How to Ace MRCS Part A

Recent candidate and FY2 Oliver Sudworth shares his step-by-step guide to preparing for MRCS A, and explains how to fit revision around your schedule.

You might also like our latest MRCS Part A blog - How I Scored 89% in the MRCS Part A Exam (June 2018)

A little about me...

I am currently an FY2 working at Pennine Acute Foundation Trust. I am keen to pursue a career in surgery, and recently passed the MRCS Part A. I would like to share how I approached the exam and hopefully, if you follow my advice, you’ll pass with flying colours.

Where to revise from
The idea of starting revision for the MRCS Part A is a daunting prospect for anyone. The last exam you sat will probably have been medical finals, and you may feel you have lost all abilities to revise. Plus, juggling revision with work, how is this possible? This is certainly how I felt! But I passed the exam first time and I am no academic whiz! If you follow my advice below, prepare early, work hard and stay organised, you’ll be absolutely fine. Here are the sources I worked from:

1. Question banks - I cannot stress enough the importance of this! This is the single most important part of your revision! Not only does it give an idea of how to organise revision topics and provide exam experience, but it’s also a very effective way of learning the most relevant facts in the quickest manner. The more questions you do, the better. One registrar told me, and don’t quote me on it, that completing and learning from 3000 questions or more will provide a pass. At least this gives an idea. Personally, I used two banks, Pastest (a larger bank and better organised in my opinion) and OnExamination.

2. ‘Basic Science for the MRCS’ book by Rafferty (Optional, but recommended) - Certain topics such as physiology and anatomy are best supported by a good background of knowledge. The book mentioned above provides this along with many other detailed chapters including microbiology and system specific pathology. This book is fantastic at supplying the most clinically relevant facts that supplement your learning from question banks. 

Step-by-step revision
1. Sign in to Pastest.
2. Choose a particular topic to study, let’s say ‘Upper Limb Anatomy’.
3. Start answering questions only within this chosen topic.
4. Ensure you read the explanation after each question, and refer to the Basic Sciences book if you wish.
5. Complete all questions.
6. Make a note of the score you achieve. Personally, I created a spreadsheet of all Pastest topics and associated scores.
7. Re-sit the same questions straight away. This will consolidate your learning, allowing you to practice what you have just learned. Hopefully your score will improve!
8. Make a note of your new score.
9. Read your book on themes relating to any questions you still got wrong 2nd time round as this suggests a weak area. Good revision is not just getting questions right, but knowing where any holes in your knowledge lie.
10. Repeat this process for all topics until there are none left.
11. Attempt random questions from now on to retain your knowledge. At this point, you have already completed the bank of questions twice! You will be in good stead.
12. Repeat this entire process on as many Question banks as you wish! 
How to fit revision around a busy work schedule?
The simple answer is that it’s not easy, but it’s doable. Try and co-ordinate sitting your exams just after an un-banded placement, as this will provide increased study time. If there is a quiet day at work, try and get some revision done. Colleagues will often be understanding when exams are approaching. As long as there is nothing to do on the ward, go and study, you’re only ever a bleep away! A great way to revise is little and often, and this means starting early. Personally, I left 4 months.
The day before your exam
By this point, you should hopefully have done all the hard work. Try not to stress! There are a few items required to sit the exam including a form of I.D., your candidate number etc. Get all these things prepared a few days before to avoid panic. Bring some water to the exam to stay hydrated, there are 2 lots of 2 hour exams. The questions will feel no harder than the question bank practice. I hope this blog has helped. I wish you all the best of luck for your exam!

Read our latest MRCS Part A blog - How I Scored 89% in the MRCS Part A Exam (June 2018)

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