5 Common mistakes when studying for exams.

We all know there are ways to improve our chances of being successful in examinations, but what are some mistakes that may impact this?

1 – Sitting when not prepared or ready

Often registrars feel obliged to sit their exams because others in their cohort are. There may be pressure or a desire to complete training ASAP. Some registrars simply want to ‘see how it goes’. It is important to recognise our own readiness to sit the exam, as evidence shows that the rate of passing an exam decreases with increased attempts. In the 2019.1 AKT exam, 76% of registrars passed on their first sitting, whilst only 47% passed if it was their second attempt and only 13% if it was their fourth or more attempts.
Preparing for exams is different for everyone, but you can read five key tips from one of our experienced medical educators here.

2 – Only learning the first step when investigating or managing a condition

It is important, not just for exams but for learning to be a “good GP”, to ensure our knowledge is in-depth. If only the first line management is learnt for treating COPD, but the stem gives a contraindication to this, or you are asked for three pharmacological management options, then it is highly unlikely you will be successful in this question – let alone know how to treat this patient when they are sitting in front of you. Don’t forget the exams are designed to ensure successful candidates are able to work as independent GPs anywhere in Australia!

3 – Not having a learning plan

It’s essential to not just learn what you are comfortable with or what you like. These are the areas that likely require the least amount of your time to learn. It’s time to “get uncomfortable”! Develop a learning plan to cover all areas of BEACH, RACGP domains and RACGP core curriculum with enough time allocated to the topics you feel least comfortable with. Another way of doing this is with your clinical practice and the patients you see in front of you each and every session. Use your learning plan to also act as a timetabled study plan to avoid cramming at the end. And don’t forget to schedule in non-study time to spend doing things you enjoy…this will make the study process much more enjoyable.

4 – Not completing the RACGP practice exam

The RACGP releases a practice exam to enrolled candidates prior to both the AKT and KFP exams. This is all part of the money you have paid, so why not do it?! Consistent statistics across a number of segments demonstrate that around 65% of candidates who complete the practice exam will pass, while only 35% who do not complete the practice exam are successful. While it is not designed to provide a grade or give an indication as to whether you will pass, it is well known that those who attempt the practice exam perform better in the real exam. If you can’t wait until four weeks out from the exam to sit this, then there are many courses (such as ours) available to you. For example, HealthTrain gives you access to practice questions, a quiz builder and a practice exam with the same purposes as the RACGP practice exam.

5 – Taking too much time away from clinical practice prior to the exam.

Whilst some people may need time away from practice immediately prior to the exam to either “cram a little” or simply have a breather, it is recommended this not be too significant. One-to-two weeks appears to be the best answer if you do need time away from clinical work. It’s important to remember that we learn best when seeing patients. This is the best way to improve clinical reasoning, a core component to the RACGP exams…this can’t be learnt by a text book or journal article!

Dr Abby Rundle
Health Train Medical Educator