Online Question Bank For
The FRCS General Surgery Exam

Exam Advice

A comprehensive exam revision guide for section 1 of the FRCS (General Surgery)

The FRCS is probably one of the most difficult exams you will do. Part of the challenge lies in the stage of life you are at and juggling family, friends, work and need to operate. It’s really important that all of those around you are onboard with what you are trying to achieve and understand the pressures on you to attain those objectives.

General Advice

A good way to approach this is by starting early typically 3-6 months before the exam and really do your best. Don’t use an attempt as a trial because you only have 4 attempts, and they go really quickly.

Another great way of maximising your time is by creating a thorough timetable factoring in your personal and work time aswell, identifying dead time such as waiting for the computer to load or walking from one ward to another. I would also recommend getting a group together for moral support during the journey and have sessions where you discuss the questions that you’re not quite sure on. The JCIE have some sample questions that are useful but dissimilar to the exam, so be mindful of that. You can access them at this link:

https://www.jcie.org.uk/Utils/DocumentGenerator.aspx?Type=CMS&docID=1fd94c07-5220-4ebb-bbc2-8de6c31e8492

Everyone revises slightly differently and so you have to have insight as to the best way that you work. In terms of revision we would certainly recommend you starting with an area that is familiar to you because psychologically it will help and motivate you during this period of study. Have a particular deadline for finishing the area that you know well and then move to more challenging areas that you’re not familiar with, commonly transplant and skin.

You may have heard a lot of people talk about marginal gains when referencing the exam and this is very true. Often people will fail by 1 mark and that can be really gutting. A recount or reassessment of your paper usually doesn’t lead anywhere and is expensive. Furthermore, the final positive outcome is that you void your attempt rather than have your marks changed which makes the process less than worthwhile unless you’re on your last attempt. Make sure that when you create your timetable every area is covered on the syllabus, and this will maximise your chances for success.

Below I provide a comprehensive review of all the resources that I have identified that are useful for the exam and am happy to share them with you.

This review has also been published in the ASGBI journal 2022

https://www.instantflipbook.com/flipbooks/38413f7f2c/?page=32

Mr M. Rafay. S. Siddiqui

Books and reading material resources

A guide to the written resources (Books)
There are 7 major books used by candidates for the FRCS. Five of these are focussed towards the UK exam and the other 2 are American based books for the ABSITE exam but do have valuable information for the FRCS. I have to remind everyone that no singular resource is perfect and there will always be areas in which they can improve and so with the books, in particular, that should be borne in mind when using them for revision. There are a couple of other lesser known books and generally aren’t used by most candidates although some may find it useful.

1) Molloy, R. G., In MacKay, G. J., In Roxburgh, C. S., & In Quinn, M. M. (2020). SBAs and EMIs for the general surgery FRCS. (Known as the Blue Book)

Potentially the most used book for the FRCS, it covers a good breadth and depth of knowledge required for the FRCS exam. The questions are challenging and do appear similar to the exam. The explanations are well thought out and have good diagrams too. The book comprises of SBAs (Single best answers) and EMIs (Extended matching items) as it was published a year before the switch to just Single Best Answers. Even so, the EMIs give valuable information and the book is the most reflective of the exam out of the current available books on the market.

2) Wilson, A., & Hildebrand, D. (2018). FRCS general surgery: 500 SBAs and EMIs. (Known as the Green Book)

The Green book got a bit of flack over the years for being a good book, but with errors. No book is going to be perfect but there is a second edition, and I would hope these corrections have been made. It also includes SBAs and EMIs. The questions in the book are quite challenging and start to give you a flavour of what the exam is really like. When doing the questions, it is very easy to miss the key words like ‘likely’ OR ‘most appropriate’ and this is why, in my opinion the book has great value. A lot of the exam is about technique and understanding the direction of the question and this book certainly helps with that.

3) Datta, P. K., & Selvasekar, C. R. (2016). FRCS (General Surgery) The Road to Success. Doctors Academy.

This book is more of a mini-textbook and is written in a question answer style. This allows for a good approach to the exam although may be more suitable for part 2. The big advantage of this book is that covers a wide area of topics including areas such as skin and gives a lot of basic knowledge which lays the foundation upon which to build a greater understanding of the subject material. It will almost certainly help from the part 2 perspective too.

4) Aroori, S., & Puneet, . (2011). MCQs for FRCS. London: Radcliffe Pub.

This is an older book and has quite a few questions in it. This is a good book to revise to towards the end of your revision process. This is because the explanations are quite brief and so the focus is on testing your ability to answer a completely new set of questions and asked in a slightly different way. It would work well with the website surgery online discussed below to assess your understanding of the syllabus.

5) Fernandes, R., & Royal College of Surgeons of England. (2019). FRCS general surgery: Section 1.

