How to motivate yourself for exam preparation during busy times like the holiday season

The RACGP and ACRRM Fellowship exams are usually big hurdles for most people. They require significant amounts of time invested in study, mastering technique and building up vast amounts of knowledge. Getting motivated to study can be challenging. Especially when it is a busy time like the festive season, the sun is shining, the cricket is on and your friends are at the beach.

Psychologists have been studying behaviour for a long time and have discovered a few things that might help you motivate yourself to open those journals…

Theory of planned behaviour

The influential theory of planned behaviour was developed by Ajzen in 1991 and noted that the most important determinant of a person’s behaviour is intent.

This is influenced by three factors:

  • Your attitude towards performing the behaviour
  • Your perceived subjective norm (what you perceive others expect of you)
  • Your perceived control over the behaviour and perceived power

In other words, if we use studying for an exam as an example of planned behaviour, you would be more like to study if:

You believe that studying will be useful and that it will help you pass the exam.
Tip: Don’t convince yourself that passing the KFP is all about technique – you need knowledge as well. Studying to increase your knowledge will help you pass the exams.

You believe that others around you are studying for exams and that this is instrumental to pass the exam.
Tip: Get involved in a proactive study group. Join in any webinars or discussion groups. Remind yourself as you sit and study, others are also sitting and studying around the country. Leverage the power of others studying to get yourself to study, have a study-buddy to hold each other accountable.

You believe that studying for the exam is a manageable behaviour and that it will lead to your exam success.
Tip: This can be very challenging. Often it seems as though there are endless barriers, kids, patients, work, life and so on. Think about strategies you can implement to find protected time so that you can study. Similarly, if you are feeling overwhelmed, identify an area of weakness, find articles or education sources to address that area, and test your new knowledge. Then repeat this process. A structured exam preparation course with dedicated resources might be helpful for you.
Consider these three of these factors when trying to optimise your study behaviour for exam success.

For more information – check out this youtube video:

Self-efficacy theory
Another relevant and influential theory developed in 1977 by Alberta Bandura is the concept of self-efficacy, which is:

An individual’s belief in their ability to achieve goals
Specifically, the conviction a person has that they can successfully execute the behaviour required to produce a particular outcome.

Bandura proved this theory with people who had a fear of snakes. Let us consider this theory in the context of exam study (less chance of any injuries).

The extent to which you believe you can successfully study to pass the RACGP/ACRRM exams will influence:

  • Whether you will make an attempt at studying and attempting the exam.
  • How much effort you will expend in studying and attempting the exam, (ie reading a few odd journal articles versus sitting and systematically improving your knowledge)
  • How long you will persist with studying in the face of obstacles or aversive experiences such as scoring poorly on a practice test or mock exam.

The good news is that you can influence self–efficacy.

The things that have shown to improve self-efficacy are:

Practice – the more you practice (read and study), the more confident you will feel. If you experience a study setback (e.g., sickness or work), and you are able to overcome these setbacks (such as managed to read some articles while your sick child was sleeping, or on a break or between patients) you will feel a great confidence boost and self-efficacy will improve.

Watching others – seeing others improve over time can improve your own self-efficacy. So, again become part of a study group and see how you are all improving.

Tell yourself you can or get someone else to tell you that you can.
This on its own is often not powerful enough but combined with practice can be very helpful. Get your family and study group to be your cheer squad!

Accept the fear and do it anyway. If you are feeling anxious about your capacity to complete all the planned study, don’t focus on the fear. Instead focus on the task and the skills needed to do it (or the resources) and start practicing!

Studying is hard, over summer potentially harder, but with self-belief, planned behaviours and confidence, you can achieve your goal of exam success.

We wish you all the best with your exam preparation

The GPEx team