Theory exams for the MRCPCH and DCH - options for taking the exam

Candidates have two options for taking the theory exam, a computer-based exam: at a test centre, or at one’s own home or workplace with online invigilation.

We have a webinar recording about the options first provided for our 2020.3 diet, which is currently relevant. We also have some frequently asked questions and links to further information about online invigilation. We recommend that all candidates read the information thoroughly before making their decision on which delivery option they would like to take.
Last modified
16 August 2023
Table of contents

SECTION 1 - Options

We are offering candidates two options for sitting the theory exams, and you can read more about each option:

Is there a limit on how many people can sit the exam?

There is a limited number of places available for each option.

We have worked with our supplier to secure a significant number of candidate seats in most test centres - accounting for social distancing measures.

We have also secured several hundred online invigilation places.

How will places at test centres will be allocated?

Test centres places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis via the exams booking system.

Can I be prioritised for a test centre seat if I am unable to use online invigilation?

Unfortunately, due to the number of candidates involved in our theory exams, we are not able to offer any prioritisation. We recommend you book as soon as possible in the relevant application window (see dates). This will give you the best chance for getting your first choice.

How will testing fairness be maintained between candidates sitting in each setting (test centre vs online)?

From a testing perspective, there are no advantages to taking an exam in test centre vs online as both settings will sit the same exam. Any advantages/disadvantages are purely logistical or preference.

All candidates will, regardless of setting, have the opportunity to ensure that they have appropriate testing conditions and equal opportunities to become familiar with the testing format and practice materials before the exam.

There may be limited availability for both settings and any candidate with a preference would be advised to book early to get their first choice.

What will happen if differences in exam results appear between the two methods?

A number of procedures are in place to ensure consistency in testing. Strict parameters are adhered to when creating an exam, which, among other factors, ensure appropriate coverage of the syllabus and a standardised level of difficulty based off of exam performance data. Each exam is built to a specific level of difficulty; in previous administrations of exams this difficulty has remained stable.

We will use this performance data as a control for upcoming exams to determine if there are any significant differences between settings. Our Modified Angoff meeting will take place following an exam to ensure that the standard and passmark of the exam is reflective of the exam content. A Standards Monitoring Meeting will also take place, as usual, to ensure that candidates are not impacted by changes.

Along with proctors invigilating a session, the RCPCH administers a statistical analysis post-exam to the exam performance data to highlight anomalous results. Any results identified by this method will be investigated and may be escalated as per the MRCPCH rules and regulation in accordance with the GMC Good Medical Practice guidelines.

You can read more about our standard setting and the modified Angoff method.

How will reasonable adjustments be accommodated with the changes to theory exam delivery?

We will make every effort to accommodate any reasonable adjustments, according to our policy which is available to download on our regulations and rules page.

All the system accessibility features that are available for test centre delivery will be available to candidates taking via online invigilation. You can change the colour of the background within the system.

If you need to use any accessibility software on your laptop or desktop at home increase the size of the text, you can do this using Windows Magnifier –  please include this in your application form reasonable adjustment sections so we can let your invigilator know that you will be using this software.

Additional time can still be accommodated for candidates who provide evidence that this is an educational need.

If you have other access requirements, in order to facilitate sitting via online invigilation (such as certain hearing devices to allow you to communicate with the online invigilator) please include details of these in your application form so we can ensure that these will be accommodated and not flagged to us as a concern.  

Any other reasonable adjustment will be assessed based upon evidence and what can be accommodated during this sitting account for social distancing in test centres and online invigilation. We would advise that you contact the Exams Team directly on, prior to the application window to discuss reasonable adjustments if you have any concerns.

You can read more about about requesting additional requirements and reasonable adjustments.

SECTION 2 - Test centre delivery

We will be providing seats for both AKP and FOP/TAS examinations at socially distanced test centres.

This means that candidates in most countries where we deliver theory examinations will be able to select to sit in a test centre.

