2 weeks following the day my professional exam was announced, I am so eager to share everything I know- preparatory wise to how the actual exam day goes. Before I begin, can have a chance to rant on how relieved I feel after passing the exam as it was the biggest one after SPM- 1 week, 4 papers and entire syllabus of year 1 and year 2 medical degree, just to qualify your eligibility to enter clinical years successfully. As I'm usually an average scorer, I affirmed myself that passing the papers would be the ultimate goal but little that I know of my capability that on the result announcement day, my name was ranked 7th in the batch, right after the top 6 names were announced as distinction receiver. HAHA. So sad because how close I was to distinction but I was more surprised/ shocked/ astonished and all the vocabulary there is to describe how I felt on that day to be ranked so highly that way. Anyway, I'm going to share what I did preparatory wise and I'll include some of what my friends practiced as well, some tips, do's and don't and probably most of the things that you need to know on how to pass the exam. let's jump right into it.
Long term preparation
1. Form study group earlier in 1st year.
This is an important initiator for the pro exam preparation. I know that some people may not suit themselves in study groups because they prefer to study alone but in terms of efficiency, you are able to discuss critically and finalize the concepts more accurately, gets more push, less distractive and higher chance to learn from other people's curiosity. Who knows, some questions that your group-mates point out during study group would come out in the exam, right? Forming a study group is also quite tricky as you have to find someone to give and take benefits both ways. In my opinion, you should find the friends of the same level of performance that you're comfortable with and some smarter friend who could help correct if there is any misleading concept on certain topics. It's also okay to be changing circles until you find the group that you can benefit and learn the most from.
2. Be organized.
Compile all your notes, extra infos (that was not written in the lecture notes) and bookmark of topics that your lecturers told to really focus on in one place. Provide a ring binder file for every system and
create a divider for the lecture notes, case study and PBL. This will come handy for your revision as you won't have to swarm through hundred of papers mixed up all together. Another tips that I have is to buy an Ipad, any model with an Apple Pencil in which you can right all the additional info on your digital lecture notes, not having to print it and carry papers around. I saw a lot of my friends using it, enjoying it and finding it more easier to have all their notes in one place and accessible anytime via the icloud.
3. Get enough rest in between studies, eat healthily and find a way to sweat a bit.
I can't stress enough how important this is for yourself in long-term run. Cramping topic by topic until it is well understood and on top of that, having to multi-task in learning new things in class are extreme sport. You could get tired and easily worn out that leads to what scares me most, the feeling of giving up. What I did was to write my to-do list- the topics that I'm most weak at and needed revision, lecture notes for next classes that I have to pre-read and then setting the deadlines so you're always aware of your tasks and the time you have. Once the deadlines are met, I allowed myself to go out for some hangouts, swimming with a friend or simply lay in bed and watch kdramas.
Less than 6 months to exam
1. Revise past systemic blocks one by one.
Since CUCMS is quite unique as students are taught on a specific body system by block (1 system/month), we tend to forget to certain important things as we proceed to the next block. Therefore, it's important to go through the anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathology and microbiology of a system one by one and it's better to revise from the your own personal notes. And by go through, I don't read the lecture notes as if it was the first time I've seen it. It's more of flipping through the pages and recalling the important informations that has been repeatedly discussed as I put back the puzzles back to places. Also, don't forget to review the case studies and PBL.
2. Ask help from smarter friends. It's the season of note sharing.
I was lucky that my study group-mates are quite dynamic and tolerant in taking and giving knowledge. We were definitely not perfect but individually, each and one of us tried our best to benefit each others by sharing notes, mnemonics or explaining certain concept several times to other members until we understand clearly. We divided topics among us and when there are free times, we will gather and present the topics, came out with discussion and tried our best to grab the most amount of knowledge we could.
3. Don't procrastinate.
This goes without saying. Time flies so fast without you could even realize it so don't make it a habit to push your plan forward, thinking that you have several more months to pro exam. There are a lot too cover, too many details to remember and on top of that, you might also have to re-revise it in case you forgot some concept so make sure to make progress every day.
1 month to pro exam
1. Do past years.
This is VERY VERY IMPORTANT. 80% of what came out in my pro exam was from past years with a little bit of twist on the questions and I can safely say that doing past years helped me build a chunk of confidence resulting me to pass the pro exam. Since CUCMS does not provide us with past years directly, our seniors helped to compile the questions and they were definitely high quality questions. You could also add some more information that you consider important from the lecture note, simply to get yourself prepared with a little bit more understanding.
6. Regularly practice OSCE .
By this time, you most definitely has learned all the clinical skill trainings (CST) that you need to know in pre-clinical. Therefore, it's important to get used to doing the examination perfectly as you clear each step in the checklist. Practice the script or what you want to say to the patients and most definitely you can't just visualise yourself doing it. You have to perform it precisely on your mates before taking turn to reverse roles. Get used to several differential diagnosis too as it will also being asked during the exam.
6. Spend some time every week in the LRC (learning resource centre) and medical science lab to familiarize yourself with the body models, microscopic slides and pots that they could be using for OSPE.
5. Don't re-read every piece of lecture notes prior 1 month to exam.
You've already know whatever there is on the notes. It's about time to look through critically by answering past year questions relating clinical correlates from a body system to another system. Based on my experience, it took A LOT OF TIME to finish the lecture notes of 1 systemic block, and remember, the amount of thing that you'll have to retain is a lot so spending too much time on a certain topic would lead you to overlook on other more important ones. Be systematic.
6. Team work
Remember the point I made about asking help from smarter friends? This time it's not just for yourself, it's for the whole batch too. As we approached the exam, we narrowed down some 'spots' that we expected to come out. Not that I would suggest you to make 'spots' because it's now always reliable but at least, if you can't remember everything, some topics are within your power to score. It's crucial to know that I have read and understand all the core knowledge in the syllabus but I focused on some topics more than the rest for this pro exam. How? The topics are sorted out from our PBLs, case studies and past years. Therefore, some of my batch-mates made an effort to write it on mahjong papers and stick it on the wall along the LRC for everyone to refer to. They practically camped out there- eat, sleep, read. Literally.
That would be it. I hope some of you could gain some ideas on what to do as the pro exam approaches. It's a big exam and the first leap you'll make into clinical year but please don't disregard your self-care and health. All the best and may you pass the exam with flying colours xoxo