5 tips to help you prepare for RACGP Exams
1 – Familiarise yourself with the structure of the exam(s)
The RACGP examinations consist of three components- the AKT or Applied Knowledge Test paper, the KFP or Key Feature Problem paper and the OSCE or Objective Structured Clinical Examination. Each component of the exam is different and examines different skills and competencies necessary for RACGP fellowship. The RACGP exam guides and reports can be valuable in understanding the structure and aims of the exam which can help you with forming a study plan.
Exam content is reflective of what is seen in general practice, and the best way to get an understanding of the frequency and patterns of problems in general practice is by looking at data from the Bettering Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) program, a long term study of general practice presentations. This can help you frame your study planning so that you can prioritise studying areas that are seen more frequently such as skin and musculoskeletal conditions.
2 – Know your strengths (and weaknesses)
The best way to prepare for your exams is to go to work. Seeing patients improves your clinical knowledge and clinical reasoning and is often a driver for learning. However, every practice is different and depending on where you work and your skill sets you may be seeing certain types of patients more than others, or perhaps missing out on a certain demographic altogether. It is important to think about the types of patients you are not being exposed to, and looking at ways to rectify this or to manage your exam preparation to allow for this.
It is a common trap for candidates to study areas of medicine that they enjoy and feel comfortable in- often your knowledge in these areas will be stronger than other areas. Make sure you pay adequate attention to the areas that you feel less confident in. Depending on what they are and how much of the exam they are likely to make up, you may need to spend considerably more time studying these areas.
3 – Work with your supervisor and practice
Your supervisor can be a valuable support as you are preparing for your exams. Supervisors are well placed to help you with knowing when you are ready to sit, identifying your knowledge gaps, suggesting appropriate resources as well as improving your clinical reasoning skills. General Practice Supervisors Australia has a number of resources available to aid supervisors in supporting their registrars in the lead up to exams.
Practically, it is a good idea to talk to your supervisor about sitting in with them or other doctors in the practice throughout your placement as well as having them sit in with you. This will expose you to different styles of practice, possibly different patients and presentations as well as improving your clinical reasoning. Doing random case analysis with your supervisor is also an excellent way to improve your clinical reasoning skills.
When you are planning your general practice placements, it is worth considering working at practices that attract different populations and presentations to provide you with a diverse experience during training.
4 – Surround yourself with support
Having a study group can help you stay focussed and can bring a fresh perspective to the material that you are covering. It can also be helpful to have likeminded people to debrief with and to go through the exam process with. If you live rurally or struggle to find time to meet a study group perhaps an online group would work for you.
Make sure you keep up with your interests outside of work too as this is vital for your self care. Take time to see family and friends, and make sure you’re getting enough support. If you are feeling things are getting on top of you don’t hesitate to talk to someone whether it be a partner, friend, colleague, supervisor/medical educator or your own GP.
5 – Practice exam technique
For many, the style of the RACGP examinations are quite different to exams you may have sat during medical school or in other specialty training pathways. It may also be some time since you last sat an exam! The RACGP releases a practice AKT and KFP paper to candidates approximately 4-6 weeks before the exam and we know from their data that candidates who sit a practice exam perform significantly better than those who do not.
As the RACGP does not release practice questions other than the practice exams, it may be helpful to familiarise yourself with the style of questions written as well as making sure you’re able to answer questions within the time given. It is also worthwhile looking at the RACGP exam reports, as these often highlight common pitfalls that candidates make during the exam.