Dr Mahfuza Islam shares her experience of passing the MRCGP AKT on her first attempt despite being convinced she had failed. In this article she shares her top tips for anyone preparing for this challenging exam, and the resources she found most helpful.
1. Start early!
I decided to sit for the AKT exam in April 2023 just at the start of my ST2 year. Having spoken to GP Trainees who sat for this exam before me, gave me an idea that this exam needed a lot preparation and intense studying since you need to focus on 3 different domains- Clinical, Statistics and Admin/Organisation. I only had 3 months to prepare, but ideally 4-6 months preparation time is sufficient for those who have other responsibilities (family, childcare, health issues, work etc)
There is no perfect way of preparing for this exam. Everyone has different techniques but I thought of sharing some of my top tips that helped me pass my AKT exam on my very first attempt.
2. Speak to GP trainees who have sat for this exam
This was golden for me! I believe in sharing knowledge, experiences and learning from mistakes. Nearly 8 out of the 10 seniors I had spoken to passed their AKT in their second attempt. And trust me, there is no shame in having to resit as long as you learn from your first attempt and go on to pass! Listening to everyone’s studying technique/materials helped me to prepare a strategy for my own exam.
3. Create a timetable/rota for yourself:
I booked all my study leave and annual leave in advance. This is so crucial. It is so much easier to get time off while working in Primary Care (not impossible if you are working in a hospital post, needs more dedication). I made sure I had 3 complete weeks off before the exam and took annual leave on either Fridays/Mondays to get longer weekends to study. In our deanery, you are eligible to get 5 days of study leave for exam preparation, excluding the day of the exam. I printed off this timetable and kept it on my table where I wrote down topics to be covered for the next 3 months.
4. Find yourself a study partner
I usually prefer sitting in a quiet room and doing my own reading. I was indeed very lucky to come across a GP trainee from a different deanery where we soon became friends and planned our preparation together. This was so important during the studying process because I was able to ask questions/teach each other or by simply talking to the same person sailing on the same boat as you kept me so mentally sane!
5. Use a range of study materials
The most important part everyone wants to know! After sitting for this exam, I have realised there is no superior question bank. If you have time, just be consistent and do as many questions as you can- as long as you are learning something new since this exam requires so much knowledge and the syllabus is so vast!
Passmedicine- I would recommend starting off with this, topic by topic and making your own short notes as you go along solving questions. I like being organised and I learn better by writing my own notes in all sorts of colours and pictures. This formed my textbook; I filed my notes with extra paper so that I could add on more notes as I solved question banks. It took me 1.5 months to complete Passmedicine (I did not do the Admin and Stats) while working full time. It was not easy! I would be coming back from work at around 19:00pm and after resting up, I would study until midnight trying to at least cover 20-30 questions on weekdays. I would do about 100-150 questions on weekends.
GP Self Test- I then kept revising my notes from Passmedicine and attempted GP Self-Test, again topic by topic. This was much easier and quicker and I added on extra notes to new information I came across. The format of this exam was very similar to the actual exam, the only difference is that the actual AKT exam questions were much longer than GP self test, so please work on time management! It took me about 3 weeks to complete this question bank.
RCGP ADMIN and STATISTICS Course:
Make use of every little course that comes your way! I was lucky that my Deanery had a one-day Admin and Statistics Course. I would recommend you visit the RCGP website and watch out for key dates. I did a bit of Admin and Stats reading early on just to grasp concepts (since I am a very slow learner) and then went bang on towards the end before the exam. I also found solving statistics and admin questions from I-Medics, this was free online!
I then heavily relied on Dr Mahibur Rahman’s useful resources towards the end of my revision, about 1 month before the actual exam. I would highly recommend the AKT organisational domain organised (Admin) and Medical Statistics Made Simple half day courses. I got the package which also included 2 x High Yield Clinical crammer webinars. I chose the recorded option which has the same content. The videos were very well structured and easy to understand. The High Yield Clinical Webinar covered a lot of valuable key topics- I also came across quite a lot of important graphs (audiograms, calculating alcohol units/insulin dosage, interpreting spirometry/flow volume curves, uroflowmetry patterns, palliative medication conversion dosages etc). This definitely appears frequently in the AKT exam!
While I was at work and had time in between reviewing patients, I used the Emedica Clinical Case Cards for quick revision during gaps or when a patient did not attend. These were 112 case cards which were concise summaries of key topics relevant for the exam, most were summarised so it was easy to remember!
MRCGP AKT Study Group– founded by Emedica. I joined this Facebook group and realised there were so many free videos and valuable information available. I also went through the free AKT 30 day challenge videos which Dr Rahman posted in his Facebook group. Just listening to his voice was so supportive and his easy explanation made me grasp topics saving me time.
I was considering to join the AKT Pass Guarantee Programme (PGP). Emedica offers both the 90 day and 150 day programme. Unfortunately, I only got to know about this much later on in my preparation and missed the start of the programme. Again, I know quite a lot of my own colleagues who enrolled in this program and they loved every bit of it!
Emedica AKT Mocks: There are 3 sets of mocks available: Mock A, B and C. I did 2 out of the 3 just a few days before the exam under timed conditions to get the feel of the actual exam. Since my exam was scheduled in the morning, I ensured I had a morning routine adjusted to my circadian rhythm. To my surprise, the scores from my mock exam was an actual representative of my AKT exam score.
6. Don’t study too much the day before the exam:
I made a small list of key topics that required memorising, pictures of common Dermatological conditions from two common websites (DermNet and PCDS), DVLA and fitness to fly rules. I drove to the exam centre and ensured I knew where to park my car the next morning! I stopped studying completely by 17:00pm, went for a walk and tried to sleep off early.
7. Tips for the day of the exam
I worked really hard, sacrificing my social life for 3 months. I trusted my preparation and I know I was so prepared for this exam. However, anything can happen which is out of your control sometimes. The night before the exam, the anxiety level kicked in so hard, I was unable to sleep properly which made me feel unwell on the day of the exam. I ensured I had a full breakfast and a good amount of caffeine. Food/water is not allowed in the exam hall. Definitely go the washroom before the exam starts because once you are inside, if you do need a toilet or water break in between, it only means you are losing time since the exam timer will tick away. There are so many factors to actually pass this exam- it is so important to steady your nerves, keep your mind calm and think carefully. Unfortunately, after completing the first 100 questions, I realised I was 20 minutes behind of time. The thoughts of failing played up and I teared up during the exam. My mind went completely blank. I stepped out of the exam room for 5 minutes, took a deep breath, calmed myself down and told myself to just go in and do my best. For the remaining 100 questions, I just skim read and completed all the clinical questions first and flagged and attempted the statistics questions towards the end- it was better to answer as many questions as possible then to leave questions unanswered! I managed to complete the exam having just 1 minute to go through any flagged question- not so useful!
8. After the exam
Having sat so many international exams before, I knew I messed up by running short of time (although I had prepared so well!). I was so upset and devastated. I felt so cold after this exam. I was so prepared to fail and waiting the next 1 month for the results was very daunting! To my surprise, I scored an overall 75.5%- way above my expectations! I was lucky to have scored really well in the clinical domain. I am over the moon to know that I do not need to resit this challenging exam ever again! My advice would be to not over think anything after the exam while waiting for the results, whatever is done is done and nothing can be changed by worrying. It is so important to look after your mental and physical health and even if you can not clear the exam on your first attempt, it is not the end of the world. Hence, it is so important to sit for the AKT early on so that you can get it out of your way and focus on the other aspects of your GP training and life of course! If I can pass after a chaotic exam day, so can you! All the very best everyone!
Dr Mahfuza Islam