For those of you who’ve recently passed MRCP Part 1, very well done – make sure you take a week off to congratulate and enjoy yourself. Come back and read this guide next week. 🙂
My Experience of MRCP Part 2 Written
I remember in late 2014 I drove 50 miles from Wakefield to Manchester the night before the exam with my girlfriend. It was my dad’s second-hand red Mercedes C Class that I’d borrowed from Scotland and its wheels had always been quite dodgy. Having absolutely no interest in car maintenance whatsoever I had simply procrastinated for months and months and successfully avoided having to change the tyres. Instead I would resort to just sporadically filling them with air at the petrol station whenever it became too dangerous to drive.
On arrival in Manchester, we stayed in a decent enough hotel and had their signature meal on the first night. I then drove to the rugby stadium with plenty of time to spare and sat at a window sill half-watching other people cramming a last minute question and half-contemplating whether all of this actually mattered at the end of the day. What mattered was that my girlfriend was here with me and that I was in good health. It was a nice day; in fact both days were rather sunny but at the same time it wasn’t overly humid.
The first paper lasted 3 hours and I remember quite clearly I had about 10 minutes left at the very end. Instead of returning to the tricky or dubious questions I decided to conserve energy and rested my head on the table. When it was time for lunch I realised unfortunately a little too late that the stadium was situated in the middle of nowhere and therefore I had to purchase a slightly undercooked and cheap-tasting burger from a food van. I also had the delight of washing it down with Tetley tea that the guy had added too much milk to.
The second paper felt like 1 hour had passed. I didn’t understand why there was so much dermatology and rheumatology and carried those negative thoughts with me back to the hotel room.
The next day, we checked out of the hotel and drove to the stadium, again with plenty of time to spare. This time I left my girlfriend in the stadium car park and promised to come out very soon. I tried to reassure her that 3 hours would pass very quickly but to be honest, I was really fearing the worst after that second paper. This last paper thankfully contained more “standard” specialty subjects and thus released some of the tension from the awkward second paper.
How to Pass MRCP Part 2 Written
I tell you my personal story not because I think it’s exciting or significant but because I hope you can apply my thoughts to your own preparation and therefore make it relevant to you.
The first point I’d like to draw your attention to is how important the non-technical skills are. Once you’ve made the decision to apply for MRCP Part 2 I would like you to immediately plan your physical journey prior to your study preparation. Find out where the exam venue will be and pick a location you’re familiar with if at all possible. Organise a hotel within walking distance, or at least within taxi distance, and ensure that it’s a fancy one meaning you might be looking to spend >£100/night depending on what your definition of fancy is. If you’re walking in the morning, consider what happens if the MRCP Gods pour torrential rain on you – the last thing you want is to sit a demanding and life-changing exam uncomfortably soaked and smelling of rain. If you’re taxi-ing then ensure that you call the night before and book your ride to arrive in plenty time. I would strongly recommend against driving long distances on the morning or even the night before. Ensure you research your venue so that you know whether you need to prepare a healthy packed lunch since junk food causes nothing more than a cloudy mind that can’t function properly.
The good news is that MRCP Part 2 Written will now transition to a one-day 200-mark exam from 2018 onwards whereas previously it was a two-day 270-mark exam. Although the specific breakdown of specialties hasn’t been released yet, it may be worthwhile to wait a diet and sit the exam after the new year instead of now.
Only after you’ve completely organised your physical journey, can we move onto the second point, which is your mental or study preparation. It’s certainly safe to assume that “major” subjects such as respiratory or diabetes & endocrinology will take a proportionally larger number of marks in the exam than the smaller subjects. Therefore you should allocate your time effectively, weighting it more towards the heavyweight subjects. If you have a total of 200 hours to study for MRCP Part 2 Written for example and we find out that 15 of the total 200 marks will be allocated to respiratory then you need to ensure you spend a full 15 hours on respiratory. And in the same example, if dermatology is worth 5/200 then you should only spend 5 hours of your time, regardless of how anxious and uncertain you might feel. Remember that there’s no way the examiners expect you to become an expert after 15 hours of studying respiratory, or 5 hours of dermatology. For exam purposes, some specialties are more equal than others and therefore use your limited time wisely.
Thirdly, you should decide on what resources you’ll use. Try not to be over-enthusiastic in your choices – I would recommend only two books:
By far the most useful book on MRCP I’ve ever read, this book takes you through hundreds of patient cases using a systematic and easy-to-follow manner. After the case description, which you could almost treat as a question stem, the authors proceed to test your knowledge on data interpretation and application in real life scenarios. This format prepares you to make associations and think laterally. Apart from being a great information consolidator, I felt this text to be very readable and relatable as the cases personally felt more relevant. Before I knew it I was turning page 400.
After exhausting that 400-page book in three weeks I was hungry for more data to interpret, and I assure you I’m normally terrible at finishing books. The answer came in the form of this book. Perhaps one or two myocardial perfusion scans isn’t enough to satisfy your hunger for knowledge (ha), enter this book as it’ll give you some more examples to scratch your head over. If you’ve wondered how you’ll ever understand the basics of bone scans or how you’ll make sense of all those numbers in right heart catheterisation then this is the book for you.
The key aspect to resources is not to overload yourself because if you purchase ten books and only manage to read a few pages from each, you’re much better off concentrating on one or two key texts.
The other resource you’ll need to use, as in MRCP Part 1, will be a trustworthy question bank such as PassMedicine, PasTest or OnExamination. I found question banks particularly useful as I wasn’t, and still amn’t someone who is gifted at studying for no “purpose”. However, if I come across a term or knowledge gap at work then I generally try my best to fill the void. Question banks serve the purpose of exposing chinks in your knowledge armour and thus motivate you, using the power of fear, to do some serious background reading. This is the reason you should invest in one reliable question bank.
Taking into account Pareto’s Law and not wanting to over-burden you or continue rambling, if you follow the above three points you’re 80% there. Everything else is just icing on the cake.
If you enjoyed this article make sure you get your own copy of my MRCP Part 1 & 2 Written Guide. In this guide, I explore the above and other concepts such as time allocation and the most preferable resources for the written exams in much more detail.