COVID-19 remains an evolving international health concern that has a significant impact on the work of individuals under The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP)’s Fellowship program. It has also impacted individuals who wish to enter the program and were preparing for their examinations prior to the pandemic.
With training and teachings either postponed or cancelled and clinical work still to mind, how can you prepare for your RACGP exams?
Start with de-cluttering your schedule. The pandemic may have changed how you go about your work, but a schedule keeps you on the right track. Jot down your agenda for the day: clinical work, reviews and studies. Make sure you finish within your set time frame.
If your cluttered environment affects your study, clean up. If you need classroom storage furniture to stay organised and create a productive environment, invest in one. Organisation promotes focus in your studies.
Daily Immersion In GP Practice
Work in the full scope of your general practice every day. Apart from practising clinical examination and reasoning in the GP context, you gain exposure to the curriculum of conditions presented by your patients. As you encounter these conditions, research and review evidence for conditions.
One issue caused by COVID-19 is the switch to telehealth consultations and a significant reduction in the number of patients that doctors see, as well as the scope of the presentations. You may be unable to practice your examination often, but continue working diligently and reflect on the patients you do get to see.
Familiarise Yourself With The Structure Of Your Exams
Use your free time during quarantine to gain a better grasp of the exam’s structure. The RACGP examinations have three components:
- Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)
- Applied Knowledge Test paper (AKT)
- Key Feature Problem (KFP)
Each exam component evaluates different competencies and skills necessary for RACGP fellowship. Search for RACGP exam reports and guides to understand the structure and course goals of the exam, which you can use to develop a study plan.
Remember: the exam content reflects what you encounter in general practice. Get a better understanding of the patterns and frequencies in GP by studying data from the Bettering Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) program. This long-term study of general practice presentations can help you frame your study.
Practice The Exam Technique
In most cases, the style of the RACGP examinations is different from your examinations in medical school or in other specialty trainings. The RACGP releases a practise examination paper to fellowship candidates approximately four to six weeks before the exam.
Since the organisation does not release practise questions other than the exam, familiarise yourself with how they write the questions. Also, make sure you can answer the questions within the given time limit.
Participate In Study Groups
Study groups for exams offer tangible benefits, such as providing structure for your study, sharing the workload and benchmarking your progress. Thanks to technology, virtual study groups over platforms, like Skype and Zoom, are helpful for studying with peers during this self-isolation period.
One issue that may arise concerning virtual study groups is the lack of opportunity for practising physical examination techniques. Address this concern by focusing on physical examinations you get to perform with patients. Time yourself and practise examining the body system in eight minutes or less.
The lockdown should not keep you from undertaking exam preparations. But for many fellowship candidates, the delays in RACGP exam schedules required a timeline revision. Fortunately, there are plenty of online workshops available – a majority of them lead and organised by accredited organisations.
In preparation for your exam, focus on clinical practice, skills and knowledge workshops first. Eventually, focus on your exam techniques towards the end.
Work With Your Supervisor
Your supervisor is a valuable source of support when preparing for your RACGP exams. They are in the position to teach you, help you identify your knowledge gaps and suggest study resources. Similar to your study groups, get in touch with them via your preferred video conferencing app.
It is ideal to ask your supervisor about sitting in with them or listening to other doctors during their clinic. Doing so exposes you to a variety of practices. Given the limited movement due to social distancing measures, however, discuss if you can study random case analysis with your supervisor online.
The pandemic may have revised your timeline, but it has given you more time to prepare for your examination. Use this time to hone your skills and practise in preparation for the RACGP fellowship exams.