1)Part A

ON 21/06/2020                                                                                         



Resources I used for Part A

Question Bank & Notes

  1. SPMM notes and question bank
  2. MRCPsych Mentor notes and question bank
  3. Birmingham Course

In terms of notes, all SPMM, MRCPsych Mentor and Birmingham Course provided me with pretty good notes.

But in terms of practice questions, the most helpful question banks are those from SPMM and MRCPsych Mentor. SPMM questions are tougher than MRCPsych mentor and they represent the real toughness of the questions that would come out in the exam. However, MRCPsych Mentor gave  me the basics that I needed before I could go on to do the tougher questions in the SPMM. If I had jumped straight to SPMM instead of doing the MRCPsych Mentor questions first, I would probably feel a bit discouraged to take Part A. Hahaha. So my advice is to do the MRCPsych Mentor questions first, and then you can move on to do the questions in SPMM.

I don’t like the questions from Birmingham Course, though. I found that some of their answers were wrong and would be misleading if you did not double check the facts. (They might have improved on this aspect throughout the years, though. So, I don’t know. Maybe you can check it out yourself, if you are curious. I am just telling you my own experience.) If you do not have enough funds to subscribe to all three question banks, I suggest you abandon Birmingham Course, even though their notes are quite good. But I think, SPMM notes, text books and your own studying and research should be sufficient to make up for whatever that you may find lacking when you don’t have Birmingham notes. (Subsequently, for my Part B, I did not repeat my subscription to Birmingham Course. Like I said, Birmingham Course is not an absolute necessity for me. But I did repeat my subscription to SPMM and MRCPsych Mentor for my Part B.)  

The price for each of the three resources varies according to the subscription period. I subscribed to SPMM course for a period of 6 months and I had to pay around RM1000++ (Sorry, but I could not recall the actual price). I subscribed to MRCPsych Mentor for 6 months also and it was less than RM600 (again, I could not recall the actual price. It might be around RM400-500). The price for Birmingham is about the same price as SPMM.

Some people do not prefer to subscribe to these resources too early because they don’t want their subscription period to end before the actual exam itself. Of course, it is ideal to still be able to access those questions when the exam is near. However, if you subscribed late, you would also start studying late! So what I did was, I subscribed early and I took notes on some important questions that I should re-do or revisit later… or I saved some of those questions in my own Word document to study them in my own good time once my subscription period was over. Some people also took screenshots of those questions as they were doing their questions via their mobile phones. Whatever method suits you, do it! But subscribe early and save those questions so that you can revisit them later! (Or if you are filthy rich, you can just renew your subsciption to last you until your actual exam. As I am not filthy rich, this is not an option for me. I do not subscribe to any of the resources twice!)

Psychiatry Books

In general, I believe that it is pretty good investment to buy Psychiatry books that you will use throughout your career. For the rest of our lives as a Psychiatry doctor, we will need to refer to these books to help us in our clinical practice or to help teach our juniors and fellow comrades. Let’s be honest! We forget stuff after exams and having books like this with us helps us when we need to revisit the facts later! (But then, I admit I am a book hoarder. Hahah Some people did pass without buying books at all and only used the PDF version of those books throughout their exam journey. But like I said, this is just my own personal experience and you guys may choose your own course of action accordingly. I personally just love buying books, guys!)

1. Stahl’s Essential Psychopharmacology


2.The Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines in Psychiatry


3.Fish’s Clinical Psychopathology


4.Revision Notes In Psychiatry 


5.Companion To Psychiatric Studies


If you are short of funds, I suggest for you to buy Stahl’s Essential Psychopharmacology, first. (I love the diagrams, the contents… so easy to understand! I bought it at a price of almost RM400 but it is really worth it, guys! I finished reading 80% of this book before doing my Part A. Even though some people passed their Part A without ever using Stahl’s but I was hooked by the diagrams in the book. I think the author is a genius in how he explained psychopharmacology in those fun, easily-understood diagrams. Highly recommended!)

You can postpone buying The Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines for Part A. But I personally used this book a lot  for Part B and CASC. I love this book too.  (Maybe, I just love pharmacology, hahha. Not that I am good at it or anything. But I think this is the main thing of what being a doctor is about! You must know your drugs! And therefore, I naturally gravitate towards pharmacology books.)

