Tip 6: Make your study time count with active learning
Make sure your study sessions include practice questions and other forms of active learning. Sitting and reading may be an easy option after a hard day of work, but retention is always much higher if you are forced to actively recall and process material you have learnt.
Tip 7: Minimise distractions
Even as adult learners, many of us (myself included) often fall into the trap of trying to study while watching TV or talking to family. While this may make sitting down to study more enticing, retention and productivity will be significantly lower. Instead, do some dedicated study and then allow yourself some well-deserved time to relax.
And don’t forget the importance of a good study space. Many of us no longer have this once we’re out of university, but a comfortable and distraction-free environment can make all the difference – whether it’s a whole room, a corner of the kitchen table or even a desk in a library.
Tip 8: Make use of all resources available to you
If you actively start looking for helpful resources, you’ll find there are masses out there! To name a few:
- online question banks
- your Medical College’s resources
- official health guidelines
- books (see GPRA’s Clinical Cases Volumes 1 and 2)
- exam preparation workshops
- other registrars – ask them for old exam papers and resources – there is many a USB of useful information floating around (just keep in mind that question styles and guidelines may have changed over the years, so use these as a general guide only)
your training provider – remember they are there to prepare you for exams as well as for your daily practice. Attend workshops, do prereading and use the online learning platforms offered as review resources.
comprehensive courses – often quite expensive and time-consuming, so may be more suitable for those not affiliated with a training provider or wanting more direction with independent study.
Tip 9: Join (or start) a study group
Your peers are a great source of support because they all have the same goal in mind!
Figure out what type of studying works for you and your group. I started a regular study group from early in GPT1 which focussed on practice questions and exams, though some groups would teach each other full topics didactically.
I would highly recommend a study group for the clinical or StAMPS exams, even if you’re usually dead-set on individual study. Once you’re through the written exams most of you will have the knowledge down pat, and that is the time to practise smooth clinical exam or StAMPS “performance” techniques.
The more cases you practise under exam conditions, the more you will realise how long eight minutes actually is! Getting a feel for timing becomes crucial, when I sat the OSCE (clinical exams) there were no clocks or watches in the room!
Tip 10: Take care of yourself – now more than ever
We are all great at telling our patients about how important it is to get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, eat well, exercise regularly and have some sort of relaxation practice to help us unwind; but how many of us actually practise this effectively in our daily lives?
While these things may seem the easiest to drop to make time for studying while working, they are more important than ever in helping you to perform at your best.
At the end of the day, exams are not the be-all-and-end-all. Keep some perspective and remember that there are always more important things in life.
If it’s starting to feel a bit overwhelming, don’t ever hesitate to get some help. See your own GP, chat to your supervisors and College mentors.
Your medical college may also offer free counselling – browse their website to see what is available. Good luck!