- 24 Mar 2021
This post was written by Liam Hyland, a previous Pastest user who is currently working at Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham. Here's what he had to say about our MRCS Part A revision, the actual exam and how you can maximise your exam performance.
I sat the January 2021 diet of the MRCS Part A exam and was surprised to have passed on my first attempt. The pass mark for this diet was 72.8%, the pass rate was 37.7% and I achieved 76%. I intend to apply for CST in November 2021 and know having this exam ‘under my belt’ will help me achieve my goal.
When I started to prepare for the MRCS Part A exam
I began to revise for the Part A exam in September 2020. During that stage, I had just started F2 on my compulsory GP rotation; this ‘quieter’ rotation was fundamental in providing me with more time to revise. I still believe that the hardest thing about preparing for this exam is actually starting to revise and subsequently maintaining a good work ethic and sticking to a revision schedule.
How to prepare for the exam
The prospect of sitting the exam was daunting. Here is some advice, based on my own experience, which you can use to prepare for the exam.
- Both Pastest and eMRCS were an enormous help. I would advise using the Pastest question bank more so than eMRCS as, personally, I found that their style of questions most closely resembled that of the actual exam. I also used the Pastest textbooks as reference guides for different topics and these were particularly useful for the trauma section. I used the Raftery textbook to supplement my anatomy learning.
- The Pastest App is so easy and convenient to use; very handy if you have 20 or so minutes to spare, whether it be in the doctors' mess during a break or in the doctors' office on days when you may have finished your ward jobs early. I would start with 5-10 questions per day and gradually build up so that 1-2 weeks before the exam date, you are pushing through 100 questions per day. The App monitored my progress towards the specific exam date, I could identify my weaker areas and was able to revisit themes to reaffirm my knowledge.
- There is no short-cut to passing this exam; it does require regular revision, preferably on a daily basis. For those questions I answered incorrectly, the Pastest explanations were clear and detailed, which saved me time researching through tombs of textbooks. The key is to become accustomed to the style of questioning seen in the exam.
- I would also advise investing in Gray's Anatomy flashcards, if you do not have them already. I used these during my pre-clinical years when we had anatomy sessions at medical school. They are invaluable for MRCS Part A revision. For those of you who, like myself, are visual learners, I believe the flashcards will help you to gain a good basic understanding of anatomy in a clear, detailed format.
Useful insights into the format of the online exam
The application used for the online exam is called Examplify and is run by a company called ExamSoft. You will receive instructions via email roughly a month before your exam date to create an account. Remember to create the account on the same computer you will use on the day of the exam. Approximately two weeks before your exam date, you will then be able to complete a handful of mock questions so that you are accustomed to the format. You will also be able to download the actual exam files around this time. Passwords to enter these exam files will be emailed out to you on the morning of the exam.
My own approach for sitting the exam in an online format was to complete the Pastest past papers as these provided an accurate simulation of the exam on the day.
It is important to be aware of your head movements during the exam as RCS can penalise you if you move your head around too much or look in one particular direction for too long. Practice sitting a mock exam paper with the camera on to again give yourself a simulated feel of how it will be on exam day.
In addition, it would be beneficial to complete the mock exam papers and questions on the same computer/device as the one you are going to use for the exam. I recommend sitting the exam on a desktop rather than a laptop or tablet and to make sure that it has reliable Wi-Fi or an Ethernet connection. Remember to purchase a webcam if there isn’t one on the desktop.
All of the above requires dedicated time and motivation, which can be in short supply following a week of night shifts, for example. If you start early, time-manage your annual leave, days off and weekends, and aim to power through the majority of your revision during a ‘quieter’ rotation, then it is definitely achievable and the sacrifice will pay-off with a positive result.
Good luck with your exam.
- 24 Mar 2021