SPMM/MRCPsych Mentor have pretty good notes on psychopathology. So I personally feel like you can forego buying Fish’s Psychopathology if you want to save your money.

Revision Notes In Psychiatry is the main reference book for most people studying Psychiatry. But I personally rarely used the book during my exam preparation. (Doing a lot of questions, reading notes from SPMM/Mentor/Birmingham, reading Stahl’s and psychopathology… these are already so helpful to me. Alhamdulillah, this strategy certainly helped me to pass my Part A in one attempt.)

Companion To Psychiatric Studies is not a necessity. You can choose not to buy this one if you don’t want to. Like I said, I just love buying books.

All the books above can be used throughout your MRCPsych journey; not just for Part A. So, I do feel like it is pretty good investment for you to have them. But again, if you absolutely must save your money, I highly recommend that you prioritize Stahl’s, and Maudsley. Your SPMM/Mentor/Birmingham notes and question bank will make up for whatever else that are lacking in your arsenal of psychiatry books.

Part A Syllabus


Neuroanatomy, Neurophysiology, Neurochemistry, Neuropathology, Applied Neuroscience


-Basic Pharmacology, Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics, Adverse Drug Reactions

3)Molecular Genetics

4)Descriptive Psychopathology

5)Dynamic Psychopathology

6)Basic Psychology

5)Social Psychology

6) Sociocultural Psychiatry

7)Human Development 

Learning Theories / Attachment theories / Freud Psychosexual stages / Piaget /Bowlby / Bandura etc etc

8) Classification (DSM and ICD)

9) Clinical Examinations – MSE, interview techniques

As you can see, there are A LOT to learn, guys! As I have mentioned earlier, subscribe to question banks early! Don’t wait ngam ngam 6 months before your Part A exam to subscribe to these resources! The earlier you study, the more time you have to understand and memorize all the facts.


There are some documents that you must prepare when you register for the first time with the Royal College of Psychiatrist to take your Part A. These can all be found in their website.

I remember that I had to fill up an online registration form when I wanted to take Part A. Subsequently, I also had to mail certified copies of my Medical Degree, my MMC registration certificate, my APC, and my IC (or was it my Passport? I really couldn’t remember) to the Royal College. I got all of them certified by a solicitor (not a Pesuruhjaya Sumpah, guys!)

For the exam fee, I had to pay GBP 588 (if we convert this amount to Malaysian ringgit, it was around RM3000. I remember wanting to cry a little bit after paying the fee. Hahah. But it is so worth it when you pass. That is why you must aim to pass at one attempt! So, subscribe and study early, guys! You don’t want to waste that exam money!)

The exam itself was craaaaaazyyy! I thought, I was surely gonna fail. By the time I finished doing my last question, I had only very little time left to check all my answers. I was stressed whenever some candidates got up from their seats to go out for either toilet breaks or because they had finished early and wanted to get out of the exam hall. I was like, “Was it so easy for you that you have the time to go to the toilet?! And how could you finish so early?! Why am I so slow? Am I the stupidest one here?” (Yeah, I can be pretty neurotic when I am stressed. Hahah)

But I found out later that they got up and went out of the exam hall due to the frustration at the difficulty of the questions. Some of them who had gotten out early did not even make it in the passing list.

This is my personal opinion: use all the time you have to REALLY analyze the question and the answer options. Do not go out early if you don’t have any urgent matter to attend to. I would have cried bloody tears if I had  gotten out early and didn’t pass the exam. I would start thinking that “Maybe, I should have checked my answers properly. Maybe I should have used all  the time wisely instead of getting out early. Perhaps, I would pass if I had only been more careful and analytical in answering the questions.”

If I had used up all my time and STILL failed, at least I could console myself by saying “I had done my best with all the available time that I had! I did not leave any stone unturned. I did everything I could.” There would be no regrets! But if I had gotten out of the exam hall early and failed, I would surely be filled with remorse and regret that I had squandered my time so foolishly!

