The Duke Elder Examination is an annual prize examination run by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, targeted to undergraduate medical students with a special interest in Ophthalmology. It is a prestigious award, one of only two Ophthalmology awards which can only be achieved as an undergraduate: The Duke Elder exam, and The Patrick Trever-Roper Undergraduate Travel Award. It is a great opportunity for medical students to add valuable points to their portfolio, while simultaneously expanding their knowledge in an area not well covered in most undergraduate curriculums.
Having fortunately passed the FRCOphth part 1 in my first attempt, the aim herein is to detail exactly how I used one of the main foundational texts- ‘Clinical Optics’ by Elkington and Frank. Out of 174 multiple choice questions in the April 2022 FRCOphth Part 1 exam, 47 questions were dedicated to Optics; comprising the most number of questions of any topic. Optics generally has formed the majority of questions in previous sittings too, although since its conversion to a pure MCQ exam, there appears to be increasing emphasis in this area.
The FRCOphth Part 1 exam is the first of three fellowships exams completed during ophthalmology training. Despite this, it has one of the lowest pass rates at around 40% (April 2021). The exam consists of two papers, each containing 90 multiple-choice questions. Each paper lasts 2 hours with a 1-hour break in between. Due to the COVID pandemic, it is currently conducted as an online proctored examination. There are various opportunities to sit the exam throughout the year (January, April and October), with a maximum of 6 attempts allowed per candidate.
This article is a guide to help you prepare for the Duke Elder exam. The Duke Elder Exam is an undergraduate award exam available to medical students in the UK and Ireland. If you are even slightly considering ophthalmology as a career you should sit the exam because it is worth application points which you simply cannot get after graduation. This is especially important when considering how competitive the application process is.