So you passed finals, celebrated with the aide of a variety of alcohol-containing fluids and toasted the end of exams. And now, probably a mere year on, you find yourself reading this article and glancing gloomily at your textbooks with their light coating of dust, contemplating the fact that exams have not in fact ended and instead, while you were distracted by learning how to use the hospital’s computer systems and insert a venflon without creating a blood bath, they have gone on steroids and become even harder than before. My friend, welcome to the world of MRCP part 1 and my top five tips on slaying this monster.
Passing MRCP Part 1 Tip 1: do not put it off
Medical jobs are hard, the hours are long and sometimes finding time to change your bedding, let alone revise, seems impossible. However, if you put your mind to it and slip a book into your bag to glance at during any quiet moments during the working day, or get up an hour earlier with the explicit aim of revising, you’ll find revision is possible. And the sooner you face up to part 1 the better; not only would failing it early on cause less embarrassment, there is the very real chance you would pass which would increase your confidence and give you vital extra marks when applying for ST jobs. And of course revising for it increases your medical knowledge and thus makes you a better doctor, so the earlier that happens the better!
Passing MRCP Part 1 Tip 2: bigger is not always better/size is not everything
We all purchased a copy of Kumar and Clark/Davidsons/Harrisons back in Freshers week, then used it pretty exclusively as a bookend/doorstop for the next 5/6 years. As you approach MRCP it’s tempting to dust it off and embrace it. Don’t. Resist the urge. There’s just too much of it and not enough time. You know that little yellow and green thing you carry round? Small? Titled Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine (OHCM)? You know how it’s been faithful and never let you down? Well it won’t now either. It is information dense, relevant and accurate. Use it as your reference book and don’t be seduced by its bigger rivals.
Passing MRCP Part 1 Tip 3: questions questions questions
The MRCP is an esoteric exam designed by people with an over-fondness for conditions such as ‘yellow nail syndrome’ and ‘neuralgic amyotrophy.’ The best way to become familiar with these MRCP-common, real-life-rare conditions is to do past questions, lots and lots of them. Sign up to onexamination.com or passmedicine.com and keep doing questions until you start getting them right, and keep reading up in the OHCM about the things you get wrong. Then, hopefully, by the time you get to the real exam the balance between right and wrong answers will be in your favour.
Passing MRCP Part 1 Tip 4: invest in Kalra
MRCP part 1 can cover virtually anything in the realms of medicine so it’s hard to know how to structure your revision. Doing lots of past questions can help identify areas you need to read up on, but in terms of a more ‘over-arching’ structure for revision everyone tends to fall back on Kalra’s Essential Revision Notes for MRCP. Concise, precise and not too long, I’m with ‘everyone’ and recommend that you invest in a copy and make sure you’ve read it from cover to cover before the exam.
Passing MRCP Part 1 Tip 5: pace yourself
A question everyone always asks is how long before the exam do I need to start revising? Unfortunately that’s a bit like asking how long will it take to travel from X to Y – there are just too many variables to give a definitive answer, so rough estimates are the best you can hope for. In general, how long will depend on how solidly you are going to travel/work, how fast your mode of transport/learning is and what else you have to achieve along the way. Broadly speaking most people will start thinking about it 6 months before the exam, working in a non-structured way 3 months before the exam then really go for it in the last 4 weeks. Whatever approach you go for remember remaining sane is absolutely essential so finding time to play sport/see friends as well as doing your day job and revision is not optional.