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Part A Exam Content

The level of knowledge, skill and understanding required within all sections of the syllabus is that which could reasonably be expected of a competent practitioner in public health who may aspire to attain specialist status.
The syllabus provides indicative guidance on the main topics that may be examined at Part A.

The Part A Matrix illustrates the syllabus knowledge requirements mapped to the key areas of the curriculum.

The Part A examination also tests the following skills:

1. Design and interpretation of studies
  • Skills in the design of research studies
  • Ability to evaluate published papers critically including the validity of the use of statistical techniques and the inferences drawn from them
  • Ability to draw appropriate conclusions from quantitative and qualitative research.
2. Data processing, presentation and interpretation
  • Ability to sort and manipulate data and to draw appropriate conclusions from quantitative and qualitative data.
3. Communication
  • Written presentation skills
  • Preparation of papers for publication
  • Preparation of material for different audiences, including expert and non-expert audiences and the media
  • Information-handling and use of media in advising the public about health services, disease prevention (including communicable-disease outbreaks and environmental hazards) and health promotion.


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The Part A syllabus is divided into five sections. They are listed below with brief explanations as to their coverage.

Division of material into sections is only a guide; candidates should expect questions that draw together knowledge from different sections and should note particularly that inclusion of a subject area within one section of the syllabus does not preclude its use in a different section of the examination.

Although many public health practitioners will not need to be able to execute some of the more complex techniques described in the syllabus, they will need to understand and interpret results from them.

The syllabus was revised in 2013 to take into account an administrative change to Paper IIA and was reviewed again, with GMC approval, in 2016 to include reference to the new standard-setting approach.

1. Research methods

a) Epidemiology
b) Statistical methods
c) Approaches to the assessment of healthcare needs, utilisation and outcomes, and the evaluation of health and healthcare
d) The principles of qualitative methods

2. Disease causation and the diagnostic process in relation to public health; prevention and health promotion

a) Epidemiological paradigms
b) Epidemiology of specific diseases (and their risk factors) of public health significance
c) Diagnosis and screening
d) Genetics
e) Health and social behaviour
f) Environment
g) Communicable disease
h) Principles and practise of health promotion
i) Disease prevention, models of behaviour change

3. Health information

a) Populations
b) Sickness and health
c) Applications

4. Medical sociology, social policy and health economics

a) Concepts of health and illness and aetiology of illness
b) Healthcare
c) Equality, equity and policy
d) Health economics

5. Organisation and management of healthcare and healthcare programmes

a) Understanding individuals, teams/groups and their development
b) Understanding organisations, their function and structure
c) Management and change
d) Understanding the theory and process of strategy development
e) Finance, management accounting and relevant theoretical approaches

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