Preparing for my theory exam

What you need to know before you sit a theory examination for either the MRCPCH or Diploma of Child Health (DCH) route. You will need to register online for exams first, and then you can apply for a specific exam date.


The MRCPCH exam is usually taken during the initial stages of specialist training in paediatrics. Candidates may register for MRCPCH once they finish medical school and start foundation training. 

Trainees are expected to complete all parts of the MRCPCH exam before they complete Level 1 Training (Specialty Training ST1-3) and before beginning Level 2 training (ST4-6).

The DCH is designed for General Practitioner vocational trainees, staff grades in paediatrics, and trainees in specialties allied to paediatrics.

Stucture and syllabi

Find out about the structure, syllabi and question format of each theory exam: Foundation of Practice, Theory and Science, and Applied Knowledge in Practice.

Sample papers (specimen papers)

All RCPCH theory exams are delivered via computer-based testing (as of January 2015).

To become familiar with the test software and exam content, you can take up to 4 sample papers.

Where to sit the exams

The theory exams take place in a network of test centres both in the UK and overseas. See test centres for upcoming exams.

When to sit the exams

The College has three sittings of each theory exam per year. Each sitting is held on the same date regardless of your test centre.

Once you have registered, you can apply online for an exam in the relevant application period. See dates and times of upcoming exams.

How to register and apply

Candidates must first register online for exams before they can apply. The registration process will enable you to create an RCPCH online account. You will be required to complete a short form and submit either a valid GMC registration or evidence of your primary medical qualification.

Once you are registered, you can apply online for your first theory exam within the relevant application period.

You may sit the theory exams in any order. We strongly recommend you sit them in the order that best matches your level of training and knowledge.

How to register

MRCPCH - number of attempts

A significant number of MRCPCH candidates do not pass their exams on their first attempt. Please consider the effects of having to re-sit any of your exams on your timeframe for progressing through training.

You are allowed up to six attempts to pass each of the MRCPCH exams. If you fail to pass an exam after six attempts you will need to provide the College with evidence of additional educational experience before you can attempt that exam again. In the UK, this evidence should come from your deanery/LETB, usually provided by your educational supervisor.

There are no restrictions on the number of attempts if you are a DCH route candidate.

More information in Currency and number of attempts (PDF, 626 KB)


For further information, please contact our Examinations Team.