Chapter 1 – The FRCEM Short Answer Question (SAQ)/Single Best Answer (SBA)

Overview of the SAQ/SBA

We are nearly out with the old and in with the new, but not quite. The SBA is rolling out from the Autumn 2021 sitting so we still have a couple of SAQ sittings left. The table below gives an overview of both exams, which currently will continue to be held in a virtual format.


Page 10 of the regulation pack gives a blueprint of the marks in the SAQ allocated to different parts of the current 2015 RCEM curriculum.

Theree are sixty SAQs. These are split into two 90 minute papers.

Typically there are three stems per question.


At the time of writing this guide there hasn’t been a sitting of the new SBA paper

It can assess anything listed in the 12 specialty learning outcomes.

There are 180 questions, which are broken down into two 90 minute questions papers, each of two hours duration.

Examples of SBA questions can be found here.

Tips and tricks

Currently, we can only comment on the SAQ as no sittings of the SBA question paper  have occurred. However, some of the advice below will be relevant to both.


  • Give yourself enough time – for me that was six months of little and often but everyone is different.
  • Focus on high yield areas by using the blue blueprint (pre 2021; post 2021 curriculum).
  • Share the load and buddy up.
  • Go on a course, use a question bank or book.
  • Time goes quicker than you think – timed practice is crucial!

On the day

  • 2021 SAQ/SBA  will be online at home or at a test centre – think carefully about the pros/cons of each.
  • GENERIC: eat; drink and toilet break before.
  • HOME: quiet environment; good lighting; reliable internet connection; look at RCEM device specification requirements; log in ahead of time. 
  • TEST CENTRE: plan how you are getting there; ensure plenty of time and  correct identification.  
  • Pace yourself.
  • The exam is divided into two halves – once the first half is complete you CAN’T go back.
  • Read the question carefully AND answer what it asks, not what you want it to ask.
  • No negative marks – give every question a go!
  • A ‘flag’ function exists for those questions you think you may want to revisit/haven’t answered.
  • Guidance for those who feel they may be eligible for reasonable adjustments can be found here (point 14) and here (point 21.g/h)
  • The RCEM glossary of terms is available via an icon on screen.

Courses, Question banks (SAQ/SBA) and books

I have no conflict of interest to declare. I went on the RCEM final SAQ preparation course and I found it a really useful 2 days, spent with College examiners giving advice about exam technique, why people fail and common themes that come up (Hint, hint: limping child, headache, ultrasound).

The table below shows some of the common resources, with links, those preparing for the exam typically use.  Most of the question banks are not specific to the FRCEM Final SAQ. As such sometimes the answers go into a depth not required for the FRCEM, however, they remain a good resource. Resources for the SBA are starting to appear. for example the Bromley SBA Course.

  • Use the RCEMLearning SAQ bank. Similar questions have appeared in the exams

Collated Resources

In this section you will find  a collation of links useful not only for the SAQ/SBA but also for the OSCE.  It is divided into adult and paediatric sections, with each area broadly divided by specialties. NICE guidelines are found in the first half of each speciality with other guidelines, for example RCEM; BTS in the second half. The links are regularly checked to ensure they still work and are current.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) recently released a pdf document that contains links to the latest NICE; SIGN and RCPCH guidelines, it can be found here

A number of the topics are relevant to both adult and paediatric EM. These will be found in the adult section.

  • It is assumed that you all will have access to ALS/APLS /NLS/ATLS/ETC resources. Specific links for these have not been included.

Other resources: Adult and Paediatric

Cite this article as: Trudie Pestell, "Chapter 1 – The FRCEM Short Answer Question (SAQ)/Single Best Answer (SBA)," in St.Emlyn's, March 21, 2021,

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