Just like elite athletes try to squeeze out every single advantage possible to the extent some unfortunately spoil the fun with illicit substances, we can also try to maximise our chances of passing MRCP by considering modifiable factors.
The first thing to consider is when you’re sitting your exams. The earliest you can attempt MRCP Part 1 is at the beginning of your foundation year 2 and there’s certainly an argument for and against this. Apart from considering whether to do so in FY2 or CT1 you can also strategically plan your timing out by placement. Some jobs are notoriously difficult, like acute medicine, and nobody would blame you if you decided to sit the exams during a less busy rotation.
Your first modifiable factor and potential advantage is to attempt MRCP during a less busy rotation. For example, I sat MRCP PACES during my medical oncology rotation in CT1 and this was a big reason why I did so well.
Another factor to bear in mind is the danger of spreading yourself too thinly. Although I’m a huge supporter of being able to hustle and work hard, there are only 16 hours in a day and sleep is too important to miss. If you’re currently working the standard 48 hour workweek, gym 4 days a week, socialise every weekend and have a mountain of chores waiting for you then here’s your second opportunity to snatch an advantage.
Reduce (but don’t eliminate, for your sanity) the number of non-essential activities, and here activities have a very low threshold to be termed non-essential. Reduce your gym sessions to twice a week and only focus on compound lifts and high intensity interval training. Think Pareto’s Law. Reduce the amount of socialising and even consider switching to phone calls for those few golden weeks before exam time. Hire someone to do all your chores and make up for the financial impact after your exam with extra locum shifts. During this period, treat grocery shopping or washing the dishes as procrastination. And so on, but remember that this only works if you use that earned free time wisely.
Your third potential advantage is optimising your work ethic and opportunity-seeking behaviour. A lot of people go through life and work on a daily basis without learning anything new. The days turn into weeks and those turn into months and years. Focus on one practice question at a time – if you complete 5 practice questions on your daily commute that’s 25 a week which is 200 in 8 weeks. Do another 5 on your return journey and that’s 400 extra questions in a relatively short period of time. When you’re clerking a patient or come across a concept or term you don’t quite grasp, this is the time to drop your ego and ask questions. A problem I see with a lot of junior doctors unfortunately is the feeling that they need to know everything, or at least give off this impression in front of the medical students.
I constantly ask questions whenever I don’t understand something and sure I might look silly but it only happens once, and it’s best for the patients. Even in front of medical students, foundation and core trainees and other registrars. Even in front of patients as long as it doesn’t affect their confidence in me.
There. 3 advantages you can easily compound together to maximise your chances of passing MRCP Part 1, Part 2 and PACES.
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.