Guys, I believe in using up and maximizing all my resources to its best potential. And time is the most valuable resource we could ever have! Use them all! Jangan membazir masa yang dah diberikan!

Guys, the questions are in the formats of ‘Best of Five Answers’ and ‘Extended Matched Items’. These formats are designed to confuse you. The question didn’t ask for the right answer… but for the BEST answer! Read the clinical scenario/the context carefully before deciding on your answer. What is the right answer to you… may not be the best answer. For someone to go out so early out of the exam hall but end up not passing the exam, they must have interpreted the question too simply. (But if you had gone out early and you did pass, you are amazing! I really tabik spring! But I personally am not a rich person who can take the risk of losing RM3000++ just for the sake of going out of the exam hall early. If I had invested RM3000++ for this exam, then I am going to maximize all the chance I could get to pass the exam and that includes using up all the time to continue ruminating on all my answers until the time is up! Unless you are damn smart, you better use ALL the time wisely!)

Remember! Best Answer! Not just the right answer! All those answers can be right… but they are not the best for that particular clinical context. This is especially true when the questions are asking about pharmacological options and psychological treatment! Pay attention to the details given in the scenario that would determine which one is the best answer among all the right answers! Look at the age of the patient, the symptoms, the co-morbidities that the patient had, the possible side effects of the pharmacological treatment that might worsen the comorbidities that the patient had, the possible drug-drug interaction that would happen if you had chosen one drug instead of the other! Jangan main pilih tanpa fikir! They give that long scenario for a reason! For you to make use of ALL the information to make the BEST answer!

Some people had to take Part A 3-4 times before they passed. I know a few who had decided to take Part B first before taking Part A after failing their Part A a few times. Perhaps, I might be wrong… but I think the reason they didn’t pass their Part A a few times is because they didn’t appreciate the subtlety that is present in the question. Try  to think like an OCPD over-thinker when you are doing your Part A and Part B hahah.  (As a self-proclaimed OCPD overthinker, I had used up allllll the time to the very last moment. I could NEVER walk out of the exam hall early because I always challenged and second-guessed my own answers before I would commit to them. Tu pasal, aku selalu jer tak cukup masa! Adeh! The same thing happened in my part B… in the 30 minutes time that I had left, I still had 60 questions to answer. It was a race against time! And therefore, I just could not compute…. why would anyone not use up all the time that they have? Kalau lah korang boleh derma sikit masa lebih korang kat aku, I would ruminate even more LOL!)

I hope, you guys will get some idea about Part A exam based on this writing. I will add more pages to this particular section of my blog in the future to discuss about other aspects of the exam and about my MRCPsych journey, Insya Allah. Hope this is helpful to you guys who are thinking of taking Part A.

I think, I am going to end this post here. If you have any question regarding Part A, you can leave a comment and I will answer them as soon as possible. I am pretty prompt in answering questions about studies and exams. So, don’t worry. I will reply to you in the comment section too. I do not encourage people to try to contact me via Facebook Messenger or Instagram especially if you are not in my Friends list. I tend to reply quite late if I don’t know the person who is contacting me via Facebook/Instagram.

All the best for your Part A, comrades! May Allah reward your patience in pursuing His knowledge by bestowing upon you the best of success in this life and the hereafter. Amin. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.

31 thoughts on “1)Part A

  1. Navenia Nishel

    Thank you so much for this. Am planning to attempt this exam next year. I feel that I just need to do it and buy the online material and start doing the questions.
    Do u repeat the questions multiple times?
    Because I tried a few hard copy ones and I always forget the ones that I last did. Hahaha.


    1. Hi there!
      Well… I finished all the questions at least once (and believe me, sometimes even that is a struggle because I subscribed to multiple question banks). Then nearer to the exam date, I did them one more time and marked the questions that I feel like I need to revisit next time. And I also studied the notes and Stahl a lot. I feel that they are very helpful.

      All the best for your Part A!


      1. Kavitha

        Hi . I am postgraduate in psychiatry and am
        Doing my final yr . I recently gave part A exams. I would like to thank you immensely . Since I had followed ur advice and subscribed to spmm and mrcpsych mentor only and they were very good . And stahl .
        I feel we have similar reading styles n could relate to what you had written .
        I am very anxious about my results . Have made a lot of mistakes and am
        Really worried .
        How much was t cut off score when u had written and in general what is t average .. ?


