Theory exams for the MRCPCH and DCH - taking the exam by online invigilation

Candidates have two options for taking a theory exam, a computer-based exam: at a test centre, or at one’s own home or workplace with online invigilation. We explain the second option here.
Last modified
21 September 2023

Introduction

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

One option is to sit the exam at a test centre, in the UK or overseas - you can read about this test centre option.

The other option is to sit the exam at one's own home or another private location with online invigilation, which we explain here. This option is only available if candidates meet our online invigilation eligibility requirements, please see below.

If you select this option, you will be monitored online and in real time by a trained invigilator, or proctor, during your exam. This will also be recorded and reviewed later.

We have been working with our suppliers to put this in place. Our theory exams are taken via the assessment system of BTL, our provider. This system is called Surpass. Our supplier for online invigilation is called ProctorExam.

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 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 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.

All candidates will need to ensure that they have the correct hardware, software, and network connectivity - more details are included below.

Eligibility requirements

From 2024.1, we are making 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
  • Reasonable adjustment that means sitting the exam online is beneficial 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, 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

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, which you can take away from your computer.

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. (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 and 1 or 2 for FOPTAS. It is important that you check that you are clicking into the right email to get the link for the correct examination at the right time, as they are very similar (and as they are automated, we are not currently able to do anything about this). 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.

System requirements

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

Requirements for 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 it.
  • 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 Exams team in line with the Reasonable Adjustment Policy, available on our rules and regulations page.
  • Single monitor/screen - Dual monitors are not permitted. Any candidate identified as using a dual monitor will be disqualified from sitting their examination.
  • 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 examination on.

Requirements for 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 set up

Once you have successfully booked your exam via online invigilation, we will email you two weeks before the exam day with a link to do a systems check and set up.

Once you have completed this, your ProctorExam record will be updated. If you do not complete the system set up check, you will not be permitted to take the exam.

Remember:

  • Perform the system 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.

Ensure you are familiar with the MRCPCH & DCH examination regulations and rules, as any breach of these rules may mean your exam is disqualified.

Troubleshooting guide

Every effort is made to ensure the smooth running of your exam. However, on occasion there may be technical problems that are beyond our control. Before calling us, we advise you to remain calm and work through the steps outlined in our short troubleshooting guide that can be found in the downloads section of this page

Where can I sit my examination?

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 examination 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.
  • Check in advance with your IT Network Administrator that they can help to support you sit your examination. You will need to ensure that you will not experience any problems using your works network or firewalls
  • Ensure that you undertake the systems check on the devices that you will be using.

Instructions for the day

Our supplier, BTL, has put together two useful resources: a video for candidates and a quick start guide, which you can download below. Please note, the video has some useful instructions for getting everything set up, but may still reference Adobe Flash. Flash has been retired and our systems have transitioned over to full HTML delivery, so candidates can ignore any references.

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 examination until the webcam works.

Breaks during online theory exams

In all but prior agreed, exceptional circumstances, we are removing the toilet break during online invigilated theory exams to align ourselves with common exam practice and to protect all examinees by ensuring malpractice does not impact the final score. All candidates sitting via online invigilation are expected to remain at their workstation throughout the examination. 

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 examination, please select to sit your examination at one of our test centres.

If you have an accessibility reason requiring a toilet break during an online examination, 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 examination 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 3 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 examination, 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.

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

Make sure you are comfortably dressed - but 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 examination 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 examination in is visible behind you when you are sitting your examination. 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.