This paper analyses candidate performance in the three components of the MRCP(UK) examination to establish when they are most likely to pass. Using data from the 2010 and 2011 MRCP(UK) examinations, pass rates of candidates who gained their primary medical qualification (PMQ) in 2005 or later were analysed. Results from a total of 22,827 candidates were included in the study: 12,517 (54.8%) from Part 1, 5,545 (24.3%) from Part 2 written and 4,765 (20.9%) from the Part 2 practical assessment of clinical examination skills (PACES). The results show that candidates are more likely to pass Part 1 and Part 2 written 12–24 months after graduation and to pass Part 2 PACES 25–36 months after graduation. When we consider the training programme for physicians in the UK, successful candidates are likely to be in foundation programmes or early core or specialty training when they achieve success. At the moment, some candidates are dissuaded from taking the examination during their foundation programme, but our data show that their likelihood of success is highest during this period of training. The analysis also shows that for candidates who fail their first attempt, delaying their next attempt by one diet significantly increases the likelihood of them passing at their next attempt.