          1. Anonymous

            results had come n I CLEARED PART A…. thank you ..
            I went through your write-up about your part B exam.
            I was initially planning to take it up this October but decided against it. I feel a lot more effort and time is needed. to prepare for statistics. Any source u found useful for understanding statistics ?


  2. Mursyida Salma

    Assalamualaikum Dr, I am Mursyida, currently doing housemanship in SP, would u mind share with us what makes you want to be a psychiatrist… , i really want to with few reasons… really hope to hear from you . thank you


    1. Waalaikumussalam w.b.t Mursyida. Hi there! Thank you for dropping by my humble blog.

      Well the truth is, I am interested in psychiatry because of my fiction-reading habit. If you love to read, you cannot help having the fascination for psychiatry. Some novels feature characters with narcissistic personality, borderline personality, anti-social personality. And some novels have psychiatry themes too: protagonist dealing with depression, a mystery involving a Schizophrenia patient, war heroes overcoming PTSD. I have always been drawn to philosophical ideas and thought analysis – why people think the way they do… those things fascinated me since I was a child. So…really, I couldn’t do anything else but psychiatry. The field is just too interesting for me to forego even though other branches of medicine are interesting too.

      All the best in your housemanship! And if you are really interested in psychiatry, just go for it! It is a very rewarding career path.


  3. Mursyida Salma

    Thank you Dr, for your reply. I am really appreciate it. im think of sitting for part A disember this year . im using your blog to start with it. Thank you so much. But im still new in this carreer, means im just only one year becoming a doctor, but i try to sit for mrcpsych because i want to be MO in psy later. hope if i hv the paper admin will consider my interest. By the way dr, how many months you took to study for part A?


    1. I am glad to know of your interest in Psy and encourage you to take Part A. But you must know that KKM will not recognize Part A which is taken during housemanship. Even if your pass ur Part A as a HO and subsequently placed as an MO in Psy, you will have to re-take your Part A as an MO to fulfill the requirement of KKM to become a psychiatrist.

      To answer your question I took roughly 8 months to 1 year to study for my Part A. The first 4 months I only study on and off and inconsistently…. and when I realized the bulk of the materials that I have to cover, I started becoming more consistent around 8 months before the exam.

      All the best to you.


      1. Mursyida Salma

        Oh i see, but dr, will the part A that i took can be a credit for me to be MO in psy…. i am quite worry because later after HO, my career will be different if Admin put me in other department, which maybe can cause me be end up in other department forever while my dream is to be a psychiatrist.. ☺️


        1. I am not sure whether taking Part A during housemanship will help you with your MO Placement. So I cannot provide you with a definitive answer… it depends on your hospital admin. If you happen to end up in other dept, you can always apply to transfer to PSY… most MOs do that anyway. Very few of us got to be a PSY MO straightaway after housemanship.

          Just go with the flow and hope for the best.


  4. syafiqah badri

    Hi and Salam Dr Afiza, I would like to ask regarding neurology and psychology subjects. Which book did you use for Paper A?

    BTW thank you for provide such an info for us Dr 🙂


    1. Wasalam wbt. I only use the books that I have mentioned in this post. I don’t use any other books other than the ones I have listed in this post. So mostly for Neurologya nd Psychology, I used all the Notes given by SPMM/Birmingham/Mentor… and Basant K. Puri. And I also further googled and watched You Tube videos if I need further clarification than what the notes and the textbook can provide.

      Hope that answers the question. All the best!


  5. Lion Lim

    Good day Dr Afiza. I would like to ask for your opinion on this situation that I am in now. Well I am currently working in ED since the day I completed my HOship ( I have no basic knowledge in pyschiatry since my 6th posting was in anaesthesiology ). However due to this COVID pandemic, I think my request to psychiatric department will be a long way to go before being approved. I am interested in pursuing psychiatry.. Do you mind sharing on how should I start my 1st step in preparation to take MRCPsych part A ?


