Over-coding, over-coding, what on earth is over-coding?

One of the top questions I hear from RACGP exam candidates is ‘what is over-coding and how do I avoid it?’. I hope these few tips can help to decrease your over-coding fears and anxieties.

Over-coding is a commonly encountered pitfall in the exam. It is when a candidate provides more than the number of answers requested in a question. A strong KFP answer shows that the candidate has synthesised the key features of the case and prioritised the most appropriate answer for the question. It proves a good understanding of that patient scenario rather than guessing a few different answers which might apply.

For example (note this is a very simplified question!):

Peter, a 56yo non-smoking builder has attended to discuss his risk of having a heart attack.
Peter’s cardiovascular risk is 7%. What three (3) pieces of non-pharmacological advice could you give to Peter to decrease this? Give three (3) answers in note form.

  1. Moderate intensity exercise 30mins/day
  2. Mediterranean diet and reduction of alcohol to 2 standard drinks/day
  3. Quit smoking

Answer 2 ‘Mediterranean diet and reduction of alcohol to 2 standard drinks/day’ are effectively to separate pieces of advice and each belongs on its own answer line. Even though they are both correct they won’t be marked as such. In over-coding marks are deducted by -0.25% for every additional answer listed. Note as well that the stem states Peter is a non-smoker so answer 3 is not relevant to him and the candidate could have put ‘reduction of alcohol to 2 standard drinks/day’ on that line.

In the HealthTrain course we will spend more time explaining this common KFP pitfall and many more of your KFP-related anxieties.

Summary over-coding tips:

  1. Only give the number of answers requested
  2. Make sure your answers are related to the context of the case
  3. If you write ‘i.e. and, or, or a comma’ then reconsider your answer
  4. Don’t write any lists