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Preparing for MRCPsych part A

  • November 24, 2021

MRCPsych Paper A is the first part of the three MRCPsych examination series. More specifically, it is a written paper on the scientific and theoretical basis of psychiatry.

How long is the exam and what are the questions?

Paper A is a three hour exam worth 150 marks, comprised of 150 questions.

It is made up of approximately:

  • two-thirds multiple choice questions (MCQ) and
  • one-third extended matching item questions (EMI)

What does it cover?

Paper A covers the following sections of the syllabus:

  1. Behavioral Science and Sociocultural Psychiatry
  2. Human Development
  3. Basic Neurosciences
  4. Clinical Psychopharmacology
  5. Classification and Assessment in Psychiatry

On Paper A, the percentage split/marks on a 150 mark exam is/would be:

  • Behavioral Science and Socio-cultural Psychiatry - 16.67% / 25
  • Human Development - 16.67% / 25
  • Basic Neurosciences - 25.00% / 37 or 38
  • Clinical Psychopharmacology - 25.00% / 37 or 38
  • Classification and Assessment in Psychiatry - 16.67% / 25

What should I revise for each section of the syllabus?

Below we have listed the different areas it is suggested that your revise for every component of the examination series. In addition to your revision of the below subjects, Members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists can log in and access sample questions from this link. Non-members should email the Examinations team and request them on [email protected]

1) Behavioural Science and Socio-cultural Psychiatry

You shall need to demonstrate core knowledge in the key areas of behavioural science and socio-cultural psychiatry. This knowledge will include basic and social psychology.

Basic Psychology

  • Learning theory: classical, operant, observational and cognitive models.
  • Basic principles of visual and auditory perception
  • Information processing and attention.
  • Memory
  • Personality
  • Motivation
  • Cognitive consistency.
  • Emotion.
  • Stress
  • States and levels of awareness

Social Psychology

  • Attitudes
  • Self-psychology
  • Interpersonal issues
  • Leadership, social influence, power and obedience
  • Intergroup behaviour
  • Aggression
  • Altruism, social exchange theory and helping relationships. Interpersonal cooperation.

Social science & socio-cultural psychiatry

  • Descriptive terms
  • The social roles of doctors.
  • Family life in relation to major mental illness
  • Social factors and specific mental health issues, particularly depression, schizophrenia and addictions.
  • The sociology of residential institutions.
  • Basic principles of criminology and penology.
  • Stigma and prejudice.
  • Ethnic minorities, acculturation and mental health.
  • Ethics and philosophy in psychiatry

2) Human Development

You should be knowledgeable about normal biological, psychological and social development from infancy to old age. This is in order to consider:
• The stages of normal development in order to determine whether an individual’s style of thinking, coping, feeling or behaviour is appropriate for that stage or may be an indication of illness
• How the stage of cognitive and emotional development may influence the aetiology, presentation and management of mental health problems
• Factors that may be associated with vulnerability to mental health problems and protective factors associated with resilience.
• Developmental issues in relation to the varied cultural and economic backgrounds of patients.

3) Neuroscience

You shall need to be able to demonstrate knowledge of the neuroscience that underpins the practice of clinical psychiatry. This will include:

  • Elementary knowledge of the normal structure and functioning of the nervous system as it relates to psychiatry, i.e., the generation of normal mental states and behaviours, and of the dysfunction that leads to mental disorder
  • The ability to relate the symptoms and signs of mental disorder, and the examination of the nervous system, to underlying neural structures and their activity.
  • Basic Techniques
  • Neurotransmitters and Receptors
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Neural Circuits
  • Modulators (Hormones, Inflammatory Responses)
  • Genetics
  • Neurodevelopment and Neuroplasticity
  • Integrated Neurobiology of the specific syndromes and states
  • Neurodegeneration

4) Clinical Psychopharmacology

You must be able to demonstrate knowledge of basic pharmacological principles and how these specifically relate to psychotropic drugs. You will need knowledge of:

  • General Psychopharmacology
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Pharmacodynamics
  • Aeitological theories
  • Teratogencity and developmental abnormalities
  • Non-psychotropic medications
  • Therapeutics

5) Classification and Assessment in Psychiatry

You will need to demonstrate knowledge of the assessment and classification of the major psychiatric disorders. This includes:

  • Classification Systems
  • Dynamic Psychopathology
  • Nervous System Imaging
  • Rating Scales
  • Risk Assessments


If you are an international Psychiatrist who would like to relocate to the UK , email your CV to [email protected] and we can support you in securing an NHS post and on your relocation journey to the UK. You will need your GMC Registration in order to qualify for an NHS job, so either through completion of the full MRCPsych suite or via PLAB.

Are you a member of our Facebook group? When you join IMG Advisor, you join a community of doctors all looking to relocate to the UK and join the NHS. We post a series of blogs and vlogs to the group each day. We will also be on hand to answer all of your relocation queries.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel! We have over 60 videos covering everything you need to know about relocating to the UK and joining the NHS.

Listen to BDI Resourcing on the go with IMG Advisor the Podcast! You can listen to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and Buzzsprout. We have a number of episodes with tips and advice on relocating to the UK and the routes you can take to achieve this.

Finally, we also have Instagram, so if you are a member, feel free to follow us to view our posts and IGTV: @bdiresourcing


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