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My Key to PACES Success: Find a Friend
  • 09 Dec 2015
  • MRCP

Successful PACES candidate Lucy shares her top tip for passing the exam - getting a revision buddy.

The thought of revising for PACES is terrifying. Part 1 and Part 2 feel like they happened years ago. I can remember speaking to some of my senior colleagues about their experiences and was shocked at how negative their responses were: 'it takes over your life', 'you just have to put everything on hold for those months'. I felt they must be exaggerating. 

But they weren’t.

It does take over your life. And in those few months you will do little more than go to work and revise. But it's worth it.

PACES revision is different. It involves more time, more attention to detail. However, for me, it reignited my love for medicine. It was frightening how little knowledge I had managed to get by on throughout my foundation years, and it was incredible to learn how to examine in a different, more efficient way (especially neuro!)

My main advice is to get a buddy. Revision is lonely. I don't think I could have done it without my friend.

Sarah was a friend I'd made in FY1. I knew what she was like, what her work ethic was like and that we could work together. We were at different hospitals, but that was fine. We set a date we were starting revision and started. When one of us was flagging, the other one encouraged. We'd meet before nights, after nights, weekends, any time we were free, and alternated between our hospitals. We organised teaching from consultants at both locations. We learnt together, shared the nuggets of knowledge we had learnt independently, and were brutally honest with one another about each other’s performance. (We later found out our exams were at the same time at the same place...and only through a last-minute change were moved from being one after the other on the same circuit!)

There are times when you will get incredibly frustrated. Or tearful. Or just lose the will to do more revision. Those are the times when you need someone who will stop you giving up and tell you to get over the fact it was MR not AS, or reassure you that no one ever really hears aortic regurg...

If you are like me, you will never feel you know enough, particularly in those last few weeks. So we stopped trawling round the hospital for another COPD patient, and went to the pub. There we did communication skills practice and broke bad news to each other, to the horror of our fellow pub-goers.

Make a deal with your revision buddy about after-exam chat. Can you tolerate hearing that that patient was not someone with polycyclic kidneys?!? Decide that you’re both going to keep quiet and stay quiet. Or do the opposite.

But one thing I promise is that it always has gone better than you think. 

I had hands down failed. And so I moped around for the week after, feeling sick that I had to repeat the whole process. 

Don't do it. 

Forget about it. 

Enjoy your new found freedom in your evenings. 

Wait till you get the email. And if you have failed, just think how much easier it’s going to be to revise for it again.

And for those that have passed – you've probably made a friend for life in your revision buddy.
  • 09 Dec 2015
  • MRCP