- What are the RCVS external written examinations?
- What kind of tests are they?
- Where do I sit the test?
- What is a typical test centre like?
- When do I sit the examinations?
- Exam timetables and closing dates for entry
- Applying for the exam and booking a test slot
- Re-scheduling, cancellation and refunds
- Notes on withdrawals
- Reasonable adjustments
- Test centre arrival and check-in
- What if you are late or get lost?
- Identification documents and confirmation email
- Examination details
- Before you leave
These examinations provide independent assessments for the Certificates in Veterinary Nursing Theory. These are Vocationally Related Qualifications (VRQs) at levels 2 and 3 that form part of the professional qualifications necessary to register as a qualified veterinary nurse.
What kind of tests are they?
The examinations are on-screen tests using multiple-choice questions. Each Certificate in Veterinary Nursing Theory award is externally assessed via a three hour examination. Each examination consists of two 90-minute papers of multiple choice questions (MCQs). The MCQs are held in a “bank” by RCVS, which is subject to regular updating, and the tests are professionally written.
To help you we have prepared some practice tests.
Where do I sit the test?
You choose a date to take the RCVS examinations at a test centre near your home, college or place of work. You can either register online or by telephone, see How to apply.
You sit the examination at a test centre near your home, place of work or college. Pearson VUE, the RCVS’s examination operators, have access to a large network of test centres that are planned and managed to strict specifications. These centres are also used for a range of other tests. Many of these centres - roughly 150 in the UK alone - are on your local High Street. You choose the most conveniently-located test centre when you register for the examination. Choose a test centre.
All our test centres share much the same layout and features.
When you enter the test centre, the first thing you see will be the front desk, where you must present your photographic identification document. The check-in agent will tell you what to do next: whether to wait in the seating area near the check-in desk, or to head straight for one of the numbered computer terminals in the next room.
Either way, you will be asked to leave any personal items in the lockers beside the seating area. You are not allowed to take anything into the test room: for instance, no bags, no papers, no mobile phones, no books, no pens, no sweets, no water.
When your test time is imminent, you will be asked to go through the door to the test room, where you will have a numbered desk with a computer terminal (plus a portable whiteboard and pen for note-making). Your desk will be surrounded by deep acoustic screens so you should not be disturbed by other candidates in the room.
There is an invigilation desk in the testing room, from which the invigilator has a clear line of sight to every desk and every computer. Your computer will only run the RCVS test programme. It has no other functionality. You cannot “escape” the test to Windows or the Internet.
When do I sit the examinations?
The examinations are a summative assessment of your applied knowledge in relation to veterinary nursing This means the questions will test your ability to understand practical nursing situations as well as pure theory. You should therefore not attempt the examination for your award (level 2 or level 3) until you have completed your college course. You should also have substantially completed your concurrent NVQ portfolio.
In order to register for an examination you must have been registered for the relevant award for a period of at least four calendar months. This means there must be at least four months between the date of your award registration (at level 2 this means your enrolment date and at level 3 the date of your level 2 NVQ certificate)
This regulation ensures that you will have opportunity to gain the requisite clinical experience before you actually take the examination. We also strongly advise that veterinary nursing NVQ candidates have substantially completed their work-based assessments (portfolio) before taking the examination. This will mean you have already explored much of the requisite applied knowledge with your assessor and should be in a better position to succeed in the written examination.
Forthcoming examination dates together with the relevant closing dates for entry are detailed on the Examination dates page.
Applying for the exam and booking a test slot
In order to take the RCVS written examination, you must first apply via your college to the RCVS and pay the relevant examination fee. Once you have completed the application form, your college will forward your application to the RCVS, who will authorise your entry. You will receive an email from Pearson VUE telling you how to book a test, which you can either do online or by telephone (calls to the booking centre are charged at 5p per minute). Each examination has a booking window of several weeks. Your email will give you the URL link and the telephone number to call.
Find the nearest available test centre.
