Chapter 8 – The Fellowship of the Royal College (FRCA) examination
By: Dr Kirstin May
The examination for the Fellowship of the Royal College of Anaesthetists (FRCA) consists of two parts: the Primary and the Final FRCA exams, with usually three and two sittings per year, respectively. These exams are open to SAS and locally employed anaesthetists (conditions apply). Passing these exams can further your career, fulfil the requirements for a test of knowledge for a Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist registration (CESR)/portfolio pathway application or increase your personal satisfaction.
Details about the eligibility criteria, regulations, dates, fees, exam processes and potential recent changes can be found at Fellowship of the Royal College of Anaesthetists – The Royal College of Anaesthetists (rcoa.ac.uk).
Both the Primary and Final exams consist of several components:
The Primary Examination consists of a Written Single Best answer (SBA) component and in-person Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) and Structured Oral Examination (SOE). The written part must be passed before sitting the others. The syllabus can be found in the Core level training document.
The Final examination is aligned to the Intermediate Level training syllabus and consists of a written component and a SOE. Candidates must pass the Primary FRCA, within validity time frames, or have a recognised exemption before applying.
Overall, the syllabus is detailed and comprehensive and the required preparation is arduous. The financial cost is significant. The number of attempts you can have is limited, as is the validity time frame of individual components. An intensive period of study as well as adequate clinical exposure is required for success.
The exam website gives detailed information on how the exams are conducted and what to expect on the day. Beware that some written components are delivered online and the candidates have to meet the required system and internet connection requirements. The regulations are complicated. The College tries to help candidates by giving a lot of information about the exams on its website, in a written study guide available through the College as well as in video resources Royal College of Anaesthetists – YouTube and Primary OSCE video series – The Royal College of Anaesthetists (rcoa.ac.uk).
Candidates outside of formal training programmes should seek advice from colleagues, educational supervisors and local college tutors. You should prepare together with other candidates and optimise performance, in particular, for the in-person components, by having lots of practice. There are courses run by the College and by other organisations. For candidates from abroad, it is noteworthy that the exams test not just scientific and technical knowledge but also communication skills and interaction with patients. Therefore, international graduates may find a period of working in the UK beneficial for their exam preparation and success.
SAS and locally employed anaesthetists who have passed the FRCA examination are eligible to become an FRCA examiner, provided they meet the eligibility criteria. Vacancies on the Board of Examiners are advertised annually.