Top tips to passing your exams
Medical exams are tough; you don’t need us to tell you that. So as a GP registrar, it is vital that you receive all the help and guidance you need to pass your RACGP or ACRRM exams. Don’t forget, you can only sit the exams a limited number of times, and they are costly. So make sure that you are ready to sit the exam and allow yourself at least 6–12 months study time. If you are not sure if you are ready to take the exam yet, talk to your medical educator.
Our top tips...
Read the college websites
Take advantage of the information the websites provide. They have important exam advice, resources and policies.
Talk to your practice first
Before you apply, discuss the exams with your practice to ensure that you will be able to take study leave, and/or reduced on-call time. Try not to be covering for a principal on leave over the exam period. However, remember that seeing patients can be one of the best ways to practise for your exams, especially the OSCE.
Study with others
Consider forming a study group, either online or in person. You will be studying for several months and working with a group (2–4 is recommended) enables you to support and motivate each other, pool resources and share strengths. To ensure your group work well together identify your learning styles and work with them, make sure you choose people you are compatible with as you will spend a lot of time together and go through a lot of stress and emotion. It is a good idea to begin meeting at least a year before your RACGP or ACRRM exams, and increasing the frequency of meetings closer to the exam date. GPRA members can place a free advert for a study partner or group on our website. Click here to view the GPRA find a study partner page.
Avoid sticking to things you enjoy
We all have areas that we enjoy studying more than others, and it is too easy to focus on those things at the expense of the rest of your studies. So identify your learning gaps right from the start, to make sure that you don’t make this mistake.
Make a realistic study plan
Make a study plan and spread out your studies evenly. Be realistic about your study goals to allow yourself leisure time too. You don’t want to find yourself spending weeks on some areas of study, with barely any time left for others.
Keep your resources at hand
Make sure you keep all the resources you will need close at hand, in your study area. That way you don’t waste time looking for important books. The resources you use in your day-to-day practice are also the most useful for your exams. For written exams, Murtagh’s books, Therapeutic Guidelines and RACGP guidelines such as the ‘red book’ are essential. Also, ensure that you are familiar with the National Immunisation Program schedule.
Practise, practise, practise!
Before you begin your studies, gather as many practice questions as you can. Ask other registrars and recent fellows, search the college websites, and even write your own. Time yourself on each practise session. When you are working with your study group, use practice questions as a guide. You could read topics together out loud, go through practice questions, quiz each other on guidelines, and write and share your own practice questions. Also, don’t forget to get the group to photocopy practice questions and share them out.
Use OSCE/StAMPs cases
Many people are tempted to just read through the cases, but it is better to practise them under timed exam conditions. When you are working with your study group, give each other feedback on the skills that you can’t learn from a book such as communication, use of non-medical language and analysis of research articles.
Attend pre-exam courses
Both colleges and your regional training partner run courses that will help you to prepare for the exam. These courses enable you to:
- Become familiar with the structure of the exam
- Devise a study plan
- Gauge the level of difficulty
- Identify learning gaps
- Practise your techniques.
Want to know what really happens in the OSCE?
It is useful to talk to others who have sat the exam and passed. GPRA offers a webinar to GPRA members (at a cost). The webinar presents the experiences of two registrars who recently passed the exam, and you will be able to ask questions about the OSCE. Click here to learn more about the OSCE webinar.
Good luck with your RACGP and ACRRM Fellowship exam studies. With the right preparation, you will pass.