This book is nicely divided into specific areas which try to map on to the syllabus. It has a good approach and has a good bariatric section which is useful. It maybe more useful towards the end of revision or to plug any gaps in your knowledge rather than being the main focus for revision.

6) Fiser, S. M. (2009). The comprehensive ABSITE review. Richmond, Virginia: Hancock Surgical Consultants, LLC.

Although I don’t have first-hand experience of this book it is considered to be an excellent revision tool for the FRCS. It is primarily aimed at the American audience and their ABSITE board exams but many candidates that I have come across have used this book as part of their revision

7) Behind The Knife ABSITE Podcast Companion. Published by Behind The Knife – The Surgery Podcast, 2020

Without doubt Behind the Knife podcasts are excellent and if the companion to the podcast is anything close to the actual podcasts, it will be amazing. This came out after I had passed my exam, but I have been told by people taking the exam recently that it is a very well-thought out book and is certainly useful. One of the areas to be aware of is that although the management and cancer workups are very similar between the UK and the USA, there are some small variations so always ensure that the info is corroborated with a UK source/guideline too.

There is a new book underway called Higher FRCS and attempts to map on to the syllabus. It has an extensive expert authorship and will also have some Robotics questions which is the first book to do so. It will only focus on the SBAs which is the new format for the section 1 exam.

Textbooks & Reading Material

The companion series books are excellent books and were traditionally viewed as the go to resource for FRCS revision. The role of these books has changed slightly and are mainly used for the part 2. It will definitely be helpful to read before part 1 to supplement knowledge and improve understanding but without using the online question banks, most have struggled to pass because the exam is a combination of knowledge and technique. The question banks focus on that side along with knowledge which can then be consolidated with books such as the companion series.

The syllabus is one of the most fundamental documents you will read as part of your revision. This document gives you the framework of all the areas that could potentially be tested in the exam. From my own experience my program director used to tell me at every appraisal that I should look at the syllabus and read it but I never really did until the year of my exam. It is an extensive document that has over 130 topics and each of these topics are fair game, certainly for part one. This means that a question on skin is equally likely to come up compared to a question on colorectal diseases. I would highly encourage everyone to read and reread it, to get an overview for your revision. It can be accessed at the following site.

https://www.iscp.ac.uk/media/1103/general-surgery-curriculum-aug-2021-approved-oct-20v3.pdf

Other books that many of the candidates (including myself) read were the ATLS manual, the CCrISP manual and Top Knife.

Online and starter revision resources

There are 2 starter courses and 5 major online resources for the FRCS section 1. We present a short review on each for your help and reference.

Starter courses

Doctors Academy

Doctors Academy are well known for their educational resources and offer a great 1 or 2 day course for the part 1 FRCS. The course covers a lot of subject matter which is a great way to really kickstart your revision. It also helps midway to clarify areas that you didn’t know much about. They cover some technique and go through questions during the course too. This is a great resource for those who aren’t quite sure about where to start or how. Places are usually limited so you should regularly look at the website.

https://www.doctorsacademy.org//frcs

Higher FRCS Starter Course

Higher FRCS starter course is another great starter course. The advantage is that it is tailored for any stage and goes through the process of application to the first few weeks of revision. It is delivered via zoom which makes it easy to access and there are plenty of dates and availability due to the online nature of the course. It runs for about 3 hours and covers cancer protocols, exam technique and uses a really nice interactive platform called mentimeter to allow audience participation. Its well worth attending, not too long and gives a valuable set of resources that could save you weeks in the initial period of revision. The organisers also send round a list of helpful resources and revision notes courtesy of Mr U Wale

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/frcs-section-1-tips-and-techniques-tickets-158506554371

Online Resources

Efrcs

No list is complete without mentioning efrcs. It is probably the most used resource for the FRCS. It has a range of questions just shy of 1000 questions. They also have an additional set in their timed test section so don’t miss out on them. The resource includes both extended matching and single best answer questions. It all helps in terms of revision. They also have questions on anatomy and physiology of which there can be a few questions in the exam about. The developers regularly update their questions and was seen in areas such as the change in polyp guidance in 2019/20. It is really well laid out in a simple format too. There are a few image based questions that will help prepare you for the exam too.

https://www.efrcs.com

Companion FRCS
A great set of questions of over 600. It really does begin to feel like the exam when doing these questions. Many of the questions are image based and the site has a timed test feature too. The layout and design is slick and clean with easy to navigate features. The questions are good and have the advantage of highlighting key words and why the other options are wrong which can be equally useful to hone in on the knowledge required for the exam. The descriptions often have good diagrams and clear explanations which all help. They have also added explanations to their timed tests which is a great bonus.

