Which factors predict success in the mandatory UK postgraduate surgical exam: The Intercollegiate Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS)?

Surgeon. 2018 Aug;16(4):220-226. doi: 10.1016/j.surge.2017.10.001. Epub 2017 Nov 6.


Background: The Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons examination (MRCS, Parts A and B) is one of the largest postgraduate surgical exams in the world, but little is known about the factors that affect candidate performance. We describe the relationship between both parts of MRCS and several independent predictors of MRCS success.

Methods: Pearson correlation coefficients were used to examine the linear relationship between MRCS Part A and B and logistic regression analysis to identify potential independent predictors of MRCS success. We included all UK medical graduates who attempted either part of MRCS between 2007 and 2016.

Results: 7896 candidates made 11,867 attempts at Part A and 4310 made 5738 attempts at Part B. A positive correlation was found between Part A and B first attempt score (r = 0.41, P < 0.001). Gender (male vs. female, odds ratio (OR) 2.78, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.83-4.19), ethnicity (white vs. Black Minority and Ethnic, OR 1.70, 95% CI 1.52-1.89), stage of training (e.g. Core Surgical Year 2 trainees vs. Foundation Year 1 doctors, OR 0.50, 95% CI 0.32-0.77) and maturity (young vs. mature graduates, OR 2.60, 95% CI 1.81-3.63) were all found to be independent predictors of Part A success. In addition to ethnicity and stage of training, Part A performance (number of attempts and score) was also identified as an independent predictor for Part B. The odds of passing each part of the MRCS decreased by 14% (OR 0.86, 95% CI 0.80-0.92) for Part A and 30% for Part B (OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.61-0.81) with each additional attempt that was made.

Conclusions: Several independent predictors of MRCS success were identified, but only ethnicity and stage of training were found to be common predictors of both Part A and B.

Keywords: MRCS; Postgraduate exams; Predictors; Surgery; Validity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Education, Medical / standards*
  • Educational Measurement / standards*
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Surgeons / education*
  • Surgeons / standards*
  • United Kingdom