Arab Board Examination in the Last Few Months
I gave this article a lot of thought and consideration before writing- but why? Because I wish I had figured out a similar plan before I started med school.
Reading this article doesn’t mean you have to follow whatever I did, because each student’s method of learning is different. You choose whatever you feel helps you in the best way possible! Furthermore, reading this article when you’re in the third year, the fourth year, or even when you’re about to graduate doesn’t mean it’s too late! And I am going to explain this further below.
I’m certainly not going to start on a long lecture because I’m sure all of you have to attend enough of them every day. Instead, I’m going to make this article interactive (HOW?!)
Let’s start, shall we?
I’d like to begin by saying that I was unable to identify the method that works best for me until my fourth year of college. If you ask me how I was pre-med and how I am now, it’s like a 2020 Honda Civic compared to a 2010 model. For some the method sticks, and others it doesn’t, and that’s completely okay!
So, let’s begin here- first, give yourself a pat on the back because you made it! You are either on your way to becoming a doctor or already are one. That in itself is an accomplishment, my friend.
Second, identify what stage you are at:
Pre-med: Welcome aboard soldier! The journey has just begun and you have the chance to plan it right.
Med-school: It doesn’t matter which stage you are at as long as you start now!
Graduate: You’re about to set foot into a professional lifestyle filled with post-graduate exams. This is the time to build your stamina because the road just got longer and YOU CAN DO THIS!
Thirdly, let’s face the facts. Every exam is different. The only thing that should be similar between all of them, is you acing them. And the best way to do that is if you know how to study smart. Yes, read that again.
Study smart, don’t study hard.
The trick to acing exams is to study exam-based. Don’t expect to learn for a written exam like PLAB 1 and enter a clinical skills exam instead like PLAB 2. Even God won’t expect you to pass, buddy.
So this is the checklist I would suggest you can follow uniformly:
- Research the content of each exam:
This can vary from subject exams in med school like ‘Microbiology’ to international exams like USMLE or post-grad exams like MRCP. Do your research about the content and pattern of your exam.
- Questions banks:
Find past papers or sample questions taken within the past 6 months- 1 year. Exam patterns tend to change, so don’t follow older pass papers. If all else fails and you have no resources, do questions from international question banks like UWORLD or passmedicine.com.
During med school, I used to ask my immediate seniors about which books they utilized for studying. This is especially important because they were the latest batch who would have taken the exam you’re going to give now. Ask seniors who you know have scored well, so you can also trust their resources. Ask your professors or teaching assistants so they may guide you as well.
For graduates, you will be surprised at how much information you can find online. I personally found Facebook groups very helpful. Just type in the name of your international exam (ex- MRCP Part 1), join the suggested groups, and see what others say from experience.
You get a lot of suggestions on which books to choose, which kinds of question banks you can use and you even get to discuss exam questions with other students worldwide. A lot of students even post recalls which can help you deduce the right way to study for your exam.
Other useful resources for any stage of your life are well-known website platforms such as UptoDate and Medscape. If you are going to google topics, it is ideal for your search here where you can find every topic updated with the latest guidelines. Save the resource you benefit from so that you can refer to it later.
- Method of studying:
The obvious question here is, do you prefer studying alone, with a friend or in a group? If you prefer studying alone, figure out your method of learning:
- Reading books
- Reading books and making your own notes
- Reading books and making your own notes in drawings
- Listening to videos
- Listening to videos and making notes
- Teaching a friend
- Doing MCQs first and then learning topics
- If you feel like you don’t know which method applies to you, experiment. Try each method and see which one you adapt to best.
- If you prefer studying with a friend or in a group, which is a preferred method for hostelites, find people who have a similar learning method as you. Remember, your closest friend isn’t necessary for your ideal study buddy.
An important suggestion here is to be flexible. For example, if you’re used to reading books and your study buddy is introducing some really good videos, try it.
- Another pro-tip: if you can’t start studying, set a 20-minute timer on your phone, and start. See what you’re able to accomplish by then. If you’ve gotten into the flow, continue. If you’re still facing difficulty, practice some MCQs. Give yourself 10-15 minute breaks after 1-1.5 hours of studying as it helps you retain your knowledge better.
Make a list. Always make lists in order of importance. Categorize the list into 3 sections.
|Levels of importance||Topics|
|1||Platinum||These topics always come in the exam.|
Divide the topics into 2 groups.
1. Topics you don’t know very well
2. Topics you know very well
Your goal should be to start with category (1) and perfect them first. Then move to category 2.
|2||Gold||These are topics that are better to prepare for the exam but don’t get upset if you are unable to finish them- they are not as important.|
|3||Silver||These should be topics that you know well but aren’t prioritized in the exam. Leave them for a quick review towards the end.|
Your timetable is based on multiple factors:
- Question banks
These are some of the things that worked well for me in my timetable:
- Total number of pages to be studied in a book: 250 pages
- Number of days left before the exam: ( Decide if you want any day off in your week first, then calculate)- 14 days
- Number of pages to be studied per day: 250/14 = 18 pages per day
- Plan your day: 5 pages in 1 hour (put a timer of 1 hour so you are on track), so that’s 15 pages in 3 hours.. Approximately 18 pages in 3.5 hours.
- The remainder of your day should be spent in reviewing and doing as many MCQs.
- Total number of MCQs in MCQ book: 600 MCQs
- Number of days left before the exam: 14 days
- Number of MCQs to be done per day: 600/14: 43 MCQs per day
- You can complete this target by either doing 20 MCQs every hour, or 20 MCQs in the morning and 20 at night.
|8:00 – |
|Review previous day||Review previous day||Review previous day||Review previous day||Review previous day||Review previous day||Review previous day|
|9:00- 10:00||5 pages|
(You can modify this timetable to your liking, your duration of breaks needed, etc.)
I’m going to wrap up this article with a few valuable tips that have helped me through tough times:
- Always have a good night’s sleep the night before your exam and a glucose-sufficient breakfast on the big day.
- Always take a break when you desperately need one. A fresh mind is always better than a tired one.
- If you’re stuck on a topic, skip it and do the next one to save time. Come back to this one later.
- It’s always better to start late than never!
Lastly, if you don’t share knowledge, it will die with you. Give back to your juniors and strive to help a friend in need. You can’t imagine how far you’ll go with this way of thinking.
I hope you all benefitted from this article, should you have any further questions, feel free to contact me anytime!