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MRCP SCE Palliative Medicine

  • December 01, 2021

The MRCP Speciality Specific Examinations (SCE’s) offer Doctors a postgraduate qualification which demonstrates to prospective employing NHS Trusts achievement of a standard required of UK Specialist Trainees. The Royal College of Physicians offer 11 different SCE’s, including Palliative Medicine. This Blog aims to answer any questions you may have regarding the Palliative Medicine SCE, including what it specifically tests and how to prepare.

When can I take the Palliative Medicine SCE and what are the requirements?

The Specialty Certificate Examination (SCE) in Palliative Medicine is delivered once a year and those dates will become available on the MRCP exams page. There are no entry requirements for the SCE in Palliative Care, however, trainees in UK training posts would normally take the SCE in their penultimate year of higher specialty training.

What will be Tested?

The Specialty Training Curriculum for Palliative Medicine is published by the Joint Royal Colleges of Physicians Training Board (JRCPTB). It is important to note that the SCE examination is made up of questions covering the whole curriculum, selected by a predetermined blueprint. Candidates are tested on a wide range of common and important disorders as set out in the syllabus of the curriculum.

The composition of the papers, which are made up of a total of 200 questions, is as follows:

  • Management of life-limiting disease 20
  • Pain (assessment and management) 15
  • Other symptoms / clinical problems secondary to life-limiting disease: 48
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Skin
  • Respiratory
  • Genito-urinary
  • Metabolic
  • Neurological
  • Psychiatric
  • Other (e.g. treatment-induced)
  • Clinical problems unrelated to cancer 20
  • Management of emergencies: 20
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Respiratory tract
  • Metabolic
  • Urinary tract
  • Central nervous system
  • Psychological
  • Drug-induced
  • Other (e.g. massive haemorrhage)
  • Practical procedures 5
  • Pharmacology and therapeutics 35
  • Rehabilitation 2
  • Care of the dying patient and their family 20
  • Legal issues 15

Please note, that the above should be taken as an indication of the likely number of questions – the actual number may vary slightly. The questions in each category are distributed across both papers.

How do I prepare?

Preparation for the SCE in Palliative Medicine requires a wide breadth of knowledge around the curriculum and should involve reading of textbooks, journals and guidelines. Of course, as per all of the SCE’s, experience of the MRCP(UK) examination provides an excellent background to the format of the examination.

Below is a comprehensive list, published by the Royal College of Physicians, of recommended sources and reading for those preparing for the SCE;



England and Wales

  • Ministry of Justice – Mental Capacity Act/Lasting Power of Attorney/Coroners, burial and cremation


Northern Ireland

Sample questions

One of our best tips when revising for any exam, is to practice some sample questions and mock exams. Considering this, when preparing for your SCE in Palliative Medicine, we would advise utilising the archive of sample questions available on the RCP Website. Here you can access some sample multiple choice questions, which are in the ‘best of five’ multiple choice format. This format, in addition to testing core knowledge and comprehension, also assesses the ability to interpret information and to solve clinical problems. There will be five options – one correct answer and four alternatives to the correct answer. The four distractors will be closely related to the preferred option but less correct, therefore acting as plausible alternatives.

These questions give an indication of the type of question you can expect in the SCE exam. To access the mock papers and sample questions, register using your RCP login here.


It’s important to note that taking the MRCP SCE will not grant you GMC Registration alone. Whilst the SCEs are a certificate of excellence, you must also have your GMC approved post graduate qualification –in most cases you will pair your SCE with your MRCP.

Specialty Certificate Examinations (SCE) look fantastic on your CV and will certainly help you stand out when applying for NHS jobs. If you have your MRCP and you’re now looking at sitting your SCE, or if you have already completed your SCE and you’re ready to begin your Palliative Medicine job search in the NHS then we can certainly help. We have a fantastic Medicine team at BDI Resourcing, who are experts at finding positions for Doctors in specialties such as Palliative Care. Do get in touch and send your CV to: [email protected]


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