preparing for part 1


A few people have asked for advice on preparing for the part one exam. I can only tell you what I did, which obviously won’t work for everyone but here are a few thoughts. Do remember I have no connection or special insight to RCPath or the exam setting process. Please do e-mail me ( or Twitter (@TomboxaneA2) with any advice you would be willing to share with others on here.

Thank you to everyone who has sent me their revision strategies, I have added them in italics.

When to start

I started 4 months before the exam. I had no children at that time and I was in a rotation that allowed me to reliably do a couple of hours study on weekday evenings.

Other trainees perspectives:

  • 12 months to prepare

  • 4 months to prepare

What to cover

The general wisdom is that anything in a BSH guideline is considered fair game for an exam question. I read every BSH, NHSBT and (relevant) RCOG (‘Green Top’) guidelines and used that as the basis for my study. The good news: Almost everything you need for the exam is in one place. The bad news: There are >90 BSH guidelines.

Practical Haemostasis will tell you everything you need to know about the coagulation laboratory science - it is essential reading. There are also several case-based questions to work through.

Don’t forget pregnancy. Every time you look at a condition think about how management would change if the patient were pregnant. The birth rate in FRCPAth exams is astronomical.

Other trainees perspectives:

What to (maybe) not cover

Transplant is (probably) not going to come up, with the exception of popular questions of blood matching and donor selection in allogeneic stem cell transplants.

Morphology is next time!

Courses to attend

Make use you have been on the NHSBT Intermediate Transfusion course as this will cover everything you need to answer the transfusion questions.

I attended the Kingston revision course. It is packed full of exam practice, set at a level that I felt was above the real exam so will give you a good test of your study so far.

Other trainees perspectives:


Barbara Bain has a book of practice MCQ’s. I went through this twice.

I did not use any other books. I think it is difficult for textbooks to remain current now and the internet houses everything you are likely to need to know.

Other trainees perspectives:

  • Read Postgraduate Haematology cover-to-cover

Essay Practice

Depending where you study medicine, and if you’re like me, you won’t have written an essay since A levels.

Practice writing for 2-3 hours straight to avoid cramp on the day.

Find a consultant who will set you questions and mark them afterwards. Try not to see the question until you sit down to answer it so as to practice dealing with a surprise.

Write larger numbers of practice questions for one another to practice creating essay plans in 5 minutes. These questions don’t need to be anything fancy. Just practice flipping over the paper and spending 5 minutes working out how you would answer it.

Other trainees perspectives:

  • Write an essay plan for every topic as you go along.

  • Form a revision group to work through the past essay questions

I need to know about X but I don’t want to Wikipedia it

Trying searching ‘How I treat X’, this is a series of excellent Blood articles. There is almost always something from the last 5 years to cover what you are looking for.