Books for the MRCPsych

The problem with the MRCPsych books currently available is that they are mostly designed to aid revision for the old MRCPsych. The MCRPsych used to be split into Parts 1 and 2 both of which had a written and a practical exam element. There are now three written papers (imaginatively titled papers 1, 2 and 3) and a separate clinical exam which is called the ‘Clinical Assessment of Skills and Competencies’ (CASC). Candidates also must complete ward based assessments with their supervisors. If we were at school this would probably be called ‘coursework’.

Papers 1 and 2 were sat for the first time in February 2008. Paper 1 covers a lot of the ground that used be the domain of the old part 1. Paper 2 covers some part 1 material as well as some things that used to be in part 2. The RCPsych exam page with links to cirricula is found here. Paper 3 is being sat for the first time in March 2008

A search at in Waterstones online bookshop gives up 44 titles for the MRCpsych books. Here are the ones with which I am familiar in no particular order

The astute amongst you will note that the book links below are to the site. If you buy a book I get a small commission. Please consider doing this, I spend a lot of time on this site out of pure love for psychiatry, but it is occasionally nice to buy an ice cream as a result of all my hard work.

The A-Z of the MRCPsych
by Dr Nicholas Taylor.

This is an excellent book. Topics are ordered as a dictionary, which allows quick reference when looking up the answers to exam questions. The prose is in a bullet point style which also means that the text can be quickly scanned for that little nugget of info that’s going to a make all the difference.

Campbells Psychiatric Dictionary Eight Edition
by Robert J Campbell MD

I think that this book is so brilliant that it’s a strong contender for the book I might be tempted to save from my flat if it were burning. Another reason for this hypothetical bravery is that it’s also rather pricey (£42). It’s a very comprehensive dictionary of psychiatric terms and very useful for times during revision when faced with a question that turns on the difference between catalepsy and cataplexy or the synonyms of Ganser’s syndrome

Psychiatry Recall
by Barbara Fadem MD and Steven S. Simring

I’ve been reading this one on the bus between visits. It’s format is that every page is divided into two columns; the left poses questions like ‘What is the drug of choice for treating biopolar disorder’ and the right provides the answer. A large bookmark is provided with the intention that a student will learn by first covering over the answer on the right and then, having composed their own answer, will peek to see what the experts think. It’s DSM-IV centric (not even a mention of ICD-10) so sometimes the classifications will feel a little different to the British reader, but it’s easy to digest and a reasonable way into revision before hitting the heavier stuff.

Basic Notes in Psychiatry by Michael Levi

One of my colleagues was asking me the other day the best book to act as an introduction to exam revision, a framework to hang all the other knowledge off, like decorations on a Christmas tree. In this respect, this book is not a bad Christmas tree. It covers psychiatric interview techniques, major psychiatric diagnoses and psychopathology up to the level necessary for paper 1 and psychopharmacology in greater detail although probably not up to a level necessary for paper 2. It’s totally without waffle and is in a quick to access list form.

ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural disorders

I’d never looked much at this book until recently when I was trying to work out if a patient of mine was suffering from persistent dillusional disorder or somatization disorder. It’s actually quite a riveting read and the occasional half an hour will give a good idea of where all the disorders fit together in terms of their place in the classification. MRCPsych examiners are quiet fond of asking questions on this sort of thing too, especially whether neurosis is still a DSM-IV and ICD-10 diagnostic category.

Examination notes in Psychiatry Basic Sciences Second Edition
by Gin S.Malhi and Saj Malhi

This is the best all round book that I came across during my revision. It’s got a chapter on most things and manages to go into good detail whilst still remaining concise.

Psychology for the MRCPsych
by Marcus Munafo

It’s often said that people often failed the old Part 1 examination because of not revising psychology hard enough and it must have been this in mind that this book was written. I intended to read all of it, but in the end only managed chapters one and two. I would be inclined to read the chapter on psychology in one of the general texts and then use this book if you’re still getting the questions wrong…..

MRCPsych in a Box

This is quite a fun idea: instead of having to trawl through a text book, why not buy a little box of cards, which you can leaf through like prompt cards for a speech at a wedding. There are also MCQ questions to test your knowledge. On the plus side the cards and succinct and well written. On the minus there is no index so dipping in is not easy and although it claims to cover all the syllabus, it didn’t feel like that to me. Good for paper 1.

Revision notes in Psychiatry
by Basant K. Puri and Anne D. Hall

A bit of a bible both in breadth and also in physical size, if you knew this book cover to cover you’d probably pass all the exams. As you might imagine then, it’s pretty dense and I, meant to read the whole things before my exam, but ended up getting to page 30 (the first chapter on psychology is 60 pages long). There’s an accompanying MCQ book, which is expensive but recommended.

The Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines
by David Taylor

Although a bit too dry to read from cover to cover, this is a very helpful book both for revision and day-to-day clinical practice as it’s a very comprehensive guide to prescribing psychiatric medication. I hear that paper 3 has a lot of guideline based questions, and for this the MPG will be just the ticket

Shorter Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry
by Michael Gelder, Philip Cowen, and Paul Harrison

A shorter companion to the titanic Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry, I have a copy of this which I use to prop open a door. Not really, but it is pretty heavy, and there are more readable and concise textbooks out there. This book’s real strength is its broad subject range and it is also very well referenced. If you are a member of then the full OToP is available online

MCQ and EMQ books

The current exams consist of ‘best of five’ questions. The previous part 1 was ‘true or false’ questions; both used EMQ (extended matching) questions. There are a large number of books available. It’s difficult to know whether to use old books that are kicking around in the library, or to invest in new ones. I’m a big libraries fan, as I’ve declared war on unnecessary expenditure and clutter; other people like to own their books and I’m glad they exist they’re the ones who keep struggling authors in cafe lattes. Psychopathology is close to 100 years old so it probably doesn’t matter what texts you use for that, other subjects may require something more up to date.

MCQs for the New MRCPsych Part One
by Michael Reilly and Bangaru Raju

Although this book is called ‘MCQs’ it is actually full of ‘true or false’ questions. It also wins the prize for the most difficult MCQ book I’ve come across. It covers the old part 1 syllabus and so will be useful for paper 1 if at all. The questions are, as one of my friends likes to say ‘nails’. There are 800 questions, split into four exams. Unfortunately the explanations are very brief.

Complete MCQs in Psychiatry: Self Assessment for Parts 1 and 2 of the MRCPsych
by Basant Puri and Anne Hall

This extremely expensive book is published to be used with the revision text by Hall. The number of questions you get for your money isn’t enormous, but there are excellent explanations and the questions are also all referenced.

Extended Matching items for MRCPsych Part 1
by Michael Reilly and Bangaru Raju

A book of well written EMQs suitable for paper 1

MCQs in Psychiatry
by David McNamara

This book is published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. It’s pretty difficult, and out of all of these books is probably most representative of the level required for papers 1 and 2. There must be some mileage in thinking that a book published by the examining board must have some relation to the exams…

MRCPsych Parts 1 and 2 1001 EMQIs
editor Albert Michael

The title is slightly disingenious – they’re aren’t actually 1001 EMQs there are 1001 questions and probably about 200 EMQ stems. It covers a broad range of subjects and the answer explanations are good.

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