13 essential last minute exam tips

What can you do in the last few days prior to Fellowship exams to make sure you are as prepared as you possibly can be? It’s clearly too late to revise everything. But all is not lost.

Read on for our essential last minute exam tips.

# 1 Take time to breathe

Breathe. Your mind may be going a million miles a minute right now. Stop yourself a few times a day and take the time to count to 10 as you breathe in and out slowly. Focusing on your breathing and relaxing your muscles will help your brain take a momentary break. Do this whenever you feel stress about the coming exam(s). This only needs to take 30 seconds and is time well spent to help you focus on the task at hand.

#2 Last chance for weak points

Sit down with a coffee/tea/hot chocolate and have a quick glance through your learning/study plan or your known areas of weakness. Are there any key areas you have forgotten that you know trouble you? Are there any guidelines that you need to brush up on? You can’t do them all in the remaining time, so pick one or two. Every mark counts.

#3 Don’t ignore the RACGP/ACRRM exam resources

Look at the past exam reports on the RACGP or ACRRM website. These provide feedback on what candidates did well and poorly in past exams – learn from those that have gone before you. These reports will give you an insight into what to expect on the day, exam technique, the marking guides and what the examiners are looking for.

Make sure you download the relevant exam guide (RACGP or ACRRM) and READ the sections relevant to you. The examiners will assume you know this stuff. Again, don’t miss out on any help from your College on exam preparation. Complete available exam-support online modules. These resources are there to help you.

#4 Sleep, Eat & Exercise

Optimise conditions (sleep, diet, and exercise) in the days prior to the exam. It’s easy to fall into the trap of changing optional sleep, eating and exercise patterns due to feeling pressured, stressed and time poor prior to the exam by spending very moment studying. However, you are doing yourself a disservice and affecting your exam readiness by setting yourself up to being unable to concentrate or recall vital information due to being tired or lacking good nutrition and exercise. Get 8 hours sleep each night, eat well, hydrate, and continue light exercising (e.g. walking) – this will optimise your concentration and recall levels on the day of the exam.

#5 Know thy enemy

WATCH the RACGP videos on the AKT and/or KFP exam or any available from ACRRM for the MCQ. Importantly these videos show screenshots of the exam screens so you know how to navigate your way through the exam and how to make use of the exam program features. These videos also help familiarise you with what to expect in the exam and the answers to frequently asked questions.

#6 Have an exam strategy

Make sure you know how many questions will be in the exam and how long the exam is. Then work out how long you want to spend on each question to allow time to review your answers at the end of the exam. Also allow time to revisit difficult questions.

#7 Read the question *properly*

The number one tip for all exams is to read the question. Don’t skim the question, don’t rush it and don’t jump to assumptions before you have finished reading the whole question. Really read the question. There are two parts to reading a question properly. Firstly, understand the clinical scenario you are being presented with. And secondly, understand the question being asked.

For the clinical scenario – ensure you use the information given. The hints are there. Don’t assume anything that is not provided.

Regarding understanding the question – take note of the question wording. The most important diagnosis is different to the most likely diagnosis. What is the question asking you to do?

#8 For the AKT/MCQ exam…

For the AKT or MCQ exam, make sure you enter an answer for every question. There is no negative marking. So yes, a guess is better than no answer at all.

#9 For the KFP exam…

For the KFP exam where you are typing in your answers, make sure you are clear in your answers. Don’t make the examiner guess what you are saying. Read the stem carefully when answering the question and don’t repeat information that you have already been given – you won’t gain any marks for it.

Avoid non-specific answers. For example, you wouldn’t complete a script that just said “antibiotics” and give that to your patient to give to the pharmacist. You’d include details like what antibiotic, how much, how often and so on. Similarly, if you order an x-ray, you don’t just tell the radiographer to take an x-ray – you would provide the relevant specific details.

And remember – don’t use abbreviations or shorthand. Your abbreviation might not be the same as the examiners!

#10 What would you do in real life?

The examiners are not there to trick you. They just want to know that you are a safe practitioner. If it helps, try to imagine the patient sitting in front of you as you work through the questions. Keep in mind any hints about your location (do you have a tertiary facility close by or are you in a rural location?) or any other factors that might influence the feasibility of your answer. Is a time frame critical in your answer? If yes, make sure you include this. What is the first thing you’d do? What next? At the end of the day, the test is “what would you do in real life?” Go back to first principles. Use your clinical reasoning skills.

#11 Conquer exam anxiety

If you find yourself unable to answer a question in the exam and feel the stress within you rising, remember to stop for a moment, count to five, slow your breathing and relax your muscles (like you practiced this week) to keep those brain cells going. Watch your self-talk – is it reassuring (I got this. I’ve studied well. I’m well prepared.) or is it increasing your anxiety (I don’t know anything! I’m going to fail!)?

#12 Believe in yourself

Keep a positive frame of mind. Tell yourself out loud or just in your head several times a day how good you are at your job, congratulate yourself on all the work you’ve put into preparing for the upcoming exam(s). Remind yourself that soon it will all be over, and you just have to put in 100% now. It will be worth it. And don’t forget to smile – it does really help your frame of mind.

#13 Get to the exam

Double check the time and location of the exams. Plan how you are going to get there – a lift with a friend? the train? Arrive the night before? Don’t forget to set your alarm the night before. Allow lots of time to get to the exam. Not only do you not want to miss your exam, but you don’t want to arrive flustered or more anxious either.

Good luck from the GPEx team!