FRCOphth Part 1 Books - FRCOphth Part 1 Revision Guide

Kim Ah-See
Kim Ah-See/

25 Feb 2022

6 min read

When it comes to studying for exams it is well recognized that using a diversity of sources is beneficial for knowledge acquisition. In this instalment in our FRCOphth Part 1 Revision Guide we will mention some of the key FRCOphth Part 1 books which have found favour over the years.

This blog is entry 3 in our FRCOphth Part 1 Revision Guide. If you haven't read them yet, check out the other instalments of the guide below:

Tried and tested resources

After reading the last blog you’ll very wisely have time on your side (!) and so now all you need is to assemble the resources which will carry you to success.

Naturally, I’d recommend Eye Notes as the backbone for your revision. Eye Notes is designed to present high-yield information (meaning higher likelihood of being in an exam) in an easily digestible fashion.

One of the main challenges with using the resources described below, is working out which information is useful and which is not to avoid wasting your valuable time. Eye Notes aims to solve this problem for you. If you haven't already, check out our FRCOphth Part 1 revision notes here:

But of course, everyone has personal preferences So here I will describe some of the key texts and resources which have found favour over the years amongst those preparing for Part 1.

The Eye: Basic Sciences in Practice, by John Forrester et al.

This is one of those chunky, intimidating and relatively expensive books which can be hard work to get through. But this probably reflects the depth of its content as it is, indeed, a very detailed and comprehensive book on basic ocular sciences. However, for this reason I would not advise trying to consume it cover to cover!

Instead, read it selectively to back up your understanding of key subjects you encounter elsewhere. I found the most useful chapters to be those on Anatomy and Embryology, as well as selected chunks from the Physiology, Microbial Infections and Pathology chapters.

Clinical Optics, by Elkington and Frank

There’s a high chance you’ll already have heard that this book is essential for the exam and indeed most people read it in its entirety in preparation for Part 1 (if not several times!). Unfortunately, this book is also quite expensive, but older (and perfectly suitable) copies are hopefully available in your local ophthalmology department’s library or perhaps second-hand.

Compared to The Eye, this book is more digestible and obviously much shorter. Early concepts in the book such as Snell’s law are common exam topics and furthermore, you may be asked in the exam to draw a ray diagram from memory and so being on familiar terms with them is valuable.

Clinical Anatomy of the Eye by Snell and Lemp

This book is well designed and quite readable for an anatomy textbook, and for the budding ophthalmologist it is the one I would suggest is worthy of purchase for reference beyond the immediate demands of Part 1.

However, for the exam itself it is perhaps too detailed. Remember that anatomy is only one component of the curriculum and so consuming this whole textbook may not be the most efficient use of your time.

Basic Sciences in Ophthalmology by John Ferris

This book has long been considered essential reading for Part 1 and yet curiously, it now seems to be out of print! Getting a hold of a physical copy can therefore be challenging, although in my experience most ophthalmology department libraries retain one (and I believe there are pdf copies in wide circulation...). The result is that, at the time of writing, a used copy is going for £350 on Amazon (or £220 on ebay)!

The reason for this book’s popularity is a sense that it contains some high-yield subjects for the exam, which other sources do not cover, including niche concepts on the science of vision, which would be really inconvenient to track down in other textbooks. Another reason perhaps, is the self-assessment format of the book, which is laid out as a series of questions followed by in-depth explanations.

My personal experience is that this text felt dated and quite challenging to digest. However, it remains a fixture on Part 1 reading lists so if you can source a copy, I’d suggest giving it a scan to see if it aligns with your personal style of studying.

The Oxford Handbook of Ophthalmology

This is a fantastic ophthalmology resource and also worth buying for use beyond Part 1: for personal use as a clinical reference, but also as a key resource when preparing for Part 2. As it pertains to Part 1 specifically, it is perhaps too detailed and clinically focused, certainly to consume in its entirety! But as a resource to branch into during your studying (a concept I will come onto in a later post), it is very useful and so gets my strong recommendation.

Chua website for RCOphth examinations

The famous website of ophthalmology resources by Professor Chua is another staple for those preparing for FRCOphth exams. The content is all freely available and certainly there are loads of useful nuggets. In particular, it is a useful resource of images, diagrams, pathology slides and other visuals which can crop up in the exams.

The main drawback for this particular resource is its dated format and nefarious navigation. It can be very tricky to use and after clicking a few links you may find yourself down a confusing rabbit warren of subpages. This can sometimes make it difficult to know whether what you’re seeing if relevant for your specific needs. But overall it is a useful tool to supplement your main reading.

FRCOphth Part 1: 400 SBAs and CRQs by Hall and Peden

Full disclosure: the authors of this text are colleagues of mine, but nonetheless I think they have produced a high-quality resource for the exam. In particular, I think supplementing your studying with an interactive resource such as this can be a great way to keep your reading diverse. It is also nice and short and so it’s feasible to read cover-to-cover in a few days.

You could read it early on in your studying and then revisit it a couple months later for some (very!) spaced repetition and to check your progress. I found it a nice way to reinvigorate my studying as the exam approached.

I hope this post provides some guidance when navigating the various resources available for Part 1 preparation. They have their pros and cons but variety is the spice of life! And Eye Notes can provide a great home to return to when the material in these resources becomes a bit bewildering. Let us know what you think and I'll see you in the next blog!