Do not leave the booking of a test slot until the last minute. Plan well ahead to ensure that a slot will be available at your chosen test centre before the relevant deadline. Neither RCVS nor Pearson VUE takes responsibility for the consequences of untimely registration.
When booking a test slot, you will be informed of the available slots for your chosen test centre. You should remember that Pearson VUE test centres serve a number of different examining bodies and that central test centres in major UK cities are likely to be much busier than other locations. So, if you want to have a bigger choice of slots you should book as early as possible within the booking window and/or identify alternative test centres in your area, and look for slots there.
If you need to reschedule your test appointment for any reason, you may do this without charge at any time up to 12 noon (UK time) on the second working day before your existing slot. (A working day is Monday to Friday excluding English Bank Holidays.)
Cancellation of your test, or failing to attend a booked appointment, will incur a cancellation penalty.
a. If notice of withdrawal is received in writing at the College on or before the closing date for the receipt of entries, a full refund of the fee, subject to a deduction of 10% for administrative costs, will be made.
b. If notice of withdrawal is received in writing at the College after the closing date for receipt of entries (see point 1.7) but more than ten working days before the first date of the examination window, then a 50% refund will be made.
c. If you withdraw fewer than ten working days prior to the first date of the examination window, or fail to appear at the examination, you will not be entitled to a refund of any portion of the fee paid (save as provided below).
In special circumstances, consideration will be given to a full refund if there are medical or compassionate reasons for withdrawal or failure to appear for the written papers. Any such refunds will be subject to a deduction of 10% for administrative costs. Please inform the RCVS in writing, providing a medical certificate and/or other supporting evidence. No refund of examination fees is possible otherwise.
If you think you may be entitled to sit the examination with extended time (e.g. for dyslexia), or if you think you may need a distinctive testing environment (e.g. connected with your mobility or your sight, please contact the RCVS as soon as possible to ensure that suitable arrangements can be made.
The RCVS will make reasonable adjustments for candidates with special assessment needs such as dyslexia or physical problems such as compromised mobility.
Candidates who potentially require such adjustments should contact the RCVS at the earliest opportunity in order to notify and discuss their needs.
In general, candidates who have dyslexia will be asked to provide a current educational psychologist’s assessment report i.e. conducted post-16. Normally these candidates will be granted additional examination time.
Question readers are not provided. Candidates who require clarification of unfamiliar words or phrases during the examination or the use of an overlay may ask for special invigilation. Such candidates will be required to attend specific test centres at times when an RCVS invigilator (able to narrate veterinary terminology) is in attendance.
Requests for additional time or other adjustments alongside the appropriate evidence must be received by the RCVS by the relevant examination closing date.
Preparing for examinations
The RCVS examinations test the factual and applied veterinary knowledge required to achieve the level 2 or level 3 Certificate in Veterinary Nursing Theory. The best preparation for these examinations is therefore adequate study and a good understanding of the subject matter. However, it will help you to develop and practise your technique for answering MCQs (multiple choice questions).
Here are a few tips to help you with multiple choice questions.
- It is a good idea to read each question through carefully at least twice. Make sure you have read it correctly, and that you are not jumping to conclusions. It is easy to misread a question!
- Accept that one (and only one) of the answers to each question is correct. All the questions have been thoroughly checked. Remember that one of the hallmarks of a good multiple-choice question (MCQ) is the inclusion of one or more answer options that are wrong but almost right. Work hard to find them and eliminate them. Questions like this are not tricks, they are there to test your powers of discrimination.
- There is a point for each right answer but none is deducted for wrong answers, so don't leave blanks. If you really can't work out the answer, it is better to eliminate the answers you know to be wrong and guess from the ones that are left.
- You can skip MCQs and come back to them by marking them for review. Remember, though, that if you are sitting two papers at the same appointment, you need to go back to them before you commence the next paper. You can't go back to them after you have started paper 2.
- The RCVS MCQ tests do not put great emphasis on speed. We have designed them so that you have ample time to work through all the questions carefully. Pacing yourself correctly is one of the main things you can learn by taking our practice test.
