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Tips for Passing Medical Finals

We are not in the business of teaching grannies to suck eggs but a few words seem appropriate regarding the approach to the 5th year as a whole.

A common comment is that the year is very short. This of course is the case and not just a false perception due to your general panic. At Leeds the bits chopped off the beginning and end due to the elective and House officer shadowing mean that there are only 20 weeks of clinical attachment in the whole year. With this in mind you will help yourself if you start working early, certainly by Christmas.

During the Year;

Make life easy for yourself. Turn up for clinical attachments. Sounds obvious, however you would be surprised how frequently this can be a problem. Do not think that you will not be missed. Even ‘dove’ like tutors start getting very upset when the tutorial they have spent valuable spare time preparing fails to promote an appearance. If you can’t make it get a personal message to your tutor.  When you do turn up, be on time and try to look interested at least occasionally, even if is very boring. Appearances also matter.

Get the (much loved) SSCs done early in each attachment (enough said).

Take plenty of histories from patients. Practice getting these up to speed and remember around 10 minutes (which is actually plenty of time) is typical for an OSCE station.

Practice summarising the histories and examinations to include the salient detail. Examiners do not want to hear long lists of negative findings other than those most relevant. This will help your confidence and be a really valuable skill to aquire.

Every candidate without exception will have to do a full cardiovascular, respiratory, and GI examination before the OSCEs are over. Practice these until the routine is second nature.

Approach your revision by reading around the clinical cases you actually see or discuss. This gives you the best chance of remembering it.

In general it is better to know a little about a lot of different subjects rather than in depth detail about a few. The examination, particularly the EMQ is about pattern recognition, as such only a few facts (‘handles’) need to be remembered for most conditions.

Practice the structure of communicating with the patients. Remember this is now a whole OSCE day and taken very seriously. You may think you have good interpersonal skills (which of course helps), however all good consultations follow a similar formula for which you must have the structure learnt. Ask your GP tutors to go through this if required.

The examinations;

Remember that the examinations at the end of the 5th year represent the last chance for the establishment to check the quality of doctors released upon the public. As such major emphasis is placed upon the professional qualities (attitude, politeness, understanding, empathy, reliability etc), communication skills and the safety of patients. At examiners meetings a pass/fail decision will frequently boil down to these area especially the last. 

As such the OSCEs are the main trap. A polite, confident (not unduly), professional approach will cover a multitude of other sins.

Work through some clinical picture books prior to the test in preparation for the slide exam. Include in this a radiology book (Lecture Notes in Radiology). Be familiar with the common ECG abnormalities.

Write legibly on any forms, death certificates, prescription charts you have to do during the examination.

Be very careful around sensitive GMC type pass/ fail issues;

Remember medical finals are easy. The hard bit is what follows.

Book a good course!