Learning the Hard Way: Lessons Learned from Failing the MRCS Part B Exam


Reflecting on my first attempt at the MRCS Part B exam, I am reminded of a powerful truth – the same tactics that brought me success in the past do not guarantee it in the future. Working hard with the wrong strategy is a guarantee for failed outcomes. I learned this the hard way.

My first attempt pass at the MRCS Part A exam gave me the confidence to book the Part B exam 3 months later. I embarked on a rigorous study regimen for Part B. I enrolled in two different question banks, eMRCS and Pastest, and dutifully devoted 2-4 hours daily to answering the practice questions. I also spent time honing my clinical skills every other weekend with a colleague from my home country who was, however, unfamiliar with the MRCS exam. In addition, I took a one-day online practice course and a separate anatomy course (Wade anatomy) by the RCS Edinburgh. I spoke with two colleagues who had passed the exam before; they gave me vague advice, but I felt I had covered all bases.

My exam was scheduled at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, I travelled to Edinburgh 2.5 weeks before the test to avoid any potential logistical challenges. While in Edinburgh, I spent my time doing more of the same, i.e. reading in the University library and at my accommodation. Unexpectedly, the day before my exam, I met online (via Linkedin) a Kenyan doctor working at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. This interaction shifted my perspective 360 degrees. He revealed common pitfalls, free online resources (https://examqna.wordpress.com/), and provided me with exam-like scenarios, especially for communication stations. I realised, belatedly, that my study and practice strategy had been inadequate. Despite my substantial knowledge, I struggled to deliver responses to questions and was off with timing. In essence, I was not prepared.

Clinging to hope, I went into the exam the next day, but I knew I was in trouble from the outset. During the test, I fumbled and drew blanks when giving responses. For weeks after the test, I kept on reflecting on what I could have done better, replaying snippets of the exam like nightmares. A month later, the verdict was out, and as I expected, I did not pass the exam. I failed to obtain the minimum threshold score required in the communication section by a mere two points. This was a harsh yet necessary experience, albeit one that pierced my confidence and forced me to accept my flaws and recalibrate my approach. I had failed, but I had learned.

Despite the crushing blow, within two days, I had made up my mind to retake the test and immediately re-booked my second attempt for three months later. Understanding that the clock was ticking, I now needed to optimise my time and strategy.

Never miss a post 👋

Get exclusive updated content in your inbox.

You confirm consent for our use of your email address to stay in touch with you, as provided in our Privacy Policy.

Scroll to Top