7 tips for tackling exams
Updated: Mar 31, 2019
This article was initially written and published in RANZCRs Inside News, March 2019. I was asked to write a report of sorts following a successful visit to Gosford Hospital to spend some time talking exams with the registrars. After my initial submission I was asked for some of my best advice for Part II Candidates, which I assembled based on a few months of deep introspection and thoughtful conversations with my mentors and peers. It was billed as 'Part II Exam Tips from an HR Sear Medal Winner' if you are interested. Hope it helps!
1. Reports as much and as widely as you can, starting from first year.
This piece of advice came from my own Director of Training (among others). On the whole, candidates who are more involved with their departments reporting do better come exam day. You are more comfortable with normal findings, incidentals that you can acknowledge and dismiss and the language of the chosen modality – and it will show through.
2. Build a strong support network.
This includes your colleagues (consultants and registrars in your department), study partners and groups, and your friends and family. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
3. Learn from those who have come before you.
Who do you know that has been successful in the past? Take note of whether there was something unique about their preparation, and any hard-learned wisdom that they may have passed on. One of my most admired consultants had a few attempts at a particular viva. The knowledge and experience they can now offer the sitting candidates is worth its weight in gold.
4. Learn from those around you.
When you attend tutorials, seeing the cases is only a small part of the learning on offer. Even when you aren’t presenting, ask yourself – What did the candidate do well or not so well? Why did the examiner show this particular case? Were any pearls of wisdom thrown into the discussion? If you are lucky enough to attend a tutorial from an examiner keep an ear out for common stumbling blocks that you can address in your own learning.
6. Simulate the exam setting as best you can
For eFilm writing, type out your answers under time pressure in the format and sentence structure you would use on the day. For vivas, embrace stressful learning opportunities (e.g. in front of big groups or formal practice vivas). If you can, organize some sessions with unfamiliar examiners with different styles and case sets.
5. Don’t forget the clinical history.
The biggest mistake I see viva candidates making when I show cases is that they don’t consider the clinical history when working through the case. It will allow you to create a more relevant discussion and differential diagnosis list.
7. Take care of yourself.
At times, I did a terrible job of this. Exams are a hard time in the life of a radiology trainee. Try and eat as best you can, allow time for sleep, rest and downtime and ask for help if you need. This might be from someone in your support team or a professional. Overall, be kind to yourself.