There is an 8-step approach to success with your MRCOG revision and exam. These steps were developed from nearly 20 years of teaching MRCOG students and from interactions with over 1200 MRCOG candidates. So, here it is!
The Right Mind Set
The first step is for you to have the right mind-set as you approach the revision and the exam. Learning new stuff, particularly when this is helpful professionally, is fun!
So, embrace your revision and exam! If you love and enjoy the process, it has the practical benefit that you are likely to do really well in it. The reason is that we all generally tend to do well in things that we enjoy – there is psychology behind that! If you love your revision, and make it fun, you will learn faster and deeper, giving you the best chance of succeeding in the exam. Help yourself by avoiding pessimists and pedants.
Targeted and Directed Revision
Use our syllabus to make sure that your revision is targeted and directed. This means reviewing the detailed syllabus checklist and identifying your weak areas, and purposefully seeking out resources to help plug the knowledge gaps you have identified. Such an active process of targeted revision is infinitely better than the alternative: a passive revision approach which involves you going through a fat detailed MRCOG textbook rather aimlessly from chapter to chapter, from section to section. Such a superficial approach is unlikely to help with retention or recall of information. So, download the detailed syllabus from our website and identify your ‘amber’ and ‘red’ subject areas. You will recall our advice to grade each one of the syllabus items into green, amber and red, whereby green are areas where you feel confident, amber are areas which you have some knowledge about and reds are the ones where you have little knowledge.
Once you have identified your knowledge gaps, make a master-list of these, and come up with a revision plan to ensure that you cover all of these before the exam. Select a few items from this master-list every day, and make an agenda for the day. The purpose of the agenda is to ensure you achieve the best out of the available units of time in that day. Then take an item from your agenda. Get a sheet of paper and jot down anything you know about this subject. Even if it is a red item and you feel that you don’t know anything about this, when you start to jot down you will be surprised to find that there will be something that you do know about this subject! One useful way to group the ideas at this stage is to ask yourself, ‘Do I know anything about the prevalence or incidence of this problem? What are the risk factors for this problem? What are the risks of this problem? How do I diagnose this problem? What is the prognosis of this problem?’ and finally, ‘How is this problem managed in clinical practice?’ Once you have jotted down what you know, any gaps in your knowledge will become more apparent.
Plug The Holes
Armed with the knowledge of these gaps, you can now turn to an information resource that would help plug this knowledge gap. Traditionally people would turn to MRCOG textbooks and this is fine if the textbook chapters contain specific information that you are seeking. But be very open to the idea that there may be other better resources to turn to! These include: a YouTube video, patient information leaflets, green-top guidelines, NICE guidelines, articles from the Obstetrician and the Gynaecologist journal, StratOG, and review articles in journals such as BJOG and BMJ. Don’t forget that your consultant is also an important source of knowledge for you, but make sure what they share with you is based on evidence and guidance and not eccentric personal views which are of no relevance for your exam. You will need to be mindful of the distinction between ‘evidence-based’ and ‘eminence-based’ medicine! The point here is that you are gathering information in a targeted fashion based on the gaps in your knowledge. This active process will aid deeper learning, better retention and recall of information. Go back to the sheet of paper where you jotted down what you knew about the subject, and then add the new information that you have gathered with a different colour pen. Use highlighters and sketches and side notes liberally, as colourful visual representation of information is likely to be retained better.
Try an MRCOG part 1 mock test on ACE Online Try an MRCOG Part 2 mock test on ACE Online
Test, Test, Test
Now that you have learned what you needed to and hopefully have shifted what was a ‘red’ or ‘amber ‘into ‘green’ status, it is time to test whether what you have learned is fit for purpose. There is really only one way to do this. You need to go and identify dozens and dozens of questions (SBAs and EMQs) and try these. Online questions banks are ideal for this purpose as they help you to search by topic and collate and present questions on a single topic in one convenient location for you to test yourself. When you do the questions, if you score more than 70%, you are generally on safe grounds. The questions that you get wrong should become focal point for further learning to consolidate your knowledge on that subject.
Consolidate Your Knowledge
The next step is to consolidate your knowledge. One of the best ways to achieve this is to in fact teach someone else what you have learned! There will be other MRCOG candidates or other junior doctors who might be willing to learn from you and teaching and discussing with others is an excellent way to consolidate your knowledge.
The Day Before Folder
The next step is to organize all the information that you have gathered and committed to your memory in a structured format. You can use ‘mind-maps’ (just google the phrase ‘mind-map’ if you are not sure what it is), flow-charts, figures or tables – this becomes your brief and refined summary of a subject that you can use for future revision, particularly near the exam date. Make this visually powerful with colours, highlighting, and annotations. An approach that I strongly recommend to the candidates who attend our courses is to create a folder of revision items that a candidate should review the day before the exam. This folder should contain items that are difficult to retain, but if you review these the day before the exam, your short-term memory could hold the information long enough to benefit you in the exam! Examples of these include the staging of various gynaecological cancers, or the mode of inheritance for various genetic conditions. You should learn these way in advance of the exam, but if you do manage to have a look at these the day before the exam, then hopefully they will still be fresh in your memory for the day of the exam. This folder of things to look at the day before the exam should clearly not be too large, as you should also make sure that the day before the exam is the day when you get lots of good rest and not a day when you tire your mind and unduly strain yourself. A rested mind is probably far more important with regards to your exam success that a few bits of additional information or knowledge that you gain by burning the midnight candle the night before the exam.
Eat well, Exercise, Relax and Rest
The final step relates to looking after your mind and body whilst you go through the joyful but intense period of revising for your exam. You should eat healthily, that means eating lots of fruit and vegetables and cutting down of sugar, fat and too much meat, and take up something that relaxes your mind and body such as yoga, meditation, running or cycling. Looking after yourself will give you the best chance of succeeded in your revision and exam.
So to sum it up, take an active targeted approach to your revision rather than passive reading of MRCOG textbooks. Put what you have learned to test by trying out lots of SBA or EMQ questions, as appropriate. Prepare well organized revision summaries that will help you carry the knowledge forward to the exam day and beyond. Pace yourself, eat well, rest well, and above approach your revision with joy and a sense of purpose!