#TipsforEMexams: Heather Murray’s Exam Tips

In Mentorship, TipsForEMExams by Heather Murray1 Comment

Survivor of the 1997 exam (wow… does the exam really go that far back?)

There is not much to add to the excellent tips already posted. But here I go with my tips. Incidentally they are the same things that I frequently tell my children!

  1. Answer practice questions – over and over again. There is a whole pile of evidence which supports what you already know: highlighting an article or a textbook is a low level retention strategy. Writing out the content is better. But if you really want that information to stay in your head, practice retrieving it. Create practice questions for yourself and the others in your study group, find old practice exams, and ask your program to make questions during teaching sessions. Every time you retrieve the information, the neural pathway in your brain becomes clearer and better developed. This goes for oral examinations too.
  2. Get rid of distractions. Take yourself somewhere where no one can find you, turn off your phone and email, and focus on whatever you have decided to learn. You will be pleasantly surprised how rapidly you can get through what you need to do when you are not constantly interrupted buy the lure of a text, facebook post or an email. Or the sudden inexplicable need to reorganize your kitchen cutlery drawer.
  3. Study strategically. You can predict some of the exam content if you think about it carefully. Guess what? You might need to manage a difficult airway and a pediatric critically ill patient. There are certain emergencies that are core competencies, and guess what? They show up on the exam that is intended to test those competencies. These cases are coming and it is clearly an appropriate expectation for graduating emergency physicians to manage these well. So, have it down to a fine art – rehearse the cases you know you will see again and again, and take them to their worst possible conclusion. Your difficult airway will need a cricothyroidotomy and your pediatric case will arrest… eventually. Be ready to rock it like a champion.
  4. Reward yourself. You do not have unlimited stamina to crush information into your brain. Set yourself a time limit, study hard and then reward yourself with something – exercise, coffee with a fellow exam study sufferer, or a nice meal with your lonely partner. Repeat. Those little psychological boosts can get you through even the most tedious of study topics (workplace environmental toxicology, anyone?).

Good luck!

I tag …

1. Rachel Poley (St. Mike’s)

2. Conor McKaigney (Queen’s / KGH)

Heather Murray

Emergency Physician and Medical Educator at Queen's University
Heather is an emergency physician and Associate Professor at Queens University. Within the Queens School of Medicine she oversees the 2nd year curriculum and teaches Evidence-based Medicine, research methods, and diagnostic reasoning.
BoringEM has been 'bringing the boring' to emergency medicine since 2012. In 2016 this Canadian blog brought its content to CanadiEM.