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Book reviews

SBA and MTF MCQs for the Primary FRCA

European Journal of Anaesthesiology: September 2013 - Volume 30 - Issue 9 - p 579
doi: 10.1097/EJA.0b013e3283632fff
  • Free

James Nickells, Benjamin Walton and the Writers Group

Cambridge University Press, 2012

ISBN 978-1-107-60406-3 (paperback)

Recommended Retail Price £18.50

To become a Fellow of the Royal College of Anaesthetists (FRCA) by examination, candidates must pass the Primary (or a recognised exemption qualification) and then Final examinations. Many Primary FRCA candidates are UK or Ireland trainees in anaesthesia, but full eligibility criteria can be found at

This examination book is written by the writers group, and is the first Cambridge publication by the author on Primary FRCA questions following several covering Final FRCA questions. The book contains questions from the website. It is available in paperback (220 pages) or to download as an e-book.

The preface discusses methods of revision, focusing on the advantages of web based resources (large volumes of material can be accessed and updated easily, performance can be analysed and compared with others, and candidates can feed back comments about questions) such as that provided by, which has been developed in conjunction with Cambridge University Press. The book is intended to provide a taster of the content on the website and an alternative format to suit individual preference. Some practical examination tips are also given.

The book is structured into two question papers, answers, and explanations. As in the examination, each question paper contains 90 multiple choice questions (MCQ): 60 multiple true/false (MTF) followed by 30 single best answer (SBA) questions. The questions are evenly distributed across the Primary FRCA syllabus. The answer section provides a simple list, enabling quick reference. The questions and answers are relisted (with a description linking to the index) in the explanation section, removing the need to flick back and forth between sections when marking. Two explanations are then provided: a short one, which should serve as a reminder if the reader is familiar with the topic, and a long one, for topics that the reader has not yet revised so thoroughly! Occasional diagrams and tables are used, but the vast majority of explanations are text only. References are provided at the end of most explanations, mainly to commonly used anaesthesia textbooks which the reader should have easy access to. The index directs the reader to question numbers and explanation page numbers, thereby allowing targeted revision.

There is a wide range of textbooks and other resources available to guide the Primary FRCA candidate, and practice examination questions will form just one component of revision material. Whilst other books may contain more MCQs, this has the advantage of being a recent publication providing an up-to-date representation of examination papers at a reasonable price. The biggest strength of the book is a user friendly structure that is well tailored to the audience – question papers presented as in the actual examination, explanations suited to different stages of revision, references to aid further revision, and an index to guide those who wish to test their knowledge of specific topics. It could certainly be improved by featuring more diagrams and pictures where relevant but overall, a very worthwhile investment.

Leanne Darwin

Specialty Registrar in Anaesthesia

North West Deanery


E-mail: [email protected]

Malachy Columb

Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care

University Hospital of South Manchester

Southmoor Road




© 2013 European Society of Anaesthesiology