The FRCS Urol examination is a CCT requirement and is usually taken in the final two years of training.
Details of the exam can be found at the Joint Committee on Intercollegiate Examinations (JCIE) website. The JCIE state that applicants should have an Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP) 1 at ST5, meaning the earliest sitting will usually be at the start of your ST6 year.
You need to apply through the JCIE website, for which you will require written references from your Training Programme Director and two other recent Consultant trainers.
The FRCS Urol exam is in two Sections.
Sittings for Section 1 take place in January and July each year, with applications closing three months before each exam date. It is important to be prepared well in advance, and to discuss your application with your trainers. The JCIE website contains useful resources, including the examination regulations and a detailed syllabus.
This is, undoubtedly, a stressful time in your training, balancing work committments and studying with everday life can be very difficult. Preparation differs for everyone but, as a generalisation, roughly six months of dedicated revision is usually needed before Section 1, in which you are assessed on basic science and clinical knowledge.
This section of the exam consists of two papers, taken on the same day at your local Pearson Vue Centre. Paper one lasts for two hours and takes the form of single, best-answer (SBA) questions; paper two lasts for 2½ hours, consisting of extended matching items (EMI) questions. Examples of SBA and EMI questions can be found on the JCIE website.
Most trainees find it helpful to go through as many practice questions as possible.
After completing Section 1, you should have all the knowledge required for Section 2, which will test how this knowledge is applied.
You will normally take Section 2 in the sitting immediately following Section 1; these take place in May and November. The location of the exam rotates through the UK and Ireland, and consists of eight 20-minute vivas on the following topics:
- Urological oncology (kidney & bladder)
- Urological oncology (prostate, testis & penis)
- Paediatric uroloigy
- Emergency urology
- Calculi & urinary tract infections
- Urological imaging & principles of urological technology
- Bladder dysfunction & gynaecological aspects of urology
- BPH & andrology
Vivas are a new concept to many trainees sitting this exam, and the day can be highly stressful, as well as intimidating. The most important preparation for this is practice; take every opportunity to practice with anyone.
Some people find it helpful to work as part of a study group. Video conferencing (e.g. with Skype) allows you to practice vivas and discuss areas of uncertainty, if you do not live close to others sitting the exam. Ask Consultants, and trainees who have recently passed the exam to give you mock vivas, and consider spending some time with radiologists, oncologists, nephrologists, histopathologists etc. to refine your knowledge of topics in which you may be weaker.
Examples of Section 2 oral questions may be found on the JCIE website. Nothing in this section of the exam is designed to catch you out; the scenarios are straightforward and predictable.
What happens if I fail the exam?
Despite everything, some trainees will not pass both parts on the first attempt.
DON'T WORRY! It is an annoyance, not the end of the world, and shouldn’t greatly impact on your progress in training.
You can have four attempts at Section 1 within a two-year period, and four attempts at Section 2 with no re-entry.
Which texts should I use?
You should, of course, read as widely as possible but the following texts are recommended because they supply almost all the information you need to pass the exam, tempered by the practical knowledge imparted by your trainers:
Which courses should I attend?
Some training centres run their own courses to prepare you for the exam, especially for viva practice, but the courses below represent good value before you embark on the FRCS Urol exam:
The information in this section was prepared by David Curry, SURG representative for Northern Ireland