MRCEM Primary Exam Information

The MRCEM (Membership of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine) Primary exam is a stepping stone to your Emergency Medicine career in the NHS. Here is a comprehensive guide to the MRCEM Primary exam, offering insights into exam dates, application procedures, strategies for success, and resources to aid your preparation.

MRCEM Primary Exam Content & Format

MRCEM Primary Curriculum

The MRCEM Primary exam is designed to evaluate your core knowledge and skills essential for a career in Emergency Medicine in the UK.

It comprises 180 single-best-answer (SBA) questions which you should answer in three hours. The questions aim to test your ability to apply the knowledge of the RCEM Basic Science Curriculum (June 2010) clinically.

The exam content covers the following topics:

  • Upper limb
  • Lower limb
  • Thorax Abdomen
  • Head and Neck
  • Central Nervous System
  • Cranial Nerve Lesions
  • Basic cellular physiology
  • Respiratory physiology
  • Cardiovascular physiology
  • Gastrointestinal physiology
  • Renal physiology
  • Endocrine physiology
  • Gastrointestinal pharmacology
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Respiratory system
  • Central Nervous System
  • Infections
  • Endocrine system
  • Fluids and electrolytes
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Immunological products and vaccines
  • Anaesthesia
  • Principles of microbiology
  • Pathogen groups
  • Inflammatory responses
  • Immune responses
  • Infection
  • Wound healing
  • Haematology
  • Statistics
  • Study methodology
  • Principles of Critical Appraisal

Mastering these subjects, so that you can use the knowledge in emergency department working situations, is pivotal for your success in the MRCEM Primary exam.

MRCEM Primary Exam Application

MRCEM Primary Exam Dates and Location

The MRCEM Primary exam is usually conducted twice per year. You can find the dates of the upcoming exams in 2024 below:

MRCEM Primary Exam Date Application window Results date
21 May 2024 21-28 February 2024 3 July 2024
29 October 2024 24-31 July 2024 To Be Confirmed

You can also check any updates regarding the exam dates on the RCEM website.

RCEM administers its written exams globally through Pearson VUE, a computer-based testing company. To find a test centre near you, visit the Pearson VUE website.

Eligibility criteria

Ensure your qualifications align with the RCEM’s criteria. You should hold a medical qualification approved by the General Medical Council (GMC). Previous experience in Emergency Medicine is not required for the MRCEM Primary exam.

The examination is conducted in English, and it’s important to note that candidates are recommended to have a proficiency level of IELTS Level 7 for successful completion of the MRCEM and FRCEM examinations.

IELTS is the International English Language Testing System used in the UK and Level 7 requires that you can demonstrate a competent command of English with occasional instances of inaccuracies, inappropriate usage, or misunderstandings in some situations. You have to be proficient in handling complex language and comprehending detailed reasoning.

How to apply for the MRCEM Primary Exam?

Candidates should apply for the exam online within the given application period. The application window opens at 10:00 AM on the start date mentioned in the MRCEM Primary Exam dates section and closes at 5:00 PM (UK time) on the listed closing date. Be sure to complete and submit your application before the 5:00 PM deadline on the closing date, as late applications won’t be accepted.

The application link will be published on the RCEM application page on the given day the application is due to open.

MRCEM Primary Fee

The current fee for the MRCEM Primary exam is £330.

If you are planning to sit the examination in an overseas centre you will have to contact the local administrator to pay the local fee.

Doctors in training in the UK are entitled to claim tax relief on professional expenses which include membership fees, cost of exams and other work-related expenses. Rebates can be applied for up to 4 years retrospectively to a maximum of £2,500.

MRCEM Primary Exam results

How is the MRCEM Primary marked? What is the pass mark?

The MRCEM Primary is machine marked, a correct answer is awarded 1 mark and an incorrect answer is awarded 0, negative marking does not apply. The pass mark for the exam is determined using the Angoff method.

A panel of subject matter experts of practicing Emergency Medicine Consultants rates each exam question based on their estimate of how many minimally competent candidates would answer it correctly. The average of these scores becomes the Angoff score for each question, and the sum of these scores forms the pass mark for the MRCEM Primary Exam. Pass marks vary across different exam diets due to the varying difficulty levels of included questions.

When will the results be available?

You can expect your exam results to be ready around 6-8 weeks after the exam date. The RCEM will let you know the date in advance. You’ll find your results by logging into your College website account, where you’ll be able to download your results letter. The RCEM won’t provide exam results over the phone or via email.

How many attempts do you have to pass the MRCEM Primary Exam?

According to RCEM regulations, candidates have six attempts to pass each of the MRCEM exams. Available attempts for the MRCEM Primary Exam include previous attempts at the FRCEM Primary examination after August 2016. Some candidates may apply for approval for an additional exam attempt in exceptional circumstances. Such cases will be considered by the Dean individually. You can find out more about the MRCEM Primary Exam in this information pack.

How to prepare for the MRCEM Primary exam?

How long does it take?

The MRCEM Primary examination is an examination in basic sciences. Therefore, the time needed to prepare depends on how familiar you are with anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and microbiology. There is also a small element of pathology and evidence-based medicine.

If you do not have a strong foundation in these areas (or have forgotten them) then we would recommend at least 6 months. If you do have a strong foundation, then the task is to ensure that you can apply your knowledge to emergency medicine situations. This could be done in 3 months if you can give time to it.

You can start your preparation at any time by subscribing to our online resources, which include  MRCEM Primary video webinars and practice questions.

What are the most common mistakes in the MRCEM Primary Exam?

The most common mistakes in the exam are mistakes of technique. This exam aims to test clinically relevant knowledge. So, anatomy questions, for example, will often test candidates’ knowledge of the consequences of injuries in different parts of the body following a specific injury. In order to get the right answer, candidates need to use reasoning as well as memorised information. The difficulty in the exam comes from reasoning correctly, it does not come from memorising unusual facts. So it’s not about learning obscure syndromes.

If you want to learn more about the techniques that will help you choose the right answers, sign up for our MRCEM Primary Exam Preparation course.

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