We provide a shortened practice test for you to try. It is available as a fully-functioning onscreen version - one that works on your computer just like the real test works on our test centre computers.
Please note that the questions in the onscreen model are randomised. Marks are not provided for this test. If you want to know how well you did in the onscreen practice test, keep a paper note of your answers as you go along, and check them afterwards against the question and answer key below.
- Guided tour of the onscreen test - Please be aware that if you are planning to download or run this exam from a dial-up connection the file will take several minutes to download.
- Question and answer key for onscreen test (PDF 54Kb)
To use the exe files in the onscreen test you should download and save them to your own computer and then run them as you would run any other programme.
On the big day it is very important to make sure of the following:
- arrive at least 15 minutes early
- bring photo identification
- bring a copy of your confirmation email
Staff will be waiting at the test centre to check you in.
It is important to arrive at your test centre at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start of your test, so that you have ample time to check in and orientate yourself. If you arrive too late to check in you may not be allowed to take the test. In that case you will have to register and pay again and take the test another day. Pearson VUE test centres do not usually have parking. Please ensure that you allow ample time to find somewhere to park, should you be travelling by car.
Before you set off for your test, make a note of the centre's address and find it on the map. On arrival at your test centre, you may have to press a buzzer at the door to be let in. The buzzer will be clearly marked with the test centre's name, as it appears in your confirmation email. Inside you will enter a waiting room with a reception desk, where you check in. The check-in agent will confirm your identity and give you instructions on what to do next.
If you are delayed by fewer than 15 minutes, the test centre staff have discretion to let you start late. But the risk of late arrival is yours. If you are more than 15 minutes late, or the test centre staff judge that a late start would be disruptive to other candidates, you will be recorded as a no-show. If you are a no-show, you will need to book another test and pay again.
You must bring with you to the test centre a print out of your confirmation email from Pearson VUE. You must also bring one piece of photographic identification from the list below. If you do not bring an acceptable identity document you will not be allowed to take the test. You will have to book and pay for a new test slot on another day, this time bringing an acceptable identity document. The name and date of birth on your identity document must exactly match the name and date of birth you provided when you registered for the examination. The test centre staff have no discretion to waive or vary the identification rules. No approved ID, no examination.
The following identity documents are acceptable:
- A current signed passport (an unsigned passport will be acceptable only if it is of a biometric type that does not allow for a signature)
- A current signed photocard driving licence (full or provisional)
No other form of identification is acceptable. If you do not have, and cannot obtain, one of the above forms of identification, please contact the RCVS immediately.
You may choose to sit your examination papers as two separate appointments or as one combined paper. A short comfort break is permitted between the two papers. If you wish to take a comfort break during an examination paper, you may do so but the timer clock will not be stopped.
During the examination you may leave the room for a comfort break or for a drink of water, but you should be aware that the timer clock will not be stopped.
You will be able to choose to sit either a combined paper (Paper 1 followed by Paper 2) or if you wish to sit the papers separately, you will need to make two separate appointments which may be on the same day, or on two separate days.
If you choose to sit the combined paper, the timer clock will stop after paper 1 and will start again when you commence Paper 2. You will be allowed to take a short comfort break between the two papers, but will not be able to leave the examination centre or to access your belongings in your locker.
Your centre (course provider) must inform the RCVS at the time of examination entry whether you intend to sit the combined paper or the two papers separately. This cannot be altered after the examination closing date. Candidates are responsible for making their bookings for the correct papers.
Before you leave the test centre you will be given a confirmation slip to say that you have completed the examination. This will provide evidence (if needed) to your centre and/or employer that you have attended the examination.
After the close of each examination period, the data from the tests will be processed by Pearson VUE and results will be agreed by the RCVS. We do not provide instant results because such results would be subject to moderation and may therefore change. We consider it preferable to issue a confirmed result at a later date.
The examinations are machine-marked and the results are passed in numerical form to the RCVS in order for the final results to be calculated.
Candidates will be personally notified of their results by letter approximately four weeks after the examination, and the pass lists will be published on the RCVS Awards website the following day.