Examination advice

  • Multiple choice exams
    • There are many variations in type (e.g. true/false, extended matching questions, single best answer etc) but these exams generally form the bulk of pre-clinical testing as well as the theory aspect of exams during clinicals
    • The first step is to ensure you know your core material well enough
      • Many people find that making notes from their notes helps to both summarise information and aid in memorising it
      • Others prefer aural techniques i.e. reading out loud
      • Some may also make use of mind maps to break material down into concepts and topics
      • Find the methods which work best for you based on trial and error
        • Keep in mind, the amount of information you will have to remember will far exceed that received during your time at school
        • Thus, if you were the kind of person who was simply able to read once and memorise for A-levels, that may not be sufficient at University
    • Once you know the material well enough, get your hands on as many past papers as possible and start practicing.
      • Rather than cramming these at the last minute, try to set aside 1 hour per day for up to a month before exams to practice these
        • This is especially the case for clinical EMQs as there are literally thousands of potential questions to try (from books, your medical school and most importantly these days, a whole host of websites)
      • Make it an active process – when you get a question wrong, make some brief notes on that area and why you faltered
        • Look over these the following day/week
      • Where possible, try to aim to finish practice papers in less time than you’ll actually have in the exam
      • Students in the years above can often also be a good source of resources in addition to those made available by your institution
  • Short answer questions
    • These are very commonly used in medical school examinations. Here it is particularly useful to look at the mark schemes used for past exams and mocks, as these will show you exactly how best to phrase your answers in addition to showing you what the examiner is looking for. As with other exam formats, practise is critical and can significantly improve your performance.
  • Practical exams
    • Exact technique will vary depending on the type of exam
    • Anatomy steeplechases
      • Get as much practice with photo atlases as possible
        • Covering up and trying to work out the structure is a good method of testing your recall
      • Get as much practice with physical resources as possible
        • These include skeletons, models, prosections etc.
        • Often, the medical school may open the anatomy facility on certain days prior to the exam so make use of all these opportunities
    • Other practical exams
      • Similarly to above, make use of as many resources as you can get your hands on
        • E.g. for histology exams, there may be computerised modules and/or posters available for the major features
  • Essay exams
    • Trend-spotting
      • Look through past papers for questions that come up often or in certain combinations
      • Make sure you pay attention to these topics
      • However, don’t gamble too much – ensure that you have enough material covered to give yourself options in the exam
        • You don’t want to be forced into doing a question you’re not comfortable with
        • Examiners don’t have to stick to patterns and can easily change the format of an exam if they wish
    • Form essay plans
      • This will save on the time you spend planning in the exam
      • As well as structuring your plans to present the core material in as sophisticated a way as possible, try and include some outside material in the conclusion or main body of your plan
    • Get essays assessed
      • Ask supervisors or examiners to look at essays or essay plans that you have done over the year – examiners especially will be able to give you a fairly accurate idea of how you would perform in the exam
        • Pay special attention to any extra reading they point you towards after they’ve marked your essay – it may be an area that could come up in an exam or which could get you further credit
  • Clinical exams and OSCEs
    • OSCEs are a very different form of examination compared to those previously discussed. Here it is first important to know what topics and clinical examinations the OSCE will be on.
    • Then try to focus on these examinations, practicing them on patients and friends as much as possible to ensure your practical skills are ‘slick’.
    • Finally organise or attend a mock examination, this will allow you to assess the time dependent nature of the exam in addition to your ability to cope under pressure. More information can be found here and here:
    • You can also attend externally provided courses to aid in OCSE practice. These are usually expensive but are available if you feel they would increase your confidence:
  • Study groups
    • In some cases, it may well be best for you to study and work on your own if this is how you learn best
      • In other cases, regardless of how you learn, collaboration can be invaluable.
        • For example, when forming essay plans, get into a small group and split the work between yourselves.
        • In addition, everyone in the group can agree to share any useful resources they come across whether from people they know or from the internet.
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