Theory exams - how you sit your exam

The theory exams are computer-based and take place a set date and time. Most candidates sit their theory exam in a test centre. We have test centres around the UK and in many countries around the world. Some candidates are eligible to sit their theory exam via online invigilation, which is usually done in their own home or a private setting. We explain both.
Last modified
15 March 2024

For more information about the three theory exams, including eligibility, fees, syllabus, how to apply and how to prepare, go to our Theory examinations page.

Theory exams are computer-based

The three theory exams - Foundation of Practice (FOP), Theory and Science (TAS) and both parts of the Applied Knowledge in Practice (AKP) - are taken on a computer. They take place on a set date and time, and over a set period of time.

Each theory exam in each diet is the same - whether you are taking it in a test centre or via online invigilation, in the UK or any other country. 

Taking your theory exam in a test centre

Most candidates sit their theory exam in a test centre.

We have test centres around the UK and in many countries around the world. Exams in test centres are invigilated in person.

As a candidate, you must ensure you are able to arrive at the test centre location. This includes setting up any visas, travel and accommodation.

Not all test centres open in each exam diet. Test centre exam times and in local timings and can vary according to location. Please remember to check your admission document for the timings of your exam.

See our maps of test centres on our What you need to know before you apply page

Timings

As is usual, each exam is 2 hours 30 minutes, unless you are allocated additional time. If you are sitting both FOP and TAS on the same day, or the AKP, you will have a break between the two parts.

If you arrive at the test centre or start your online exam after the exam has started but within the first 30 minutes of the exam, you will still be permitted to sit the exam but will not be given any additional time.

If you arrive or begin after the first 30 minutes of the exam has passed you will not be permitted to sit the exam.

Taking your theory exam via online invigilation

Some candidates are eligible to sit their theory exam via online invigilation. This is monitored remotely in real time by an online invigilator. Our online invigilation team uses trained human invigilators combined with AI proctor software. The footage will also be recorded and reviewed later by the RCPCH. Online exams must take place in a suitable private space, such as your home, maintaining exam conditions.

International candidates in most countries without test centres will be able to use online invigilation. This is subject to our eligibility requirements, local laws, network connectivity, and other technical requirements. The software is currently not able to support candidates in UAE to sit the exam online (due to local legal restrictions). We have noted many candidates have had connectivity problems attempting to sit the exam online Egypt, Iran, Myanmar, Syria, and Sudan - if you do wish to sit online, we would recommend seeking a venue where there is more likely to be back up generators and stronger internet connectivity.

As of the 2024.1 diet, we have made significant changes to our online invigilation booking process. 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

We require evidence for these at the time of booking. If the reason for taking the exam online is your location at the time of the exam, we require proof of residence. This includes a utility bill dated within the last three months, letter from employer or a dated mortgage or tenancy agreement. Mobile phone bills will not be accepted. We will not accept test centres being fully booked as a reason for taking the exam online. We do not accept a passport or any kind of national identity card as proof of residence.

All reasonable adjustment requests will be assessed on an individual basis according to the evidence provided. Please include details and evidence of the adjustment required on your application form. (Please note that these may not be considered sufficient to meet the eligibility criteria.)

All evidence must be provided when submitting the application form. We will not accept documents that are illegible for any reason or not in English (unless accompanied by a notarised translation). We will not accept documents sent or uploaded at a later date.

Candidates will not be able to make payment until all evidence has been reviewed and the application has been approved. All approved candidates will receive a notification of the payment deadline after this stage. If the payment is received by this deadline, the online seat reservation will be confirmed.

Timings for online invigilation

Each exam is 2 hours 30 minutes, unless you are allocated additional time. If you are sitting both FOP and TAS on the same day, or the AKP, you will have a break between the two parts. During this time you are instructed to log out of the exam and re-enter new details on your return for the second part.

For UK candidates, the start time is as normal - at 09:30 for FOP and AKP paper 1, and 14:00 for TAS and AKP paper 2.

For candidates in other countries, the online invigilation for FOP and AKP starts at at 07:00 UK time. AKP paper 2 and TAS exam will start at 12:00 UK time. (So, 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.

You will receive an exam link and a systems check for each paper you are taking - so 2 for AKP 1 and 2, and 2 for FOPTAS. It is important that you check that you are clicking into the right email to get the link for the correct exam at the right time, as they are very similar. If you click on your exam link and receive a message about it not being due to start for several hours, please return to your email and check the other exam link.

Where you can sit your exam with online invigilation

You can sit your exam anywhere you have a fully private space, and using your PC/laptop and mobile device that meet the minimum requirements stated above.

We recommend candidates do not sit their exam at work. If you choose to sit at work, it is your responsibility to:

  • Ensure you have a private space where you will not be disturbed.
  • Be away from any audio or visual disruptions - you must be completely alone in the space.
  • Ensure the room is completely private, offices with glass walls or ground floor windows are not accepted.
  • Check in advance with your IT Network Administrator that they can help to support you sit your exam. You will need to ensure that you will not experience any problems using your works network or firewalls.
  • Undertake the systems check on the devices that you will be using.

System requirements for online invigilation

You will need both a desktop or laptop computer and a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet.

