FRCPath Part 1 in histopathology

Welcome to our guide to the Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists (FRCPath) Part 1 exam in histopathology. Whether you’re thinking of applying soon or already preparing for the exam, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll cover everything from what you need to qualify, to how the exam is structured, what it’ll cost you, and some helpful hints, including advice for histopathologists living outside the UK.

Let’s explore all you need to know about FRCPath Part 1:

An overview of FRCPath Part 1

FRCPath is a postgraduate award for specialists in Pathology. For doctors registered with the General Medical Council, passing the FRCPath exam helps them get the Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT). This certificate shows they’ve finished their specialist training in the UK and can now be considered for NHS consultant jobs. FRCPath can also play a part in completing the Portfolio Pathway formerly Certificate Confirming Eligibility for Specialist Registration (CESR)

There are over 20 pathology specialties including histopathology, haematology and microbiology and the Royal College offers specialty-specific exams for each. Doctors who pass the FRCPath examinations in their chosen specialty are deemed to have the necessary professional competence to practice unsupervised.

The FRCPath is broken down into two parts and they can be attempted at different stages during histopathology training in the UK. The only requirement which is mandatory with the FRCPath exams is that they are sat in sequence of FRCPath1 followed by FRCPath2. The Part 1 and Part 2 examinations are held twice a year in spring and autumn.

Entry requirements for FRCPath Part 1

Eligible candidates for FRCPath Part 1 will have completed a medical degree (MBChB, MBBS or similar). Experience in histopathology training is essential to be able to pass the exam. Doctors will usually have undertaken at least one year of specialty training and be in ST2 before attempting to sit the exam.

Doctors should check with their educational supervisor as to when is best to sit the exam as usually, you will need a fellow of the Royal College, head of department, or someone recently involved in your training to confirm you have achieved the knowledge and skills necessary to sit this examination.

Overseas candidates

FRCPath Part 1 in histopathology is open to overseas candidates. Part 1 exams take place online and can be sat at home, therefore attendance at a test centre is not required. To be able to fully complete FRCPath, it may be possible to take the Part 2 histopathology examination at a test centre in Irbid, Jordan, Cairo, Egypt or Dubai, UAE. The overseas centre will be offered on an annual basis in either spring or autumn subject to demand.

The entry requirements remain the same providing the overseas primary medical qualifications and training are equivalent to that in the UK. These standards will have been checked during your application to join the UK medical register via the General Medical Council (GMC).

Structure of the FRCPath Part 1 exam

FRCPath Part 1 is a three-hour online exam that takes place via the assessment software Testreach. It consists of 125 single best answers (SBA) questions and extended matching format questions (EMQ).

The FRCPath Part 1 will assess your overall knowledge and understanding of histopathology and cytopathology, covering the full range of autopsy practices performed in a district general hospital in the UK and the basic sciences which underpin pathology.

Exam costs for FRCPath Part 1

The FRCPath Part 1 exam in histopathology costs £707.

This price may be subject to change in the future.

Register with us

Register your interest and we will be in touch to discuss your work preferences.

Preparation for the FRCPath Part 1 exam

The FRCPath Part 1 examinations aim to test theory, to determine whether an individual has successfully acquired a core body of knowledge that will underpin their ability to practice in their chosen specialty. Here are our four preparation tips for the FRCPath Part 1:

  • Understand the curriculum
  • Find the right study materials
  • Practice SBA and EMQ questions
  • Give yourself enough time to prepare

Understand the curriculum

Preparing for the FRCPath Part 1 exam requires you to understand the curriculum being tested, so that you can road map the areas you need to study. This way you can make sure you don’t spend time on areas that won’t be included in the exam.

The Histopathology Curriculum 2021  outlines the syllabus that you will be assessed on. Areas are broken down into Capabilities in Practice (CiPs) which describe the professional activities within the scope of postgraduate pathology training. The content of FRCPath Part 1 can be broken down into three sections:

  • Histopathology and cytopathology
  • Autopsy practices
  • Basic science underpinning Pathology including molecular biology

Histopathology falls into the family of cellular pathology specialties which also encompasses diagnostic neuropathology, paediatric and perinatal pathology, and forensic histopathology. Trainees in these specialties initially enter a period of integrated cellular pathology training (ICPT), where they will undertake short periods of training across the four specialties, along with basic autopsy training, cytopathology training and training in molecular pathology.

