Passing your exams is a crucial step in achieving your GP Fellowship whether you’re with the RACGP or ACRRM. The GPTQ Exam Preparation Facebook group supports our registrars and provides invaluable exam preparation materials, practice questions and insights. In this article, we share tips and tricks from medical educators and a recent exam candidate.
Your go-to exam prep group
The GPTQ Exam Preparation Facebook page is run by four of our medical educators, two of whom jointly co-chair; Dr Scott Preston and Dr Danielle James. It’s an online study group for registrars to access a structured study program beginning about six months before the fellowship exam cycles. Each week focuses on a new topic and practice questions are written based on GP BEACH data.
Danielle says: “BEACH data draws on the most common GP presentations in Australia so we plan our sessions around these. We start with respiratory and then move through a cycle of 17 topics. They include musculoskeletal, dermatology, cardiovascular, obstetrics, reproductive health and renal. We write brand new questions on a weekly basis so it’s definitely very useful.”
Scott says the group has rapidly evolved to best meet registrars’ needs.
“The original idea was to post the question, facilitate discussion and then at the end of the week, reveal the answer and the clinical reasoning behind it. But now, in addition to questions and answers and facilitating discussion, we also have a bank of valuable resources to share. So on Friday, we post the curriculum and resources for that particular system and registrars then have the weekend to do background reading. On Monday, the questions are posted and we go from there.”
The key benefits of the group
“There’s a lot of peer collaboration and support in the discussions and this improves critical reasoning. As the group happens ‘live’ each week, registrars stay on track with their studies and pace their exam preparations appropriately,” Danielle says. “As medical educators, there’s opportunity for us to check in if we know someone is struggling or they can always PM us. Our second-year registrars don’t have as much contact with medical educators so the Facebook group gives us a great chance to connect with them. It’s very valuable.”
Scott is quick to point to the group’s pastoral aspect.
“I’ve seen several registrars post concerns about juggling working nine to five, looking after their family and studying for exams. Then you see supportive comments coming back from others saying ‘I’m in a similar situation and I really understand this’. I think registrars find this to be one of the major benefits of the page.”
The Facebook group is open to registrars studying for Fellowship exams from both GP colleges. While most of the questions are modelled on the RACGP exam format, Danielle says the medical educators take care to ensure the content reflects both colleges and the Rural and General Pathways.
“We believe the content and the breadth of knowledge we’re testing is beneficial for ACRRM registrars. We write questions looking at that rural perspective and two of our educators in the group – Mike Hurley and Sidya Raghavan – work rurally.”
Some extra tips to help you with your exam prep
Apart from encouraging registrars to find out more about the Facebook group, Scott and Danielle are also keen to share their most important exam prep tips.
Scott says: “Don’t underestimate the difficulty of the exams. Start your preparation at least six months out and incorporate it into your lifestyle. That way you avoid significant increases in your workload leading up to the exam.”
Danielle’s tip relates to the questions themselves.
“Make sure you read the question properly. You will encounter similar questions in your practice exams but in the real exam, one word may be different and that changes the whole meaning. If you answer it from what you remember, it may not go so well,” she says. “There’s also some technique tips around answering questions which we talk about in the Facebook group, but overall, if you do the work, you should pass the exam.”
Four top tips from a recent fellowship exam candidate
GPTQ registrar Dr Colin Case has recently completed his RACGP Fellowships exams and offers the following from his experience:
1. Make sure you see enough patients: Colin says the more patients you see, the more you will automatically know for the exam. But don’t sacrifice speed for quality i.e. if you are seeing patients too fast, you may miss things.
2. Do your research: He advises you thoroughly research your investigation and management options, either while you’re seeing a patient or very soon after. That way you do the right thing the first time, and hopefully, repeat it each subsequent time. When your exams roll around, you’re already in the habit of doing it the right way and it’s easier to draw upon that when faced with exam questions.
3. Start early: The breadth of GP practice means there are many isolated facts that need to be learned. Colin says this takes time and it’s much easier to grasp if it’s spread out over months rather than crammed in at the last minute.
4. RACGP exam specific tips:
“If you know a little about diagnosis and management of all the common GP presentations you will pass.”
“Do the practice questions and modules on the RACGP site. They will prepare you for the strange ways the questions are asked and guide you in structuring your answers. Two further tips are to study the RACGP’s check program (available through gplearning) and see as many patients as you can.”
“If you’ve made it to this stage, you’ll generally have all the information you need to pass. You just have to finesse it by practising seeing patients and also doing cases in the way the assessors want i.e. taking a history in the right time frame. One tip here: always remember to give the patient 90 seconds to talk at the beginning of the consult. The examiners mark you on this and you will often get most of what you need if you just let the patient talk.”
The light at the end of the tunnel
We know preparing for your exams can be a stressful time, but Danielle encourages you to take a wider view.
“The exam is a hoop to jump through. The end game is all about learning how to be a good GP. It can be difficult to look past the exam but the most important thing to keep in mind is what sort of GP you’re going to be at the end of it all.”
If you’re about to embark on exam preparations, keep an eye on your inbox. GPTQ will send you an email to let you know when you’re eligible to join the GPTQ Exam Preparation Facebook group.