Theory exams - what you need to know before you apply and sit your exam

The RCPCH offers two qualifications: DCH and MRCPCH. The first step to obtaining these is to pass the theory exams, and you can find out what you need to know to get started.
Last modified
20 March 2024

Introducing the three theory exams

For MRCPCH (membership exam), there are three theory exams. These are non-sequential, so you can take them in any order. You must pass all three theory exams before you can apply for the MRCPCH Clinical.

For DCH (Diploma of Child Health), you sit only the FOP theory exam in combination with the DCH Clinical, in either order.

  • Foundation of Practice (FOP) - This tests the knowledge of doctors seeking to provide clinical care for children. It covers a wide range of the conditions that are frequently encountered.
  • Theory and Science of Practice (TAS) - This tests the basic scientific, physiological and pharmacological principles on which clinical practice is based. 
  • Applied Knowledge of Practice (AKP) - This tests clinical decision-making and management. Candidates benefit from clinical experience in paediatrics. 

All theory exams are computer-based and are standard set according to the Modified Angoff Method of standard setting. 

See structure and syllabus of the theory exams 

Who is eligible for the theory exams?

Theory exams are typically taken by paediatric trainees or medical doctors who require an additional qualification in paediatric medicine.

The eligibility criteria to register for the theory exams: 

  • Candidate must hold a valid primary medical qualification (PMQ) from a registered institution
  • “Primary medical qualification” shall mean a qualification rendering the holder eligible for registration with the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom, or in the case of overseas bodies, being recognised by the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom.

Find out if the institution where you obtained your PMQ is registered

How do you register for exams?

Before you can book a theory exam, you will need to register for an exams account. You need to do this at least 10 days before an exam application window opens.

See how to register

When and where are the theory exams?

We normally have three exam diets each year - in which we run all three theory exams:

  • Diet 1 -  January AKP, February FOPTAS
  • Diet 2 - May AKP, June FOPTAS
  • Diet 3 - September AKP, October FOPTAS

We run theory exams across the UK and in many countries around the world. We may not run exams in every listed country in every diet. Here's the list of countries with theory exams in test centres.

UK and Republic of Ireland

Other countries

Application windows open about 11-12 weeks before the exam. We advertise these in advance - so you can make sure you are ready to apply. All seats are offered on a first come first served basis, and we have limited numbers. Ensure you are ready to book as soon as the application window opens.

See upcoming theory exam dates and application windows

How do you sit the exam?

Most candidates sit the theory exam in a test centre. If there is no test centre local to you, there is also the option to sit the exam remotely, both in the UK and overseas (with the exception of UAE). Only candidates that meet our online invigilation eligibility criteria are able to sit theory exams online. 

If you would like to apply for online invigilation, you will need to provide evidence that you meet one of the following criteria:

  • No test centre in country of residence during the time of the exam
  • Residence more than 200 miles from a test centre
  • Approved reasonable adjustment as sitting the exam at a test centre would be detrimental to your health

Please note that we require evidence for these at the time of booking.

About sitting the exams at a test centre or via online invigilation 

What time do the exams start and finish?

FOP and TAS take place on the same day - FOP in the morning, and TAS in the afternoon. Each exam takes 2½ hours.

AKP has two papers, taken on the same day. Each paper takes 2½ hours, 5 hours in total.

You'll need to get to the test centre (or log on if via online invigilation) before the exam starts. 4-6 weeks prior to the exam, we'll publish an admissions document on your ePortfolio account, with final details regarding timings and address details.

Exam times in UK and Republic of Ireland

These are the same for both options: test centre and online invigilation. We can arrange reasonable adjustments for candidates that require extra time, please request these on the application form.

Exam Start  End End - e.g. 25% additional time
FOP 09:30 12:00 12:38
TAS 14:00 16:30 17:08
AKP - paper 1 09:30 12:00 12:38
AKP - paper 2 14:00 16:30 17:08
Exam times in other countries

Timings vary by country. We include this information on your admission document, which we'll publish on your ePortfolio account 4-6 weeks before the exam. 

Those taking the option for online invigilation, the first paper will start at 07:00, UK time. This means, your start time will depend on your time zone. It is your responsibility as the candidate to ensure you are ready to start at the correct time. Candidates who log in late to their examination may not be able to start or complete their exam and will not be eligible for compensation.

How much do the theory exams cost?

The theory exam fees depend on the exam and whether they are UK-based or overseas. The fees are the same for test centre and online invigilation.

You pay for each exam when you apply online for that exam. For all countries except Hong Kong, you need to pay online by credit card, or by debit card that is linked to a UK bank account. All fees are processed in UK sterling and might be subject to currency fluctuations. We do not accept bank drafts or cheques.

Fees in UK and Republic of Ireland

The UK and Republic of Ireland offer theory exams, MRCPCH Clinical exam and DCH Clinical exam.


Exam fee 2024

Foundation of Practice (FOP) - single paper £365
Theory and Science (TAS) - single paper £365
FOP and TAS - both papers £620
Applied Knowledge in Practice (AKP) £620
Fees in Hong Kong

Hong Kong provides both theory and MRCPCH Clinical exams.

You'll need submit payment to the Hong Kong College exam organiser in HKD via a bank draft - find out more.

Exam Exam fee 2023 Exam fee 2024
FOP - single paper 4700HKD 4700HKD
TAS - single paper 4700HKD 4700HKD
FOP and TAS - both papers


AKP 8800HKD 8800HKD
Fees in Egypt, India, Malaysia, Nepal, KSA, UAE, Oman, Myanmar, Sudan and Singapore

These countries currently provide both theory and MRCPCH Clinical exams.

Exam Exam fee 2024
Foundation of Practice (FOP) - single paper £455
Theory and Science (TAS) - single paper £455
FOP and TAS - both papers £755
Applied Knowledge in Practice (AKP) £870
Fees in Jordan, Kuwait, Malta, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Trinidad

These countries currently provide theory exams only. They do not currently provide the MRCPCH Clinical exam.

Exam Exam fee 2024
Foundation of Practice (FOP) - single paper £455
Theory and Science (TAS) - single paper £455
FOP and TAS - both papers £755
Applied Knowledge in Practice (AKP) £870

Preparing for your theory exam

We have lots of resources to help you prepare. Do take a look so you can be as ready as possible!  

Practice with sample papers

Watch videos for consultants' top tips

Buy our textbooks for each exam 

See all exam prep resources, including any upcoming courses

Regulations and rules

Prior to booking an exam, we recommend you review our regulatory guidance and policies relevant to exam candidates preparing for the MRCPCH (membership) and/or DCH (Diploma of Child Health) examinations. These include general regulations and rules, plus a series of appendices detailing our policies related to malpractice in exams, reasonable adjustments, currency and number of attempts in examinations, and cancellation or suspension of examinations.

See all exam regulations and rules

Ready to apply?

See upcoming exam dates and locations