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Refraction Certificate

Please check our Examinations Calendar for dates of all upcoming examinations:

For Examination Registration, visit and sign in, then visit the Exam Search page.

Please note that we do not confirm receipt of individual exam applications and candidates will have their applications confirmed soon after the closing date.

Please also note that exams close for registration at 5pm UK time on the closing date and applications received after this time will not be accepted. Candidates are strongly encouraged not to leave an exam application until the closing date itself.

UPDATE FOR REFRACTION EXAM OVERSEAS 2021 – Please note that the 2021 Refraction Exam that would usually take place in Kuching Malaysia was due to instead take place in Singapore in July 2021. However, due to the continued uncertainty over the reopening of Singapore’s borders, this exam is now postponed until 17th – 19th January 2022. Applications will open on 20th September 2021.

Examination Introduction

The Refraction Certificate Examination is designed to assess the following practical skills from the curriculum for ophthalmic specialty training, which can be viewed in detail at:

CA2 Assess vision
PM14 To use spectacle lenses and prisms when indicated
PS2 Perform a refractive assessment and provide an optical prescription
C1 Establish a good rapport with patients and relatives
C11 Keep clinical records
BCS6 Optics and Medical Physics

From 1 August 2013, candidates are permitted a maximum of six attempts in which to pass this examination.  Examination attempts prior to August 2013 do not count towards the number of attempts available.

Candidates sitting this examination before commencing OST should note that a pass in this examination will not count towards CCT if taken out of training unless the candidate enters or re-enters the training programme within 7 years of passing.

Please note that as of July 2021, it is no longer a requirement to pass the Refraction Certificate before being permitted to take the Part 2 FRCOphth Written examination. The Refraction Certificate and Part 2 Written exams can be taken in any order but BOTH must be passed in order to sit the final Part 2 FRCOphth Oral examination.

Candidates who have entered Ophthalmic Specialist Training (OST) must have passed this examination by the end of the third year of run-through training.

Structure of the Examination

The examination will consist of an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).

Candidates will be examined on 10 OSCE stations in five rooms.

Electronic Examination 

The examination became a fully electronic exam from December 2020 and instead of paper marksheets, candidates will be required to input their answers for each OSCE station into an iPad.

Candidates are strongly recommended to read this iPad Screenshots for Electronic Refraction Certificate Examination document and view the video below that details the look of the iPad marking system and how answers are inputted, how it is timed etc.

Refraction Certificate Examination – iPad Marking System Tutorial Video

We also have an online demo of the iPad exam, where candidates can practice a mock exam using the iPad software used which will be identical to the real examination:

To use the demo, click this link 

And then select Refraction from the top of the screem, which will launch the demo exam.


The RCOphth wishes to inform candidates for the Refraction Certificate Examination of alterations to the format of the examination as a consequence of the continued uncertainties relating COVID 19 and social distancing in particular.

The examination will proceed without patients and the following description of the examination will apply:

  • The examination remains 10 OSCE stations with equal weighting and with unaltered examination timing.
  • The OSCE format for the examination will be:
  1. Simulated Retinoscopy (SR1)
  2. Simulated Retinoscopy (SR2)
  3. Simulated Retinoscopy (SR3)
  4. Simulated Retinoscopy (SR4)
  5. Simulated Retinoscopy (SR5)
  6. Simulated Retinoscopy (SR6)
  7. Simulated Retinoscopy (SR7)
  8. Simulated Retinoscopy (SR8)
  9. Simulated Retinoscopy (SR9)
  10. Focimetry / Lens Neutralisation (LN)

Please note that the simulated retinoscopies will all be performed upon retinoscopy training artificial eyes (Heine Retinoscope trainers) using hidden trial lenses and all will be marked in exactly the same objective manner (computer based algorithm) as currently. The Focimetry / Lens Neutralisation OSCE will remain unchanged and will be paired with one simulated retinoscopy.

We feel that the examination will remain valid and robust and there will be no qualifier for candidates who passed this examination during their training.

We would like to stress that it is important that in spite of these potential alterations, candidates should continue their examinations preparations as if real patients will be present.

Please refer to the 2021 Refraction Certificate Information Pack for full details.

Candidates are also advised to read COVID proof RefCert – FAQs

Information for candidates on examination attempts towards the Refraction Certificate examination in its temporary format developed for the period of the pandemic:

Please note that unsuccessful attempts at the Refraction Certificate examination diets in the temporary formats developed for the period of the pandemic will count towards candidates’ permitted limits for this examination. However, at the point at which a candidate reaches their limit on maximum number of attempts – including any discretionary extra attempt based on input from a candidate’s educational supervisor – one further attempt will be granted if one of those unsuccessful attempts was in the first diet (autumn / winter) of the temporary format examinations. Please note; only one attempt will be credited irrespective of the number of times a candidate may fail the new format examination.

Pass Mark Setting

All examinations are pass mark set.  The Refraction Certificate OSCE is pass mark set using the Hofstee method. The pass mark setting methods quoted are subject to change at any time at the discretion of the College.

Overall Result

Candidates are required to pass the OSCE.  If awarded a fail, candidates must re-sit the entire examination, even if a pass was previously achieved in any station.


Results will be released four weeks after the examination, once verified by the Senior Examiner.  Candidates are not permitted to telephone the College for examination results.  All results will be sent to candidates by email and the pass list will be displayed on the College website.

Please note that successful candidates do not receive a certificate for passing the Refraction Certificate. The only certificate issued is for completion of the whole FRCOphth qualification (Fellowship certificate), not for individual components. 

Additional Examination Attempts

GMC policy states: “No candidate will normally be allowed more than six attempts at an examination.”

“After six failed attempts, a candidate must provide evidence of additional educational experience to the royal college or faculty for each re-sit.”

The GMC have confirmed that the expectations around national professional examinations allow flexibility for colleges to make exceptions to the guidelines or to apply more stringent rules if they see fit, meaning they are permitted to implement their own limit to the number of additional exam attempts permitted.

The RCOphth will allow only ONE additional attempt after the limit on previous attempts has been reached.

NB: For the Refraction Certificate examination, the maximum number of attempts is 6.

For RCOphth examinations, candidates who have had the maximum number of attempts will not be eligible to attempt an examination again unless evidence of additional educational experience is provided. To be considered for a maximum of one additional attempt only, please read the following Additional Examination Attempt Information Pack and complete the Additional Examination Attempt Application Form only if you have exhausted your maximum number of exam attempts.

Further Information

For further information, please see the Refraction Certificate Information Packs below:
2021 Refraction Certificate Information Pack
Covid 2021 candidate instructions
COVID proof RefCert – FAQs
iPad Screenshots for Electronic Refraction Certificate Examination
Online mock iPad exam demo (select Refraction at top of screen)
Rationale for Refraction Certificate Examination – 2021
Policy on Allegations of Cheating and Misconduct 2018