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SBA general instructions

Guidance on answering single best answer questions (SBAs)

Answer sheets

The questions are marked by a computerised document reading machine.

You must only use the HB grade pencil provided for completing all parts of the answer sheets.

Pens must not be used for any part of the examination.

Bold, dark marks that completely fill each lozenge are required.

Faint lines will not be read by the document reading machine.

You may erase any pencil mark by using the eraser provided.

The answer sheet must not be folded, creased or torn.

Please print your name as stated on your entrance ticket at the top of the answer sheet, write your candidate number (not your desk number) in the boxes provided, and black out the lozenges corresponding to your candidate number. See the following example:

Exam instructions

At the end of the examination, please insert the completed answer sheet inside the front cover of the question book.

Front cover: On the front cover of each question book, please print your name in the boxes provided and then sign your name in the space marked 'signature'. Your candidate number must be written in the four squares provided.

Answering the questions

The answer sheet is numbered 1-100 and against each number there are five lozenges labelled from A to E.

Each question in the question booklet will consist of a lead-in question, and then a list of five options (labelled A to E).

Indicate your judgment of each particular question by boldly blacking out the letter that corresponds to the single best answer in the option list.

Candidates may mark their responses in the question book and then transfer these to the answer sheet.

Please be aware that this will take longer, and all transfers must be done fully within the time allowed for the examination.

The option list will nearly always be in alphabetical or numerical order for ease of reference; if not, they will be in the most appropriate order for quick reference.

The most important element of the format is that you must select the single answer that best fits. You may feel that there are several possible answers, but you must choose only the most likely one from the option list.

Specimen answer sheet

A portion of a completed answer sheet may look like this:

Exam instructions


Incorrect answers are not penalised.

It is in your best interests to ensure that for each of the 100 answers, one lozenge is filled in by the end of the examination.

If you mark two or more boxes on the same question, no mark will be awarded, even if one of the answers you choose is the correct one.

Please ensure you clearly and fully erase any mistakes.

Specimen SBA question and answer

A 24-year-old presents at 27 weeks into her second pregnancy feeling unwell, with backache, fever and rigors. She has a temperature of 39.5°C. Urinalysis shows leucocytes and protein +++. Her blood pressure is 80/50.

What is the most appropriate initial management?

A. Admit to ICU/HDU for intravenous antibiotics and supportive care
B. Arrange ultrasound of renal tract
C. Commence 7-day course of oral antibiotics
D. Give intramuscular steroids to promote fetal lung maturity
E. Make referral for physicians to review

Correct answer: A

Divison of marks

Each SBA will count for the same number of marks, and each paper will contribute the same proportion of marks to the overall total.

The distribution of marks across the two papers by subject domain varies from sitting to sitting. A typical distribution is shown below.

Paper 1Paper 2

Standard setting

Our well-established standard setting procedure ensures that the difficulty of each examination is taken into account and is not linked to a set pass mark or rate. A different pass mark is used for each examination, depending on the difficulty of that examination. It is therefore also not possible to publish the pass mark for the examination in advance of the examination. This is a complex process, which involves assessing the questions individually for their difficulty. 

The aim of standard setting is to improve the fairness and validity of the examination process, and to set levels of competence for success in the examination. The use of these methods bears no relationship whatsoever to the percentage of candidates who will succeed in the Part 1 written examination, or to any other external factors.

Elsewhere on the site

Specialty training in O&G
Overview of the specialty training programme in obstetrics and gynaecology, including how the MRCOG exams fit in
The full specialty training programme in O&G – core modules, ultrasound, ATSMs, subspecialty and academic