Top Tips for Exam Revision from a Trainee ACCP

Stevie Park

When I first started my trainee ACCP journey, I had not idea what was in store for me. I felt pretty confident as an experienced critical care nurse and I have always said some of my top qualities are being organised and good at time management. Then came the time to start preparing for our end of year OSCE and MCQ exam.

Apart from completing my Adult Critical Care Course, I had not done an OSCE or exam since being a student nurse – 10 years ago! I felt so out of my depth and nerves had completely taken over, especially for the OSCE. Just the thought of having my knowledge assessed by consultants and qualified ACCPs I didn’t know, about things I have only spent the last few months learning about, terrified me. I started asking other trainee and qualified ACCPs and all grades of doctors (including medical students) how they got through each of their exams and what they felt helped.

This helped me find my own ways of getting through my first year assessments (and hopefully the 2nd). By no means, did I score 100%, but I passed! So hopefully, something on this list will help someone else too.

Being organised

I think this goes without saying but try to be as organised as possible. Personally, I love writing lists. Ticking off completed tasks give me satisfaction. I have a diary for my personal/every day things that I need to do but I also have an academic planner which allows me to track when I have an assignment due in or when I have a work meeting. This also gives me the opportunity to see when I can fit in some revision.

There are also lots of apps that can now be downloaded if you are a bit more of a tech enthusiast.

Revision should not be rushed, so start early. Although this is not going to be the same for every subject, try to enjoy what you’re learning about.

Utilise as many people as possible

I was actually surprised at just how many people were willing to help with my revision, but I suppose they have been in the same boat, probably more than once! For my exam, consultants arranged extra teaching and revision sessions for my colleagues and I. There was also the option for 1:1 or small group teaching. I also utilised a lot of registrars, ACCPs and some SHOs for OSCE practice. Very kindly, they made up patient cases and asked me questions about them – I found this extremely helpful, especially as I didn’t know some of these doctors quite well, which made me more nervous but more like the real thing!

I also asked medical students about any exams and OSCE’s that they had recently undertaken to see what I could potentially be asked.

My fellow trainee ACCPs and I were regularly given a topic and some questions by our lead consultant and then we would present and teach that topic to each other. We all found this helpful and interesting to see each other’s teaching styles. It also helped us sign off our teaching competency!

Utilise as many resources as possible

Probably something else that goes without saying, but find out what other people use and see if that works for you. There are lots of books, websites, videos, apps, forums and all sorts out there. What I used will probably not be relevant for most people reading this, but find people who have done that same or similar exam/OSCE/assignment and see what resources they used.

 Although I own a kindle, I am also guilty of buying new books. I love a brand new book however, through my first year back at university, I ended up buying so many new books that I thought I needed, not reading most of them and spending a huge amount of money to go with it. Nearly every hospital (and uni) has a library, so use it! Knowing that book has to go back in a couple of weeks’ time, might give you the kick you need to read it.

Revision Techniques

When talking all things exam with one of my colleagues, she asked me if I’d heard of the Pomodoro revision method. I had not. The idea is to study for 25 minutes, take a five minute break and continue to do so four times in a row. This allows you to be more productive by focusing on one task at a time and achieve a balance between quantity and quality revision. After a bit more investigation, I found there are several different revision techniques that you can use, so it’s helpful to research a few and find which one works best for you.

Finally – Everyone fails something

Ok, so probably not everyone, but again, another surprising moment for me was talking to people and finding out how many had failed something or other. I noticed a theme of lack of preparation and practice. I spoked to people I looked up to, who I knew were excellent at their jobs and fantastic with patients. And they still are! But that doesn’t mean they haven’t had to deal with failure.

When I first found out, I failed my research module, I was devastated. Call me dramatic, but it really did feel like the end of world…Turns out it wasn’t. Did I use my own tips? No I didn’t, so its not really surprising that the module didn’t go as I’d liked. Failing something doesn’t make you ‘bad’ at your job and it is important to remember that.

There are many more tips and I could write all day, but that would make this a very long blog and a simple google search will bring them all up! This list is just what worked the best for me. To all those sitting exams, good luck!

Stevie is a trainee advanced critical care practitioner at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire. She also works as a flight nurse specialising in repatriation abroad and for the West Midlands Adult Critical Care Transfer Service. In her spare time, she enjoys days out with her family and travels as much as she can.