MRCGP exam in a COVID world: top tips

GP registrars, like all healthcare staff and patients have been greatly impacted by the pandemic. There has been a huge change in clinical placements, education and examination. Some changes in assessment remain – here, I review the current requirements and share my top tips on how to be prepared.


  • Insights into the roller coaster of changes 
  • Overview of the MRCGP exam components and latest changes: AKT, RCA, WPBA
  • My top tips on how to be prepared for the exam and useful resources

Insights into the roller coaster of changes1,2 

March 2020: in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the RCGP cancelled The Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA) and the Applied Knowledge Test (AKT)

Trainees were reassured that the planned Summer Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP) would go ahead and those finishing training would be able to get their competencies, but it was unclear in what format. This was a time when trainees experienced high levels of uncertainty in both personal and professional lives. The stress from the national lockdown, redeployment, cancellation of new clinical rotations and lack of contact with other GP trainees was compounded by disappointment and frustration due to exam cancellation. These were exams that trainees had spent months revising for and needed to pass in order to progress.

April 2020: the RCGP updated trainees and supervisors who scrambled to get up to date

This was at a time when new guidance for COVID-19 was also changing rapidly. The RCGP advised that the minimum number of mandatory assessments were reduced, which was a relief. Supervisor reviews would be done remotely and any missing competencies could be evidenced with reflection or support from a supervisor, which seemed fair. The AKT would go ahead with social distancing from Summer 2020. It was also announced that an alternative temporary assessment, to meet the standards of the CSA would be in place, in the form of a Recorded Consultation Assessment (RCA). This would allow trainees to submit video or audio recordings of consultations in their own practice, rather than travelling to London and meeting with patients and examiners as the CSA had required. Most trainees were nervous about this change, particularly those in the first cohort of Summer 2020 who had little time to prepare and needed to pass in order to finish training.

Since the first intake in July 2020, the RCA has changed shape, in response to feedback

There has been a change in mandatory requirements, guidance on curriculum cover and more recently consultation time has moved from 10 to 12 minutes. The AKT remains socially distanced. It is still important for trainees to stay up to date with the RCGP website guidance and discuss with peers who are going through the same experience as guidance can change rapidly. It was announced recently that the RCA is continuing for 2022, but the RCGP report they are on course to deliver a new consultation skills exam in the summer of 2023.

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  1. MRCGP exam overview. RCGP, [accessed July 2021]
  2. Updates for GP trainees during COVID-19. RCGP, [accessed July 2021]

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