Although I would not recommend practising alone for MRCP PACES it’s certainly possible to do so. In fact, a lot of techniques I discuss in my MRCP PACES book can be used without a partner.
One option is to use every living hour during your weeks and months of preparation thinking and studying MRCP. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been addicted to something but when I was addicted to poker, I remember “seeing” poker cards everywhere – these hallucinations were particularly prominent when I was in a sleep deprived state. It’s funny with hindsight but at the time I was a complete mess.
Although I never attained this state of obsession during my MRCP journey, there were nights in bed when my mind would unintentionally wander to the causes of pulmonary fibrosis. When this happened it would either confirm my knowledge of a subject or highlight a knowledge gap. And I realise that this state saved me a lot of time and focused my revision the next day – I just wish I could’ve reached it more often.
Just like poker players have poker rush where you win numerous significant hands in a row, during these involuntary mind wanders I was having a MRCP rush, or MRCP flow.
To reach this state you can’t afford to just wake up, go to work, come home and then study MRCP. You really have to wake up, study MRCP whilst you’re breakfasting, commuting, working, lunching, commuting and dining. Practise your MRCP PACES routine whilst examining patients on the ward or when you’re clerking patients. If someone presents with headache, have a good history system to ensure you ask all the exam questions.
For example, you cannot just rely on the two hours between 1800 – 2000 after work trawling the wards on your own looking for “interesting” patients to see. For one, there just aren’t that many people with acromegaly or ankylosing spondylitis for you to examine. You’ll have to make do with practising the “acromegaly routine” on someone who presents with painful hands. Be creative.
The second thing you must do is become comfortable with presenting to yourself either in a corridor, private room or in front of the mirror. Obviously you’re the person you spend most of your time with, and even the most socially adept core medical trainee will not spend more time with anyone else apart from themselves.
You’ll find that if you explain to patients beforehand that you’re practising for an important exam they’ll excuse you for presenting to thin air in the presence of them! Obviously use kinder words and phrases such as “elevated BMI” rather than “fat” or “large”, which you should be doing anyway.
I would always recommend core medical trainees to practise for MRCP PACES with a group or at least with a partner so you can quiz each other but many manage to practise alone, and also do so successfully.
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.
Alternatively, if you’ve passed the written exams then How to Pass MRCP PACES in 8 Weeks will take you through your next and final hurdle. The reason an entire new guide has been written about this mammoth clinical exam reflects the different skills and attitude you need when tackling MRCP PACES. Instead of simply relying on reading textbooks, you’ll need to utilise a concept called the PACES Triangle to successfully navigate the examiners’ obstacles.