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By The Next Step

Top 10 exam preparation tips

3 min
Female medical student smiling in library

Exams are a nerve-racking prospect for any student. But for medical and dental students, final exams certainly feel like the last hoop you must jump through to become a qualified doctor or dentist.

In addition, you’ll have added pressure from other final year commitments such as clinical assessments, placements and applying for your Foundation Programme.

To help ease the pressure, we’re sharing 10 tips to help you prepare early and feel confident for your SJT and other final exams.

1. Learn GMC/GDC guidelines and standards 

When preparing for your SJT, which makes up 50% of your EPM, you’ll know that it's all about understanding good ethical practice. Treat the guidelines like a revision handbook, as the exam questions are set based on its content. Your ethical judgment will be put to the test rather than clinical skills, so rank accordingly.

2. Spend time shadowing your peers

Exposing yourself to ward/clinic situations by shadowing FY1s will familiarise you with possible SJT scenarios. As a dentist, get into your supervisors’ world and understand what it’s like to be in a practice. It’s the most practical way to judge a situation and to think about how you would deal with other situations.

3. Collate resources

Gathering all your resources will show you what you need to cover. Start with your course website to obtain your course syllabus.

Many medical students choose the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine as their ‘bible’, and then supplement with past papers and resources such as Pass Medicine and Pastest.

You can also prepare yourself by attending courses designed to help with final exams. Go to free courses if you’re conscious of all of the other expenses you’ll incur in final year, such as graduation.

4. Begin studying as early as possible

It goes without saying at this stage,but avoid leaving revision until the last minute, as this will only add to your stress. Reviewing notes regularly will help keep topics fresh in your mind.

5. Create a revision schedule

Build a realistic revision schedule that gives you enough time to go over everything before exams. Day-to-day, make sure your schedule isn’t monotonous and that it allows time for other things such as socialising. It’s also worth identifying your weaknesses and working on those first, to improve your confidence.

6. Revise to suit you

After so many years of studying, chances are you know what revision methods suit you. If you’re a visual learner, there’s nothing wrong with colour-coding and creating mind maps to absorb information. Revising with peers can be valuable too, but don’t feel obliged to participate in group study sessions if they’re not beneficial for you.

7. Don’t try to remember everything

Remembering everything might seem crucial, but you’ll overwhelm yourself by doing this and it may lead to overthinking questions. Examiners just want you to demonstrate that you’re ready for your foundation year.

8. Practise your timings

Timing is important for every exam and you should avoid rushing. In the SJT, you have two hours and 20 minutes to answer 70 questions. Two-thirds of the marks come from section one (usually the first 43 questions), whereas one-third come from section two. Some suggest you aim to spend one hour 30 minutes on section one, and 40 minutes on section two.

9. Take breaks

This is equally as important as studying, and you’ll recall information better if you take regular breaks. When to take breaks depends on the individual, but many people find the Pomodoro technique (25-minute intervals of study with five-minute breaks) effective.

10. Seek support

Your lecturers and supervisors are there to support you, so don’t hesitate to ask for their help with particular topics or exam worries in general. And, if you don’t do as well as you had hoped, stay positive and remember your ranking only lasts for 12 months.