Elgabry’s Postgraduate Medical Exam Preparation Cycle
(Recommended method for medical exam preparation)
On preparation for postgraduate medical exams, the method suitable for undergraduates is not ideal for the practicing physicians. Again, the type of questions is a prime guide to the material to be studied and even the areas to be cared for. I’ve developed a study cycle that I named after my family; Elgabry, still its mnemonic has bigger chance to be popular.
My recommended method consists of seven steps cycle that are to be repeated several times (not less than three). The time span for every round and every step in each round is individualized according to personal profile and the available time prior to the aimed exam.
These seven steps are to be followed in order, any neglect will certainly affect the efficiency of the method, but the relative weight of every step is self-identified.
The medical postgraduate exam preparation cycle recommended consists of the following seven steps:
- Scanning: As a physician is not usually aware of the defect areas in his knowledge, he or she needs to scan for these defects. The screening method by going through the curriculum from A to Z although helpful , is very time consuming and gives impressions or overall picture that is a type of all or none situations. Another need in this step is to get accustomed to the type of questions, the structure of the stem, the illusions used and so on. The third and last need – I guess – is to make sure of the efficiency of one’s exam skills including time management, logic thinking and knowledge application. All these three needs are to be fulfilled by practicing exam type questions from exam pool, recalls or tailored materials in courses, web sites or books.
- Uncover: The output of the previous step is to uncover (not discover) the areas of defect in one’s knowledge. One should write down a list while practicing questions in the previous step. This list should accurately address the areas of defect, e.g. don’t write “apnea”, but otherwise write “types of apnea in children, clinical presentations of apnea, management of OSA, ……..” and so on. In addition to this list is another one; the bullets’ list in which the knowledge statements (fast facts, high yield, Key Learning Points) are listed.
- Collect: Dependence on only one source is unwise due to that the complete source is something imaginary in addition the way of presentation do differs. Another mistake is the dependence on books only as the periodicals are a mine for perfectly made materials. Another source is the manuals and guidelines.
- Convert: The job to be done in this step is to reformulate the material collected in a convenient presentation. Remember my recommendation of taking ‘the piece of knowledge’ you need from every collected source, that is may be a paragraph, a table, a graph, a chapter or even a sentence. The aim of such ‘remodeling’ is to stress your mind to remember as using your mind in this job helps it to remember, to put the material in a form that aid visual memory and minimize the time needed to revise the material just before the exam.
- Edit: by this word I mean the mission of cumulating the reformed collected material according to subject so as to form one structure or at least related mega form. The scattered pieces of knowledge presents a challenge for the human mind to memorize while the coalesced or related knowledge is much easier to remember. You don’t need to mention all the aspects of the issue as you are dealing with the defect areas of your knowledge and nothing more. For example, you may mention the management plan of a disease without mentioning its presenting scenarios or clinical picture.
- Study: Here is what we all know what we have to do, it is all about keeping the knowledge by heart or saving them to be available when needed!
- Share: This is the most important step in this cycle and in all the human knowledge development cycles as will! That is why I am writing these words. Remember that if you help other, Allah will help you.
It may be realized that this method is no more a waste of time and one should only do the first and penultimate steps of this series, but this is not true as the time spent in the in between four steps is a real investment that will be reflected on the quality of knowledge retain. I always tell my trainee that: “you are not only needed to gain, but to retain the knowledge as will. Still this will be of no value unless you know how to make use of it and overtly do so”.
Put in mind that, this is a cycle that is to be repeated at least thrice. Every round represents refining the product which will be your eventual ‘SUCCESS‘ . . . .
S . . Scan
U . . Uncover
C . . Collect
C . . Convert
E . . Edit
S . . Study
S . . Share
With my best wishes,
Dr. Ahmed B. Elgabry,