Ideas on Studying Moving Forward / by Muhammad Amir Ayub

And so I passed the recent FCAI Written Exam on the 28th of February. So now I can start planning on how to approach the Final Clinical/SOE. So far I haven’t decided on when to sit for it. There will be 2 available dates: 1 in May and another in November. I’m leaning towards November as I need a mental vacation. It might also be difficult to do the exams in May as I’m in the GICU rotation that month. Just going on cruise control for a while is probably the best choice. Besides, short of winning some gambling games, I don’t see me having enough money to sit for the exam and associated travel (they only host it in Dublin).

I think that I should try to break up my notes into smaller, more quickly finished topics. One thing I noticed during the written exams was that there was a lot of low-hanging fruit which I didn’t cover with focus. Most of the topics were all ones of the “I’ve read this once upon a time” variety and were quite frankly relatively simple.  But if you’ve never read them anyway and thought of your daily work in an academic manner how would you be able to put it in writing?

With the way I do notes at the moment, I’ve been trying to cover fully the topics I’m making notes on, whether the issues are common or relatively obscure with the same level of attention. This is especially difficult when trying to continue making notes on another day, trying to recover the train of thought from the previous note making session (which can sometimes be a few days in between). By breaking them up into smaller subtopics and focus on what is the likely hot key points, I can quickly move on to another major topic, while not hindering the ability to work on another subtopic at another time without messing up the flow. The more obscure points will be covered by reading alone without writing. This is partly inspired by OpenAnesthesia’s Key to the Cart podcasts: just a few minutes talking based on a few key words. This seems to be the best way to approach the way the CAI has been in my experience: a broad base of topics, with only some topics discussed deeply and many others relatively superficially.

As for sources of topics to cover in day-to-day studying, in addition to the usual "stuff that I encounter" and "stuff on Wednesday teaching sessions", I'll go back to my usual email AnaesthesiaUK newsletter of past FRCA questions (different format but similar breadth of topics I'd assume) to look for things to cover.


 Examples of question from the AnaesthesiaUK newsletter

Examples of question from the AnaesthesiaUK newsletter

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The priority will be given to reading for all "stuff that I encounter" and "Wednesday tutorials" first. Whatever free time is left will be spent on note-making on a variety of topics, with the priority on (Addendum: questions that came out in the written exam and) sample questions from AnaesthesiaUK, while looking at the CAI website and ensuring that I have a healthy balance between the different major topics. Since it's a structured oral exam, the key will be getting the important keywords and not go too lengthy (and take away time that should be spent a wider base of topics). But notes must be made: the process of processing information into a "final form" that is readily accessible has been the key so far to efficiency and efficacy.

Not so much a revolution, but more of a fine-tune to the approach that I've used since 2013, that has given me slow but steady success.