MRCGP AKT exam format and key changes to the exam

MRCGP AKT RevisionDr Mahibur Rahman

The MRCGP AKT exam was introduced in 2007 as part of the new MRCGP examination. Since then it has been through a few minor changes relating to question formats and the passing standard. From October 2014, some important changes are being implemented. This article looks at the exam format, including the new changes.

Exam basics

The Applied Knowledge Test (AKT) is one part of the MRCGP examination. It can be taken in the ST2 year of training or later. It is a computerised test consisting of 200 questions, and can be attempted a maximum of 4 times. The major change being implemented in 2014 is that the time allowed for the exam is being increased by 10 minutes – candidates will now have 3 hours and 10 minutes to complete the exam. The other change is a minor one – an on screen calculator will be available if needed.

Exam content

The exam is based around UK general practice, with all questions being drawn from areas within the RCGP GP curriculum. The breakdown of the questions are as follows:

  • 80% (160 questions) – clinical medicine relevant to general practice
  • 10% (20 questions) – organisational – this includes administrative issues, medicolegal, practice management, GP contract, certification etc.
  • 10% (20 questions) – evidence based practice – statistics, types of study, graphs and charts etc.

Question formats

The majority of questions (about 90%) are of two formats – extended matching questions (EMQs) and single best answer questions (SBA). Candidates sitting the AKT will be familiar with this type of question from the GP Stage 2 assessments used as part of GP recruitment. The remaining question formats include:

  • Algorithm question – testing knowledge of specific guidelines or protocols – sometimes you will be required to drag the correct answer into the relevant box.
  • Picture question – this will have a scenario with a related image – ranging from an investigation, blood result, audiogram, skin lesion, otoscopy or a photo of a clinical sign.
  • Video question – this will involve a short clip (20 – 30 seconds) with a relevant question. This could show an abnormal gait, a test for a sign, a physical abnormality etc.
  • Seminal trial – this will test knowledge of a specific trial that has had a significant impact on general practice.
  • Rank ordering question – this is a relatively new format, and will ask you to order options from best to worst e.g. most secure password to least secure password
  • Short answer question – this will provide a question and then a blank space into which you have to type the correct answer. Typically the answer will be one or two words.
  • Calculation – this may involve calculating a paediatric drug dosage, converting one opioid to a different formulation, or working out the sensitivity or specificity of a test. The maths is usually limited to basic arithmetic, although an no screen calculator is now available.


The AKT is a challenging exam, and most candidates will need at least 3 months revision to be able to cover the entire curriculum thoroughly. Combining reading with practising exam level questions to time will help make your revision more effective. The Emedica AKT preparation course offers comprehensive coverage of the curriculum, with a focus on the challenging areas highlighted by examiners from previous sittings. This includes statistics and evidence based practise made simple, the organisational domain, and over 100 core clinical topics including high yield topics from previous examinations. You can get a £20 discount by using the code alumnimrcgp

Useful links:

RCGP AKT Content Guide

MRCGP AKT tips for effective preparation – from a registrar with the highest score in the country

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