By reviewing the histopathology assessment blueprint, you can see which CiP descriptors FRCPath Part 1 will assess. There are seven generic and four specialty-specific capabilities in practice.

Find the right study materials

You’ve got the curriculum and now you’ll need to find study materials to support you. We’ve searched online and found the best resources used by histopathologists who have passed FRCPath Part 1.

Robbins & Kumar Basic Pathology (Robbins Pathology) by Vinay Kumar MBBS MD FRCPath (Editor), Abul K. Abbas MBBS (Editor), Jon C. Aster MD PhD (Editor)

The latest edition of Robbins offers all essential pathology concepts from trusted names in the field. This includes key pathological processes, tools of gross and microscopic analysis, clinicopathologic correlations and the impact of molecular pathology.

Quick Reference Handbook for Surgical Pathologists by Natasha Rekhtman (Author)

This book is a compilation summary of immunohistochemistry, special stains, grading systems, molecular markers, tumour syndromes, and selected morphologic and clinical references.

Royal College of Pathologists datasets

Datasets for Histopathological Reporting are vital for standardising cancer reporting methods among pathologists. Familiarise yourself with the relevant datasets via the RCPath website.

Practice SBA and EMQ questions

In the run-up to the exam, you should revise previous exam questions. Practising under timed conditions is beneficial to give you the experience and confidence to get through 125 questions in 180 minutes. You can access FRCPath Part 1 in Histopathology sample questions via the RCPath website.

There are also multiple resources available online for free or paid mock exams and sample questions. Please research before purchasing anything from a third-party website.

Give yourself enough time to prepare

FRCPath 1 examinations are held twice a year in spring and autumn. Depending on your revision style, we recommend starting to prepare and practice at least 6 months before the exam date. Once you’ve understood the areas you’ll be tested on, break them down into a schedule outlining which topics you’ll revise on which weeks.

An example of how to approach the FRCPath syllabus:

  1. Break down the curriculum per organ
  2. Read the related Robbins chapter
  3. Read the quick reference handbook (surgical pathologists0
  4. Review images
  5. Review the dataset
  6. Practice the SBA and EMQ questions

Exam results for FRCPath Part 1

Results will be available to candidates by midday on the advised date for release of results. The dates are released per sitting and therefore change every time. You can view the latest FRCPath results dates on the RCPath website .

A list of RCPath registered trainees and results are sent to the deanery in the first instance. This is so the deaneries know those who took the exam and can offer early support to RCPath trainees who fail.

The Royal College publishes performance reports each year outlining the overall pass rates and pass rates per speciality. 2023 showed the highest pass rates of all data available.

FRCPath 1 pass ratesOverallHistopathology
2021 (spring)63.7%68%
2021 (autumn)62.1%75.4%
2022 (spring)65.9%72.1%
2022 (autumn)57.5%49.1%
2023 (spring)74%82.5%
2023 (autumn)73.3%77.6%

After the FRCPath Part 1 exam

Once you’ve passed FRCPath Part 1, The Royal College anticipates that most doctors will attempt FRCPath Part 2 after a further two years of histopathology training. You should not take this exam until at least 12 months after passing FRCPath Part 1.

For more information about histopathology training and progression in histopathology, view our histopathology training in the UK guide

Working in pathology with Pulse

At Pulse, we’re passionate about the quality of our people and proud of the services we provide. You can arrange a call with a member of the team to discuss your career or register your interest today with Pulse.

Our team are here to help doctors find great work opportunities in the UK. If you’re a doctor and looking for locum or permanent histopathology opportunities, browse our histopathology vacancies and apply.

Register with us

Register your interest and we will be in touch to discuss your work preferences.

Register today

Search jobs for doctors

We offer a huge variety of temporary and permanent jobs to choose from.

Search and apply

Leave a comment