This could be useful for candidates who are unsure if they have the minimum recommended technical specifications or if they might not have access to a quiet workspace at home.

If I develop COVID-19 symptoms in the run up to my examination, what will happen?

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 prior to the exam, or are told to quarantine due to contact or symptoms within 14 days before exam day, you should contact the RCPCH examinations team as soon as possible to discuss transfer and cancellation options.

Will I get a refund if I’m turned away from a test centre for having a raised temperature?

If you are turned away from a test centre because of health check questions or because you have a raised temperature, please first ensure you go to a safe place to isolate as quickly as possible – the priority in this situation is, of course, the health of our candidates and of other people they might come into contact with. Once you are safely isolating, please contact the RCPCH examinations team via email to start arrangements for transfer or cancellation.

What happens if there is a lockdown in my country or region just before the examination is due to take place?

If the lockdown happens before supplier deadlines for confirming online invigilation numbers, we will endeavour to offer candidates in affected areas the option to change to online invigilation.

If a total lockdown is imposed shortly before the examination, we will work with candidates on transfers or cancellations.

If there are partial lockdowns or increased restrictions, we will work with our test centres to see if we can continue to run the examination either within our current social distancing guidelines or with further social distancing.

We are already adhering to stricter social distancing rules than we anticipate will be in place by the time our September and October examinations take place.

For further information please refer to the RCPCH examination cancellation policy - download on our Regulations and rules for examinations page.

SECTION 3 - Online invigilation: how it works

Candidates using this option will sit the exam in their own home, or another private location, on their own equipment.

This means that those who are shielding or who live some distance from their nearest test centre are able to take their exam more safely. It is available to candidates in all countries except UAE. 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 an alternative venue such as a place of employment or a hotel, where there is more likely to be back up generators and stronger internet connectivity. 

Online invigilation monitors candidate with two devices, using both audio and video, screensharing - to ensure that candidates are both supported and preventing from attempting to cheat. So you'll need access to two devices, ie a desktop or laptop, plus a mobile device, as well as a stable internet connection and power supply.

See more about the requirements for online invigilation.

Can I sit to take the exam via online invigilation in a country other than those listed on your website as where you deliver theory exams?

Yes, you can book for the overseas online invigilation option (the first paper of which will be starting at 07:00 UK time – it will be up to candidates to make sure they have the correct time in their own country).

We will be doing everything possible to test online invigilation in the countries where we currently deliver exams and we already know of a small number countries where online invigilation is not possible due to local restrictions (Egypt, Sudan, and UAE). It is the candidate’s responsibility to run the comprehensive systems check beforehand and to check their own network connectivity.

Is there a greater risk of malpractice with online invigilation, and how will malpractice be prevented?

As with test centre delivery, we will implement a wide range of processes and work closely with our supplier to prevent all forms of malpractice and cheating.

We will be able to identify candidates who attempt to gain an unfair advantage.

Any candidate who attempts to copy or share our intellectual property, use notes, access information outside of the exam on their device, or make contact with other individuals during their exam will face severe sanctions, as outlined in the malpractice policy in our rules and regulations.

Sanctions include being reported to the General Medical Council or equivalent overseas medical regulatory body.

Can I do online invigilation in a country where the RCPCH doesn’t currently deliver theory examinations in test centres?

Online invigilation is subject to local laws and restrictions. We know that we cannot deliver online invigilation in Egypt, Sudan, and UAE but these only reflect the countries in which we already delivery theory examinations. Our supplier, BTL, has indicated that candidates have also struggled to use the online platform in China, due to local laws there. We have not been able to confirm that any other countries would have problems and we expect that candidates in most other countries will be able to sit via online invigilation without any problems.

Can I use a workstation at my workplace to take the exam via online invigilation?

We recommend that candidates who chose to sit via the online invigilation delivery do so in their own homes.