Desktop or laptop computer

You will need a desktop or laptop computer, on which you'll take the exam and record live audio and video for the online invigilation. We'll provide instructions on a system set up, but first check that your computer meets these requirements:

  • Bandwidth - A minimum 1.5mbps + upload speed, 10mbps download speed and ping under 25 ms. If you are unsure how to check your bandwidth there are a number of bandwidth testing sites that you can access online to test your bandwidth for you.
  • No tethering - Tethering is not supported
  • Operating system:
    • Windows 8 or higher (to check which operating system you have for Windows - Select the Start button > Settings > System > About . Open About settings. Under Windows specifications, check which edition and version of Windows your device is running)
    • MAC OSX (latest releases – If your Mac is using earlier versions of any Mac operating system, we advise that you install the latest Apple software updates, which can include important security updates also).
  • Broadband - You will need to to be positioned where WiFi signal is strongest or connected directly to the Ethernet cable.
  • Web browser - Your default browser must be set to the latest version of Google Chrome - here's a guide to changing your browser.
  • Webcam - Video is required throughout the exam. You'll need a webcam with a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720.
  • Microphone - Audio is required throughout the exam. You'll need a microphone that is built in to your desktop or laptop computer. You are not permitted to use a separate headset or earphones unless you have been provided with permission from our Theory exams team in line with the reasonable adjustment policy on the Regulations and rules page.
  • Single monitor/screen - Dual monitors are not permitted. Any candidate identified as using a dual monitor will be disqualified from sitting their exam.
  • Not on a virtual machine or VPN - We do not invigilate computers running virtual machines or a VPN (virtual private network). If you are running a virtual machine or running through a VPN you will be asked to close your virtual machine/VPN and use standard operating system to take your test.
  • We do not support development previews, beta builds, or release candidates of any operating system unless specified.
  • We have found that MS Surface devices do not operate correctly with the software used and should not be used as the device you take your exam on.

Mobile device (smartphone or tablet)

You will also need a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet, for additional monitoring for the online invigilation. We will provide you instructions to download the ProctorExam app, which is designed to support online invigilation. First, ensure your mobile device meets these specifications:

  • Operating system: you can see this in your device's setting
    • Android 5.1 or higher, or
    • iOS (Apple) 10.0 or higher
  • Video resolution - minimum 800 x 600 px
  • Internet connection - Ensure you can connect to WiFi so you don’t use up your data.
  • Power - Ensure your device can can be plugged in for the duration of your exam.

Please note, we have found that Google Pixel and Huawei P30 and Samsung Galaxy A3 (from 2016) smartphones do not work with the ProctorExam app. We strongly advise that candidates use a different mobile device to avoid complications on exam day.

Systems check and setup for online invigilation

If you successfully book your exam via online invigilation, we will email you two weeks before the exam day. This will have a link to do a systems check and setup.

After you complete your systems check, we will update your status as ready on our system. If you do not complete this, you will not be permitted to take the exam. Remember!

  • Perform the systems check and setup on the computer you will take the exam on.
  • Do this well in advance of the exam date. Do not leave it until the last minute.
  • Systems checks links can be used more than once. If you need to upgrade anything on your computer or mobile device after an initial systems check before the exam, please perform the systems checks again.

Any breach of the exam regulations and rules may mean your exam is disqualified. See Regulations and rules.

    Instructions for the day for online invigilation

    Our supplier, Surpass, has provided a complete candidate guide along with instructions video.

    Download complete candidate guide at bottom of this page

    Identifying yourself

    You will need your photo ID and your admission document to prove who you are, so make sure you know where these documents are and have them easily to hand. You will be prompted to show your ID and admission document in the environment checks before your exam. Failure to produce ID and admission document will result in disqualification. If you cannot see yourself in the webcam and you cannot take a photo of your ID and admission document, you should not proceed with the exam until the webcam works.

    No breaks unless previously agreed

    In all but prior agreed, exceptional circumstances, there is no toilet break. This aligns with common exam practice. It protects all candidates by ensuring malpractice does not impact the final score. You are expected to remain at your workstation throughout the exam. 

    Unless you have a prearranged adjustment, you are not permitted to leave your workstation at any point during the exam. If you do not have a prearranged break and you leave your workstation, your exam may be discounted with no refund. If you previously arranged a break due to extra time or a reasonable adjustment, this should be stated on your admissions document. If you are concerned that you may need a toilet break during the exam, please select to sit your exam at one of our test centres.

    If you have an accessibility reason requiring a toilet break during an online exam, you must submit evidence for this at the point of application via the reasonable adjustment request. This evidence will be considered, and a decision will be communicated following the end of the application window – if the request is refused or adequate evidence is unable to be provided, a candidate will have the choice to sit the exam online without a toilet break or to withdraw and receive an 85% refund.

    Candidates with prearranged breaks or approved extra time are permitted one 5-minute break per paper.  

    What you can have in your workspace

    You can have up to two pieces of blank notepaper and a pen or pencil. All notepaper and writing implements must be shown to the invigilator (both side of each piece of paper) before the start of the exam, during the environment check. At the end of the exam, you must show your notes to the screen before finishing your exam, and then tear up the notepaper to destroy it. All exam materials MUST be visible on camera and remain at your workstation at all times. 

    You can take water into the exam, but ensure any bottles are translucent. 

    Make sure you are comfortably dressed. Be aware that you are being recorded.

    Setting up your private space

    It is essential that you let those close to you (friends, family and your work colleagues) know when you're sitting your exam, so that you will not be disturbed. If someone enters the room that you are in when you are taking your exam and you are seen communicating in any way with others there is a risk that you may be disqualified from your exam.

    We would recommend setting your laptop up so that the door to the room that you take your exam in is visible behind you when you are sitting your exam. This will help to avoid any confusion that may arise for the invigilator who will be able to see if anyone has entered behind you clearly.

    Ready to apply?

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