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Why PACES candidates need to embrace online prep
  • 01 Mar 2021
  • MRCP

Dr Gavin Brittain, Specialty Registrar in Neurology at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield and MRCP Medical Advisor for Pastest, presents 10 reasons why all PACES exam candidates need to incorporate online resources into their preparation.

It goes without saying that since the emergence of Covid-19, preparing for an already anxiety-inducing PACES exam has got infinitely harder. Why? Mainly because exposure to patients exhibiting conditions commonly seen in the exam has become nigh on impossible, either on ward rounds or at face-to-face preparation courses (which haven't been running for the past 12 months).  

This means that using other means to prepare for PACES has become more than just worth's essential. Enter online, with Pastest's PACES resource being a shining example. Here are not one, not two, but ten reasons why you should consider using an online resource to prepare for this practical exam:

1. 24/7 access to PACES cases

After or during a long shift, the last thing you'll want to do is spend time scouring the wards searching for a patient with a classic case of interstitial lung disease. Nor will you want to pin your hopes on having a great experience at a busy face-to-face course, whenever that may be. With a varied bank of high-quality patient examination videos at your disposal, you can proactively prepare when you feel fresh and up to it.

2. A fraction of the cost of a face-to-face PACES course

You don't need me to tell you that booking onto a face-to-face course can be very expensive. Signing up to an online resource for around a tenth of the price of a course represents great value, not least because you can access it for weeks if not months, rather than just four or five days. There isn't just the cost of the course itself to consider either, there's the expense of travelling to the course (fuel, trains...even flights!) and booking accommodation if needed, which brings me on to my next reason...

3. No need to burn through study leave

Commonly, candidates get 7 days for private study which can be used to prepare for an exam. Throw in a five-day course, plus a day's travel either side and you'll have very little left over. With an online resource, it's just a case of settling down with your laptop from the comfort of your own home or reaching for your device when out-and-about.

4. Prepare on-the-go

With an online resource, there's no excuse for wasting valuable preparation time as revision materials are quite literally at your fingertips. This means that by accessing your subscription via your mobile, you can be ultra-productive during breaks at work or while commuting.

5. More patients than an average PACES course

On a traditional face-to-face course candidates would expect to see up to 100 patients, examining maybe only half of them, often in a very hectic and fast-paced environment. In Pastest's online resource, there are 125 patients with different conditions to work through, which works out at roughly £1 per case! 

And it's not just about volume of patient cases - with Pastest, there's also additional content such as the Spot Diagnosis library, downloadable role-play PDFs, case images and sounds, and exam marksheets to aid your prep.

6. See PACES cases you won't find in your hospital

Seeing a variety of patients in your hospital is a common way to get in some solid PACES preparation. However, even pre-Covid it could be difficult to see the wide range of conditions required, particularly if your hospital specialises in one particular area. For instance, you'd struggle to see a patient with a renal transplant if your hospital does not have a renal unit. The beauty of Pastest's carefully curated online resource is that it's designed to provide you with the range of patient cases that are likely to come up in the real exam, so there shouldn't be any nasty surprises!

7. 100% safe

Prior to 2020, the need to prepare for clinical exams as 'safely' as possible wasn't even a thing. Now, with face-to-face courses cancelled in accordance with Government guidelines and non-essential doctor-patient encounters greatly reduced, the only risk-free and sensible way to practice is from the safety of your own home via an online platform.

8. Work at your own pace

As I've already alluded to, face-to-face preparation can feel rushed, whether it's on a busy course or while trying to grab some spare time in work. Having access to an online subscription means you can dip in and out of it as and when you need to. On the flip side, if you need to power through cases as quickly as possible it's common for Pastest users to watch videos on double speed! 

Also, when personally examining a patient either on a course or on a ward, you're often doing so under considerable time pressure meaning it's all a bit of a blur. The videos in Pastest can be watched and reviewed as many times as you like so you can fully digest the exam technique, diagnosis and presentation in each case before moving on.

9. It's all about you

One of the frustrations of a face-to-face course is there is too much time spent hanging around, waiting for other attendees to conduct their examinations. Sometimes valuable time can also be soaked up by having to wait while particularly vocal and demanding fellow attendees dominate the attention of the course lecturers.

With an online resource, it's just you, your device, and the videos, meaning you can really get into the zone!

10. English language examinations

Finally, as some international candidates are anxious about their communication skills being assessed in the exam, the many hours of footage in Pastest can help to ease the nerves. By pausing and replaying the videos, repeating the common phrases and expressions that examiners are looking for and practising presenting the case just seen, international candidates can build their confidence in this area as they prepare for the exam.

I hope this blog has opened your eyes to the value of using an online resource for the PACES exam. Of course, face-to-face preparation will always be critical however in today's world the power of online should never be ignored.

Good luck in your exams,


  • 01 Mar 2021
  • MRCP