Theory exams during the COVID-19 pandemic - option 1: test centre with social distancing

To ensure the safety of our candidates and invigilators in the COVID-19 pandemic, candidates will have two options for taking a theory exam, a computer-based exam: at a test centre with appropriate social distancing, or at one’s own home or workplace with online invigilation. We explain the first option here.
Last modified
16 August 2022


This guidance is for candidates preparing to apply for and sit one or more theory exams of the MRCPCH or Diploma of Child Health.

We are offering two options to candidates, and the fees for both are the same.

One option is to take the test at one's own home or another private space with online invigilation - you can read about this online invigilation option.

The other option is to sit the exam at a test centre, in the UK or overseas, with social distancing, which we explain below.

In response to COVID-19 and the ongoing effect this will have across all test centres, we have worked with our suppliers to adopt measures that will be required to ensure the protection of exam candidates and centre staff. The following sections outline these procedures and assume observance of social distancing via the recommended government guidelines.

Requirements for candidates - general

  • Face coverings are mandatory up to the point of starting the exam; thereafter, they will be by personal preference. You will need to provide your own face covering and discard it outside of the test centre site using safe and sanitary precautions.
  • To protect other candidates and staff, you will not be permitted to enter the test centre if you:
    • have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or been in close personal contact with someone with a confirmed diagnosis
    • have had any flu-like symptoms in the last fourteen days, including fever, chills, cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath
    • have returned from travel to a highly infected area * in the last 14 days.
  • You will need to temporarily remove your face covering during the check-in process for the purposes of verifying your identity.
  • Gloves, if worn, must be transparent.
  • Stay 2 metres apart from others in the waiting area (if available to candidates) and during the registration process.
  • You will not have access to the exam venue before the specified exam registration process.
  • Ensure you cover your nose and mouth in case of sneezing or coughing.
  • Bring the relevant / permitted items for their exam, this will help to limit the amount of additional personal belongings for storage.

We'll update test centre-specific information, including any additional precautions, as we receive it and based on government guidance in country. Please keep an eye on this website and on your emails to ensure you are up to date.

Requirements for candidate by test centre

Some countries / test centres have additional requirements to the above. We will add a link for more information before each examination takes place. Some test centres having COVID-19 testing requirements or are following government regulations on tracking apps.

What test centres will be required to do

In addition to the above details for candidates, all of our test centres have been provided with the following instructions to ensure safe delivery of our examinations:

  • Where possible provide a clear one-way system into the building ensuring separate entrances / exits.
  • Limit the number of candidates using lifts at any one time.
  • Provide clear, easy to read instructions throughout the test centre.
  • Provide hand sanitiser stations in all public areas.
  • Remove public seating furniture to minimise congregation.
  • Turn off vending machines / close off public water fountains.
  • Aim to limit points of physical contact between staff and test takers.
  • Provide test centre staff with protective masks / gloves to help reduce the risk of infection.
  • Enforce social distancing practices throughout the admission process.
  • Test centre staff are to disinfect all equipment using antibacterial wipes, ensuring all high touch areas will be sanitised, these areas will include, but are not limited to:
    • keyboard / monitor
    • mouse
    • desktop
    • chair handles
    • door handles.
  • Ensure antibacterial wipes are available to candidates in the exam room if they wish to do their own sanitation of the workstation prior to starting their exam.
  • Ensure gloves are always worn when using lockers / secure facilities for personal belongings, locker keys should be placed in disinfectant bowls after use.
  • Ensure gloves are worn when placing note paper for candidates on desks prior to the exam.
  • Allow for extra spacing within the exam room.
  • Candidates to enter exam room immediately after the admission process, fill room row by row, from the front of the room to the rear of the room to manage social distancing rules.
  • Candidates to bring their own pens / pencils and ensure these are not left in the exam room.
  • If assistance is required, candidate should raise their hand and will be directed to the ‘help desk’ station outside the exam room – invigilator will pause the exam immediately.
  • The invigilator will provide the relevant support to manage the candidate query and ensure the candidate is permitted back into the exam room once resolved and resume the exam.
  • Manage candidates leaving the exam room once they have finished their exam to prevent large numbers gathering in communal areas.
  • Ensure candidates leave the test centre following the correct exit route / door.
  • Confirm with candidates that all note paper needs to be placed within a box when leaving the exam room. All papers are to be saved for the appropriate timeframes and disposed of appropriately.
  • Ensure the exam room is fully cleaned / disinfected after each exam session, providing notices to confirmed once cleaned
  • Do not permit anyone into the exam room until the next session is due to start.
  • To avoid large numbers in communal areas between exam sessions, candidates should be encouraged to leave the test centre until the admission process is due to start for the second exam session.

Our test centres will also be taking a number of additional measures to ensure the safety of their staff and invigilators.


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.

Due to the timings of the exams in overseas test centres, it is sometime necessary to quarantine candidates to avoid collusion with other test centres. 

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.

Applying for this option

Each test centre has a fixed number of places. Due to social distancing, we were not always able to source the number of places we would normally book in each centre.

When you apply online, you'll select your preferred centre from those that are hosting the exam and that have available places. We accept applications on a first come, first serve basis, and only before the closing date.

Read our full application guidance

Frequently asked questions

We've put together some FAQs about both options.

  • *This should be determined by local government guidance on travel restrictions. You should check guidance in the country you will be sitting the exam, prior to exam day.