How I passed my MRCGP AKT resit preparing while having a toddler and being pregnant – and why I failed my first attempt

The MRCGP AKT is a challenging exam, and many doctors need more than one attempt to pass. In this article, Dr Carla Harris discusses how she changed her approach to AKT preparation after failing her first attempt. She passed her resit with an overall score of 83.42%, with an amazing 95% in stats, and 90% in the admin domain. This is a huge achievement for any doctor – Dr Harris managed to prepare with a toddler, while being pregnant with her second!

Changing from surgical training to GP

I started GP training after Core Surgical Training. I decided to jump ship to GP training due to wanting more flexibility and control over my work-life balance. I have always wanted to work in a job that has a lot of variety, and I felt GP fit my career interests perfectly.

I decided to sit the AKT early in ST2. Along with the experience from my core surgical training and foundation year placements, I felt I was well equipped with a wide breadth of knowledge to pass the AKT first time. I also had peers who had passed it first time, so I thought, why couldn’t I pass it first time too? Oh, how wrong I was!

My first attempt at the MRCGP AKT

For my first AKT attempt in October 2019, I used the advice of my peers who stated they only went through all the Passmedicine questions and passed. I hounded that question bank like no tomorrow and spent hours going through questions, one topic at a time. I didn’t use any other question bank. I read some of the NICE CKS guidelines, but this was very ad-hoc and definitely not in any detail.

I also signed up to and watched some of the Emedica webinars, which were really useful and I found I learnt the most from these. Looking back, I was pretty naïve to think I could pass first time just because others had. I had been working in hospital medicine for nearly 5 years and had not completed a GP placement recently, therefore, my mindset was very much hospital based. I was not thinking like a GP at all!

The exam day came. Feeling pretty confident, I sat down at the computer to do the exam. The questions were a lot more difficult than I expected, but I felt I might have just done enough to scrape a pass, once again, like my peers had done. Results day quickly came and to my disappointment, I failed. My results were as follows:

Overall 65.83%

Clinical 65%

Evidence-based practice 75%

Organisation and management 63.16%

Exam cancellation and dealing with the pandemic

I wanted to get back on the horse ASAP and keep the momentum of what I had learnt for my first attempt going. I fell pregnant soon after receiving my AKT results, so I was keen to tick off the exam before starting my maternity leave. So much so that I signed up to Emedica’s AKT Pass Guarantee Programme (PGP) and I booked the AKT for April 2020. I was due to start my maternity leave in June 2020, so it would be the only sitting I could do before I started my leave, but something I could never have predicted derailed that plan!

As we all know, a global pandemic took hold in late 2019. The RCGP had no choice but to cancel the April 2020 AKT sitting. I was devastated. They held an extra exam sitting at the beginning of August 2020 which I couldn’t sit because I would be heavily pregnant. My plans of ticking off the exam had gone out the window.

I emailed the Emedica team, explaining my situation and asked if I could put my PGP on hold and restart it after I returned to work post maternity leave. Without hesitation, they honoured my request and explained I could restart the whole PGP without paying any extra money. If I could have seen them face to face and social distancing rules weren’t as tight as they were, I would have kissed each and every one of them to say thank you! My stresses instantly lifted.

Planning my AKT resit

I returned to work and planned to sit the AKT 6 months later. I’m a glutton for punishment because soon after I started back at work, I fell pregnant with our second child and there was only 1 sitting I could take before I started maternity leave. As soon as I made the decision to sit the exam, I emailed Emedica and checked they would honour their offer of starting the PGP again. Of course, they said yes. They advised that I enrol on the 150 day programme instead of the 90 day programme because they knew having a toddler and being pregnant would be hard work along with revising. I really appreciated their advice and support.

How my preparation changed second time around

The AKT Pass Guarantee Programme was integral in helping me not only pass the exam but smash it! The programme gave me a really good structure to my revision and ensured I didn’t slack. I am an eternal procrastinator and get distracted very easily, so the programme kept me on the straight and narrow! Especially with a toddler, having a very busy job and being pregnant.

The programme highlighted where I went wrong. I shouldn’t have spent 90% of my time on one question bank and neglecting NICE CKS guidelines, as I did with my first AKT attempt that I failed. The PGP showed me it should have been the other way around. I had never read so many NICE CKS guidelines as I did during the PGP. It also emphasised that using a variety of question banks is very useful and as part of the programme we used both the Emedica AKT question bank and the RCGP self test questions. I found it helpful to be part of the PGP Whatsapp group where we discussed topics which helped with learning and to generally support each other.

I sat the exam in April 2022, and I am pleased to say I passed comfortably! My results were as follows:

Overall 83.42%

Clinical 81.13%

Evidence-based practice 95%

Organisation and management 90%

If you’re thinking to sign up to the PGP, just do it! It is worth its weight in gold and the improvement in my scores is a testament to that. If you have a few factors in your life that might make revision difficult or your confidence about passing the exam isn’t where it should be, such as a previous exam failure, having young children and a busy daily workload, I would highly recommend the programme. It helps to ensure your knowledge is built without you realising how much you have covered and this in turn builds confidence when you start seeing you can answer a lot of questions from question banks. I cannot thank the Emedica team enough, they definitely helped me pass!

Dr Carla Harris joined the Emedica 150 day AKT pass guarantee programme and improved her overall AKT score from 65.83% to 83.42% between sittings – and improved in all 3 domains, with an impressive 95% in stats, and 90% in admin.