Study tips

Wake up at the right time


Apparently most people sleep in 90 min cycles. So if for example you go to sleep for 6 hours, it’s actually 4 cycles, of 90 min each.


The theory is that if you wake up in the middle of one of these cycles, you wake up exhausted and groggy.


If you wake up at the end of a cycle, you feel more fresh.


Print out this chart to help you work out what time you should set the alarm clock.



Structure your day


Try this technique, it’s called ‘Pomodoro’ (it means ‘tomatoe‘ in italian !).


You study for about 15-25 min chunks, then take a 5 min break.


After four ‘chunks’ you take a longer break e.g. 30 min.


Version 1 has 15 min chunks (pictureVUE file)


Version 2 has 25 min chunks, with 5 min breaks built in (pictureVUE file)



Are you sitting comfortably?


This is such an important topic, it has a whole page dedicated to it.





Some people find it easier to study with some background noise.





Use the right tools


Glass whiteboard.

There like normal whiteboards, but never get worn out.

They can be really expensive so instead use a glass chopping board with a white backing e.g. click here.

If you want a massive version to keep on your desk all the time, you can buy a glass top that is meant to sit on top of a chest of drawers from Ikea.






You really don’t want to get repetitive strain injury when your a little older.


Save yourself the agony and buy an ergonomic mouse (or tablet).


There’s a few different designs, so get which ever you feel comfortable with.


mouse 2






Students get a massive discount, so now’s the time to buy Microsoft Office, and what ever else you need.




This amazing software reads out your assignments so you can hear your mistakes, and also reads out anything you highlight e.g. a wikipedia article.


The ‘reader and a single voice’ package costs about £35.


You can improve the pronunciation of any weird sounding medical terms.



Learn the key words for MCQ’s


MCQ’s are a lot easier once you know which key words are linked with a particular answer.


I made this database which links keywords from the question to an answer.


E.g.  If you read the following words in the question ‘halitosis, regurgitation and neck lump’ you know the answer is ‘pharyngeal pouch’.


It doesn’t matter when the symptoms start, or how old he is or if was fish and chips or beans on toast.


One you read the key words, you just need to select the answer and move on.


No more thought needed.


No more time needed pondering over the question.



Online question banks


123 doc


Not reviewed


Cost = £25 for 6 months




Exam consult  (as of 2011) Total score = 4.5 / 5


Content = 5 / 5

MCQ’s and EMQ’s.

Pictures included e.g. ecg’s, chest Xrays, dermatology pictures


Usability = 4.5 / 5

Clear on screen layout.

There is a short one sentence answer, and then a longer answer if you want more detail.

Ability to choose specific topics e.g. cardiology, respiratory etc

Results page gives a breakdown of your progress.

One little annoying thing to look out for. If you get the question wrong, do not click other options until you pick the correct answer, because this will show up in the results page as if you answered it correctly with your first attempt. So if you answer it wrong, just click the ‘Show answer’ button.


Cost = 3.5 / 5

£60 for 6 months (should be a little cheaper)






Not reviewed


Cost = £50 for 6 months




PasTest (as of 2010) Total score = 2 / 5


Content = 2.5 / 5

Full of little and big errors. I sent them a list of all the errors, not sure if they have bothered to correct them.


Usability = 2 / 5

Horrible layout makes it difficult to sit through many questions for any length of time.


Cost = 5 / 5

£35 for 6 months


Finals revision courses


There are broadly 3 types of finals revision courses:


a) Lecture type course.


b) Practical skills type course.


c) Miscellaneous / weird courses.


 a) Lecture type courses


Examples include: Professional medical education, Hammersmith medicine, Ask Dr Clarke


These are good way to waste your time and money.


Q) If their so rubbish, then why do loads of students go on these courses?


A) Fear that they will miss out on some vital information that will cause them to fail their exams.



You can get the same thing for free from the comfort of your bedroom. Check out Dr Feather’s lectures.



MDU both medical and surgical course (as of 2011) Total score = 1 / 5


These last an entire weekend. You sit in a lecture theatre, with about 70 other students and listen to one lecturer for 2 days.

At the end of the weekend you leave with a pre-printed 200 page set of notes which:


Note: The lecturer’s were excellent. But they didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know in terms of medical knowledge.



 b) Practical skills type courses


Examples include: RSM, Dr Exam, Doctors Academy, Mentor OSCE


These are more interesting.


They focus on OSCE’s, which is where 99% of students fail.




Royal Society of Medicine course (as of 2011) Total score = 4.5 / 5


14 OSCE stations. You go round as a group of 4 students.


You spend about 15-20 minutes in the station.


I went round in a group of 3 students and we just about managed to get all of us to practice, so going round in a group of 4 will probably mean one of you may not get to practice the station.




ACE the OSCE Total score = 0 / 5


*Note: this review is based on the free sample clips they provide*


Basically the mock OSCE stations they go through are absolutely atrocious.


The ‘student’ is seen saying such ridiculous things as “I’m looking for clubbing, I’m looking for signs of splinter haemorrhages, I’m looking for palmar erythema”.


Aarrgghh ! ! !


If I was the examiner  I would be fuming with rage. I know your looking for x, y, and z…but is it present?



c) Miscellaneous / weird type courses


These courses are a little different.


e.g. ACE the written finals, weekend course answering multiple choice questions.



Day of the exam


Take a bottle of water into the exam room.



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