions from all sub specialities - GI surgery, colorectal surgery, trauma, peri-operative care, urology and paediatric surgery. Trauma and perioperative surgery are crucial and make up a major chunk of the questions in Paper 2 of the MRCS Part A exam. The question paper itself is split into surgical specialities, trauma, and perioperative care. The perioperative care section may include questions from critical care aspects of surgery as well.

Marking scheme for MRCS Part A Exam

How is the MRCS part A exam scored?

Part-A of the MRCS exam is a beginner level test for 300 marks to be completed within 5 hours. Each correct answer is awarded one mark and there is no negative marking; therefore, candidates are advised to attempt all the questions.

To pass the Part-A examination, one has to score a minimum of 70% in the examination. However, the determining pass percentage can vary depending upon the session and the particular college they are attempting it from. The pass percentage for international test takers is set based on the performance of UK candidates in that same exam. This is why the pass percentage can be 69 per cent for one session and 71-72 per cent for another session. We advise you to aim to score at least 75%. Also note the fact there is no competitive advantage in choosing one college over the other to take the exam from. They all administer a common exam and common pass percentage for each session.

When can you take the MRCS Part-A examination?

What is the eligibility for MRCS part A examination?

Since an examinee is eligible to attempt the MRCS Part A paper as soon as they complete their MBBS degree, it has been observed that those taking the exam immediately after completing their MBBS programme/internship post MBBS tend to score the highest percentage. This holds true for students from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or from any Middle Eastern countries. A copy of the degree certificate and also a valid passport is usually required to attempt the examination. If you are planning to apply for a passport, do apply for one ASAP.

An MBBS/Basic medical degree is enough to attempt MRCS Part A. You don’t need surgical training prior to attempting Part A of the exam. However, it is advisable to have some surgical training before you attempt MRCS Part B.

Candidates from the UK can take the Part A exam during foundation years (FY1/ FY2) or during core-training.

What do you require to apply for the MRCS Part A examination?

Here are the documents you will need to apply for MRCS Part A examination

a. Valid passport

b. MBBS/Basic medical degree (attested by Notary/British Council/Current Head of Department saying - This is a true copy of the original)

Originally, aspirants were required to send physical copies of documents via International post. But now, post-covid, the documents are being accepted online.

How to prepare for MRCS Part-A?

What is the syllabus of MRCS Part A?

Module 1 Basic science knowledge relevant to surgical practice

Module 2 Common surgical conditions

Module 3 Basic surgical skills

Module 4 The assessment and management of the surgical patient

Module 5 Perioperative care of the surgical patient

Module 6 Assessment and early treatment of the patient with trauma

Module 7 Surgical care of the paediatric patient

Module 8 Management of the dying patient

Module 9 Organ and tissue transplantation

Module 10 Professional behaviour and leadership skills

How do you start studying for MRCS Part A? How long does it take to prepare for MRCS part A?

Ideally, the MRCS Part A examination requires three months of preparation, with two to three hours a day of studying each day. If you are motivated or if your basal knowledge is good, then even a shorter time can be adequate.

To learn anatomy and physiology, you are advised to start with any resource that you are already familiar with. Physiology is an important component of MRCS part A- especially Gastric and renal physiology. You will have to understand related concepts like physiology of muscle contraction and cardiac cycle as well. Solving questions on these topics is crucial to acing an exam like MRCS Part A, where time is of essence. The Mortimer Green app not only has MCQs for MRCS Part A but also lets you filter them by topic/sub-topic to complement your study schedule.

The orthopaedics MCQ/SBAs on the Mortimer Green app are quite sufficient for your theoretical knowledge.

For Principles of Surgery in General (POSG: “Bailey & Love’s Short Practice of Surgery”, 28th edition is the recommended textbook. Concepts from the textbook are thoroughly tested in MCQ format on the Mortimer Green Question Bank. We really recommend that you solve at least 30-50 MCQs on the app daily.

Important topics for MRCS Part A

Dr Rohan Khandelwal and Dr Vinayak S Rengan have developed an extremely comprehensive question bank on the Mortimer Green app. There are >2800 questions that are based on the latest RCS and NICE guidelines. Topics that are usually asked in the exam but are a bit tough such as UK health, medico-legal aspects of surgery, physiology are all covered in great detail in the question bank.


Download the Mortimer Green app

Google play store for android devices iOS Store App Store for Apple devices

It remains the only question bank that is regularly updated every single week and after each session of the MRCS part A examination. One can also subscribe to the live and interactive test and discussion sessions. To know more about of T&Ds click here

To know what a Test and Discussion with Mortimer Green platform is like, watch this

Watch Dr Vinayak Rengan explain acid-base balance for surgeons here

How many attempts are allowed for MRCS Part A?

Does MRCS Part A expire?

Every candidate is allowed 6 attempts at MRCS Part A and your MRCS part A is valid for 7 years. You will have to attempt and pass MRCS part B within this period. On rare occasions, the college may make an exception and allow some grace time in case of a natural calamity or some exceptional circumstances. With regards to Part B, you are allowed 4 attempts at the exam.


Overview of MRCS Part A exam / What is the use of MRCS part A?

The scope of MRCS holds significant value for medical graduates. In the UK, MRCS is compulsory to start a surgical career. It helps foreign graduates pursue further short term or long term training in the UK. Your MRCS degree is very highly valued in the Middle East and UAE. Salaries can also possibly increase in the middle east with an MRCS degree. In India, many corporate hospitals also value the MRCS credential.

Watch Dr Rohan and Dr Vinayak discuss about MRCS Part A

The examination is a good way to keep oneself updated about the latest trends, and current guidelines. Preparation strategies for the examination include- thorough studying for 2-3 hours daily, solving 30- 50 MCQs per day and studying the theory. The Mortimer Green Question Bank can also play a significant role in preparing for the MRCS Part A examination. You can also gain a lot by participating in test and discussion series conducted by Dr Rohan Khandelwal and Dr Vinayak Rengan.

Here is how Dr Ubenthira - a successful candidate who cleared MRCS Part A before even joining his MS general surgery. We are proud of Dr Ubenthira

Dr Karthikeyan Ramkumar talks about how the entire MG team helped him secure a good mark


Dr PN Mallick, 1971 batch MBBS and a leading surgeon at Kalimpong, West Bengal is on his way to fulfilling his dream of getting certified as MRCS. Aided by Mortimer Green, he cleared his MRCS part A in his first attempt. Age is no barrier, thanks to Mortimer Green. He's a great example that with the right attitude and the right resources - anyone can clear MRCS Part A confidently. What's stopping you?


Contact Mortimer Green directly at WhatsApp chat Helpline- +91 81482 06382 Or email us at- info@mortimergreen.org

We are delighted to be with you as a part of the MRCS journey. Do leave your comments and queries so that the entire Mortimer Green team can help you.


About the author | Dr Pravin M Sundaram

Dr Pravin is a minimal access surgeon based out of Chennai who has passed MRCS with exceptional scores. He is a surgical teacher and helps the MG team.