    1. Hello Lion Lim….
      The preparation in taking Part A is all in this post….. you just have to start studying and subscribe to the question banks early to familiarize yourself with the questions and the topics you need to master on. I suggest you start preparing 6-8 months before the actual date of exams.

      Do visit RCPsych website as well. All the steps required to apply for Part A and the dates of future exams are all there….
      I visit the website a lot during my training time.

      All the best!


      1. Anonymous

        I see.. Ok thanks a lot for the advice Dr Afiza and I really do appreciate those handy tips you have provided in your blog. Thanks a lot for the selfless sharings!!! Have a good day and God bless you!


      2. Lion Lim

        I see .. Ok sure , thanks a lot for the advice Dr Afiza as well as those handy tips you shared in your blog. Really appreciate these selfless sharings of yours. Have a great day and may God bless you.


  6. Amy

    Hi, Dr Afiza. I’m interested to take MRCPsych.

    I had visited the UK websites as well where there is a core psychiatry training. The requirement is at least to have 3 years clinical experience before applying it. So let’s say I had finished my HO and become a MO. So after one year of working as a MO (2+1), If let’s say I start to apply it and I got it. Is that okay to leave the job as MO half way ? I’m not sure about the rules of MO. Besides, I had tried to search if any Malaysian doctors had experienced in getting core psy training in UK, but I didn’t found it and I found your blogger. I could say that it’s helpful for the insight of the MRCPsych. Thank you Dr Afiza !


    1. Hi Amy….

      I am not sure I quite understand your question. Let me see if I can try to simplify the process for you.

      By the time you are done with housemanship, u can start applying to sit for part A as an MO. There is no reason u need to leave the job as an MO… continue working as usual and just sit for the exam on the date of the examination.

      Getting core psy training in the UK is not a requirement to sit for the exam.

      Hope that answers your question. Have a good day and all the best!


  7. dina

    hi Dr Afiza, im a medical officer in klinik kesihatan. im planning to start preparing for Part A and to ask for transfer once i pass my part A. in that case, will i be able to proceed to part b once im in psy department or i will have to repeat the part A ya?


  8. Maryam Aliyah

    Hi Dr Afiza. I’m Maryam, a medical officer in Klinik Kesihatan. I’m planning to sit for Paper A in December this year. I would like to ask your study plan for Paper A. Did you read the whole materials to cover all the syllabus first and only you proceed doing the question banks? Because i think that if i start doing questions without having the theory in my mind is probably not effective.
    Another thing is how early did you subscribe the question banks? Mind to share your experience.
    Thank you!


    1. Salam Maryam… my suggestion is to do your study guided by the questions asked in the question banks. The syllabus is HUGE…. you need to know which part to prioritize and which part you don’t have to focus so much on. What I did was doing the questions TOGETHER and IN PARALLEL with my studying. I personally find that that is the most efficient way of studying anything…
      I subscribe to the questions banks at least 8 months prior to the exam itself… but it did cause me to be unable to access the questions
      banks 2 months before the actual exam because my subscription was only for 6 months. However, I actually screenshot and copy-pasted the questions into a word file for my own reference and revision later on. So I wasn’t bothered by my lack of access to the banks by that time as I have already created my own banks. I find that the earlier you familiarize yourself with the exam format and the content and the earlier you practice, the better your grasp of the exam material would be.

      All the best!


  9. zack

    Hi Dr, regarding the documents that need to be submitted, it must be submitted by mail right? not e mail, and can only be submitted during the application period?


    1. Hi Zack… I sent via mail because I thought they might want the original documents which were certified by a solicitor… but apparently some people simply scanned the certified documents and sent via email….

      If you sent the documents via postage, bear in mind that it would take some time to reach the UK….

      To be safe, just do both! That’s what I did. In the email that I sent with the scanned documents, I mentioned that the original physical copy should arrive soon…

      All the best!


        1. Actually, I could not recall translating those documents into English. I knew that some candidates with foreign degrees (like those who studied in Russia/Indonesia) did get their degree translated but as my degree is already written in English, I did not have to translate it. I am not sure if the Royal College requested for translation of APC/MMC as well…. I honestly couldn’t recall translating anything before sending my documents…sorry I couldn’t clarify this further for you


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s