As daunting as it seems, it is not impossible. The trick is to break up the whole problem into tiny pieces and start solving each puzzle one by one. You might be lucky to get some time off your work and prepare for the exam, or you might have no extra time at all. There is no fixed path for success. Carve your own trail. Obstacles will be coming along your way; this is the rule of life! When you think you have hit a dead end, stop, retrace your steps, and lo another path will present itself! Discipline is the key to success-it is not enough telling yourself what to do, but you need to get yourself to do it!
How much time to I need to prepare for the exam?
Some might take 6 months’ worth of preparation, and somebody else might take 2 years. It doesn’t matter how long or how short. Make a realistic goal which suits your personal circumstances and work wholeheartedly towards it.
Unlearning and relearning
Most of you would have already had a degree in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and well placed in your profession. You would have developed your own principles of practising Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Remember it is an exam formatted to the requirements of working in the UK. No one has invited you to take the exam-it was your own decision. You might have to unlearn your old ways and relearn the new ways. What do you lose by trying? As you are preparing you will realise that your practice has changed for the better-you will be a confident clinician with a firm knowledge base. For those of you who have set sights to work overseas, a whole new world of opportunities will unfold before your eyes.
Understand the exam pattern.
It is not the same as any other exam. Some of us come from a background where exams test us for theoretical knowledge. For example, in my MS exam I had a questions asking -Diameters of pelvic brim or the ten causes of hydrops fetalis. This exam is a complete contrast: you are not tested for your knowledge, but rather how you apply it into clinical context. It is no hidden truth that communication skill is the most important requirement. It is ok to have your own style and accent of speaking English, as long as you are grammatically correct. But remember to avoid medical jargon. The best way would be to read Patient information leaflet-you have a leaflet for nearly every condition you can think of. Practice this loudly, make a list of all the jargons and their equivalent lay man terms and stick it by your bedside. Cast an eye on it, whenever you pass by. Slowly but surely you will make a steady progress.
Find a study buddy.
There is so much you learn out of collaborative learning. You pick up from other’s strengths and weaknesses. Since the preparation can be a long process, there will be days when you lose heart and feel like giving up. You need a study companion to motivate you and keep you going.
Take a break if you have hit your limit, its ok to do it.
Take an evening off, go for a long walk, a long drive, a family dinner, pursue your hobby, cook something you always fancied eating, take your dog for a walk and lose yourself in nothingness. It’s alright to retreat. But come back in full force like there is no stopping.
How to understand work culture in the UK?
Talk to your colleague who has passed the exam recently, you will get a wealth of information. Browse through the college website, e learning module videos, listen to BBC news, these will give you a lot of practical examples. Be like a sponge; absorb all the information that comes your way. Reflect on what you have read and understood-it needs to sink into your subconscious mind and become an inherent part of your core knowledge.
What to read?
There is a whole lot of information on the internet and it is ever expanding. Be careful with what you choose. Safest and definitely needed are Greentop, NICE guidelines, Consents, SIPs, Good Practice Guidelines, TOG(past 5 years ideally),FSRH,BASHH guidelines. I would recommend subscribing to Stratog- the benefits are enormous. I found it very useful to condense everything I read into one sheet as it made a world of a difference in revising them quickly before the exam.
What do I do if I don’t get a place in the exam?
Do not get disheartened if you do not get a slot for the exam. Continue with your life goals, as some things are just not in your hands. For those who believe in destiny, fate has a bigger plan in the grand scheme of the Universe. When your turn arrives, don’t look back, charge ahead like as if there is no tomorrow.
So friends, start somewhere and slowly gain your momentum. There is no right way to success. Your way might be completely different from mine. What matters in the end is whether you reached your end point and what you picked up along your way. Remember you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You cannot change the direction of the wind, but you can always adjust your sails to reach your final destination.
Authored by: Dr. Akshatha Kulkarni | MRCOG, MS, DNB, MBBS.