preparing for part 2

Microscope2 copy.png

A few people have asked for advice on preparing for the part two 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.

I will add other trainees perspectives in italics if and when they arrive.

When to start

This is different to the part one exam. You have been preparing for part two ever since part one just by engaging at work each day. However, I started my focused efforts on exam preparation 4-5 months prior to the exam.

What to cover

Everything listed in the part one section needs to be revisited in detail.

Morphology - get in as much time as you can looking at slides, everything you can get your hands on. Practice writing down findings under time pressure so as to prioritise your thoughts.

What to (maybe) not cover

Like Part One, transplant is less likely to feature as a core topic, but need to know issues around transplant - e.g. donor choice, ABO mismatch, indications for transplant.

Courses to attend

There are many revision courses available, how many you attend will likely depend on your budget and study leave allowances.

These are the courses I went on:

  • NHSBT RCPath Pre-Exam course (one week) - this will refresh the content from the three week course and update you on any recent changes.

  • Imperial Short courses - I attended the haemoglobinopathy diagnosis one day event, but have heard good feedback of the other courses too.

  • Morphology course - I attended a locally arranged two-day course. Ask around.

Other courses I have heard are good:


I did not use any additional books.

Exam Practice

Technique is a big part of the part two exam. Of course you need the knowledge, but you also need to be ready to apply it the way the exam wants.

Find others you can form a revision group with to practice giving timed, on the spot answers to short written and oral questions.

Find a consultant who is willing to set you written questions and mark your answers.

Practice writing blood film reports + interpretation under time pressure. Give yourself less time than you will actually have in the exam.

If possible, do as much of your morphology practice on the same microscope you will take to the exam.

Make sure you know how to set up and troubleshoot your microscope. The invigilator I had on the day was fantastic, really put the room at ease and helped everyone settle in but I think the college’s formal position is that they are not obliged to help you fix any problems on the day (but I suspect most invigilators would).

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.