https://www.frcscompanion.com

Higher FRCS

The newest question bank released in September 2021, it has over 1000 single best answers. This makes it one of the largest dedicated SBA sites for the FRCS. It focuses on guidelines from the UK and those generally followed by UK clinicians. It mainly focuses on clinically orientated scenarios and is divided into 9 main speciality areas. It is easy to use and is similar to exam in its style and depth of knowledge. It has an evolving image and protocol based question section which is being expanded on regularly. The site is very easy to use and focuses on the user experience during revision and serves as a useful adjunct to the other resources available.

https://www.higherfrcs.co.uk

OnExamination
A massive resource that includes SBAs and EMQs. A range of types of questions and separated out into subject areas. Some of the questions may not be very similar to the exam but are useful to keep your mind thinking about the topics and areas of interest. One of the biggest advantages to OnExamination is the app which allows you to take the questions anywhere on the go. This means that all the dead timings like waiting for a coffee or walking along a corridor can be used to answer another question. The exam is all about marginal gains and OnExamination certainly helps with this side of revision. In addition some libraries purchase bulk licenses and so you can actually get a month or two for free via the local hospital library.

https://www.onexamination.com/products/frcs-general-surgery

Surgery Online
A good resource to test yourself on a brand new set of questions. There are about 400 SBA questions but they also have about 250 EMQs which all help for the exam. The questions are not divided into subjects which gives you a real ‘test feel’ to the site. A useful resource to revise from but most useful towards the end of the revision period.

https://www.surgeryonlinefrcs.com

Online resources to look out for!

FRCS guide
This is a resource that is due to come out this year or early 2022 and attempts to mimic the exam in its style. The exact number of questions will vary between 300-500 questions – definitely a useful addition to the ones listed above
Grab the FRCS

This is a resource under construction and will focus on part 1 and part 2.

Online Community Resources

Facebook

There are 2 Facebook pages related to the FRCS general surgery. These provide updates on features of their question banks and give helpful tips and tricks to give an added dimension to your revision.

https://www.facebook.com/HigherFRCS/

https://www.facebook.com/frcscompanion/

There are 3 FRCS related community groups which post useful information about the exam and experiences from candidates and well worth joining to keep up to date.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/4904996052860240/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1171998452846874/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1850665048498879/

 

Social Media

There are currently 3 major social media resources

Twitter

@HFrcs – This is the Twitter handle for the Higher FRCS question bank (www.higherfrcs.co.uk). This is an excellent resource and a new question is posted every fortnight, independent to its question bank. It generates some really stimulating discussion and advice from candidates who have recently passed also get posted. It has a real community feel to it and posts some nice snippets of information about relevant topics and guidelines. It currently has over 870 followers making it the largest dedicated FRCS Twitter account for the general surgery part 1 exam.

@frcscompanion – This is the Twitter handle for the FRCS Companion question bank (www.frcscompanion.com). The Twitter account provides regular updates about the website including new features and also sends messages of support to those taking the exam.

Instagram

h_frcs – This is the Instagram handle for the Higher FRCS question bank (www.higherfrcs.co.uk). There are some nice pictures of cancer flowcharts and how the site works too. There are also some nice snapshots of challenging questions to get you thinking about the exam too.

Online Presentations

Higher FRCS has produced a really good presentation for the FRCS exam looking at parts 1 & 2. They talk about the exam and approach to it including some practical tips on how to start revising. It was used as part of the revision advice in the Emergency and Trauma Symposium run by the Moynihan Academy in December 2021.

You can access it from the link below. There’s also a welcome presentation to the website which has some useful tips too. The main other presentation about the FRCS is slightly older now but has some good advice on the approach to take with the exam and general tips that are worth considering over the course of your revision. Below is also a personal account of someone who has recently passed the exam with some good top tips.

YouTube

There are also some nice generic general surgery presentations that may also be useful to watch but are not specific to the FRCS however begins to gear your mind towards SBAs and the exam format.

Podcasts

There are a range of Podcasts available to revise from and it can be quite overwhelming to begin with. The main sources for Podcasts are the ASGBI, Royal College of Surgeons and St Marks.

One of the best podcast series is the ABSITE review by Behind The Knife which gives an incredible overview of all the major subject areas in an hour. It’s easy listening and fun, something I would recommend everyone revising for part 1 to do.

https://behindtheknife.org/podcast-series/absite/

Don’t forget local and regional teaching days

The local and regional teaching days are designed to target deficiencies in knowledge and are very useful. It can be tricky when it clashes with clinical work but they are designed for you and some regions also have FRCS teaching days as part of the regional teaching. The ASGBI are recently looking into developing a nationwide teaching program that brings local hospital teaching to a global audience and is certainly something to look out for.

Each of these resources have their benefits and pitfalls. We would encourage you to use all of these resources to give you the maximum chances of success as they enhance your revision in slightly different ways and in different circumstances.

I really hope everyone passes

Good luck!

Higher FRCS