We are aware that for some candidates, this might not be possible. If test centre delivery is not viable – either due to capacity or other reasons – we would suggest speaking with your manager/educational supervisor and your workplace IT team to see if arrangements can be made for a private room and technical support.

We anticipate that workplace networks will require some support from IT administrators to ensure you can use the online invigilation platforms to take your exam.

Is there a proximity requirement in case people wanted to sit the exam remotely in the same place, for example in their workplace?

If you select online invigilation, you must be able to take it in a private room away from other people or candidates.

You should be able to close and/or lock the door, put up signs, and otherwise take all precautions to prevent you from being interrupted or disturbed, especially if you plan to take the exam in your workplace.

Anyone else entering the exam room will be flagged by our invigilators and may result in disqualification.

Can candidates try online invigilation in advance?

Our theory exam sample papers provide a good example of the way you will take your exam via online invigilation in our exam platform, Surpass.

If you have sat the exam before in a test centre, your experience will be similar to previous exams.

All candidates sitting via online invigilation will be sent a link to a systems check two weeks prior to the exam, which must be completed by the candidate at least one week before the exam.

If you experience any problems with your set up when you do this initial systems check, you must request a second link to complete the systems check on whatever device set up you will be using on the day. Your second and final opportunity to undertake a system check must be completed no later than 1 week prior to your exam day.

Failure to undertake this means that we cannot accept any liability for technical issues that may occur and, unless there is evidence of special circumstances, you will not be eligible for a refund of the exam fee .

You can read about the requirements and system check for online invigilation.

What happens if I experience technical difficulties with online invigilation on the day?

On your exam day, when you are setting up your system requirements to ensure everything is ready for you to take.

When you are completing your systems check and taking your exam, there will be a live chat function available for support with any technical issues.

During the exam registration and exam itself there will also be an invigilator to provide additional support.

Will compensation be considered if I experience technical difficulties with online invigilation on the day?

This will depend on a variety of factors including the severity of the issue and the length of any delay experienced.

Candidates who experience lengthy disruption should follow the exam Complaints guidance available on our examinations regulations and rules page.

How long will there be between papers (eg between AKP part 1 and 2 and between FOP and TAS)?

The length of the individual exam papers and the break between the two remain unchanged.

You read details of timings.

How does online invigilation / proctoring take into account toilet breaks?

To reduce the risk of malpractice, candidates who choose to sit via online invigilation will be able to take no more than one toilet break, for no longer than five minutes away from their desk, for each paper.

If you have any health or access requirements that might make this difficult, please flag them on your application form so we can see if any adjustments can be applied.

You can read about about requesting additional requirements and reasonable adjustments.

Will online invigilation affect the time until results are available?

We do not anticipate any change to the timescales for results publication.

However, if there is a need to undertake any investigation of online invigilated candidates based upon invigilator feedback, we may have to withhold results until the investigation is complete.

You can read about exam results.

Does the software account for time lost if my internet drops out?

If the exam loses connection, the timer will stop within Surpass.

The candidate will need to re-enter by the exam email with the link in and go through a few steps , then launch the Surpass driver and re-enter the keycode.

The exam will start where the connection was lost.

Does the software itself prevent you leaving the page if something pops up or you accidentally click something?

If the candidate navigates away from the exam page, this would be noted by the invigilator and flagged for review for the RCPCH exams team to investigate.

We recommend that you turn off notifications on your devices before you start the exam.

Can international candidates use online invigilation?

Yes, international candidates in most countries will be able to use online invigilation. This is subject to 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 an alternative venue such as a place of employment or a hotel, where there is more likely to be back up generators and stronger internet connectivity. 

We will offer a separate UK start times to accommodate candidates overseas, and it will be the responsibility of candidates to ensure they start the exam at the right time.

Will online invigilation continue to be provided as an exam delivery option past the COVID-19 pandemic?

We are currently offering online invigilation for 2022.1 diet and will continue to review the use of online invigilation throughout 2022.