How I passed the MRCGP AKT with 94% overall – tips for AKT preparation

The AKT has a large curriculum and is a challenging exam. Dr Rachel Foster shares her experience of balancing AKT preparation with a busy schedule at work and home and tips on what helped her pass her exam with a score of 94% overall in her first attempt.

Revising for the AKT with three children and a busy home life was a bit of a daunting prospect.

In my experience, organisation and focus were key. I went into the exam feeling as prepared as it was possible to feel; the information below explains how I prepared in order to feel like this.

Timing of the Exam 

From the moment I started GP training, I knew I wouldn’t have the option to sit and study for AKT for a solid period of time.

As a result, by the end of ST1, I was using any “free” time I had without the kids (sitting on trains or buses, waiting to debrief after clinical sessions, listening at my youngest’s door to check he’d gone to sleep) to answer AKT questions and review NICE CKS guidelines on topics encountered in clinical work. Being able to link what I learned to patients I saw in clinical practice helped me to remember this information; applying guidelines to clinical scenarios helped motivate me to review these guidelines. 

When I chose to do the exam was slightly dictated to me by school holidays: sitting the October AKT meant that I hopefully wouldn’t end up having to revise during my kids’ Christmas and Easter holidays. Booking the exam for October gave me a definite deadline and focused my revision after the summer holidays. Before then, I had revised in snatched minutes (which, added together, will have amounted to hours of time!), but having a deadline forced me to set aside time in the evenings.

Revision Strategies 

From the end of ST1, I used several different question banks (Emedica, PassMedicine and GP Self Test), familiarising myself with the format of AKT questions and identifying my weaker areas.

I was much less good at the statistics and admin / organisational domains, each of which comprises 10% of the total mark. I found these areas a lot less interesting to revise, and not as directly relevant to my clinical practice. As a result, I made myself devote time to these domains, filtering the question banks to focus on statistics and admin / organisational. I also signed up for the Emedica Statistics and Organisational webinars, which helped me to concentrate on and feel more comfortable with these questions.

Given the time pressures in the exam, it is particularly important to feel confident and familiar with the format in which information is presented on the AKT paper. Watching the Emedica Statistics webinar, and going through multiple statistics questions from different question banks, meant that I instantly recognised the formats (graphs and tables) used in my AKT. As a result, I didn’t waste time wondering how to interpret information, I just got on with answering the questions.

The Ticking Clock- Strategies for September and October!

My children (who were 13, 11 and 3 at the time) were all off school and nursery during the summer. I knew in advance that I wouldn’t be able to work much in August and would have to cram a lot of my final revision into September and October. For me, it was vital to be realistic about what time was available, and about the times at which it would be possible to work in a focused way. It’s easy to waste hours sat in front of a question bank with your mind drifting to a million different things; I’ve always found setting aside a couple of hours a day, at a time I know will be good for me, far more effective. In some ways, knowing there’s not much time available also helps to focus the mind!

Discussing the AKT with friends who’d sat it in the previous year provided additional focus. They were able to point me toward topics that had come up multiple times in previous exams, which gave me a sense of which guidelines and information to give the most attention. Likewise, reading through exam feedback on the RCGP website helped to direct me towards key topics.

I also signed up to do the Emedica AKT 200 Question Crammer course, knowing that I wouldn’t manage to listen live, but would have access to recordings. This course concentrated on high yield topics by going through 200 questions in timed condition followed by answers and rapid reviews of the relevant topics and guidelines. It enhanced my familiarity with possible questions, increased my awareness of pitfalls when answering these questions, and recapped the information needed to answer questions correctly. I found some of the questions quite difficult, which set me a challenge and increased my motivation.

Everyone has a slightly different learning style and slightly different way of remembering things. By the time we enter GP training we all have a lot of experience of medical exams, and of strategies that have worked well for us in the past. With limited time, it is particularly important to draw upon this knowledge.

For me, writing information out in flow charts or brainstorms, and adding pictures, helps cement the information in my brain. I did a lot of this. I also found some of the memory strategies used in Emedica’s “AKT 30 day challenge” very useful for last minute revision. 

The Days Before

I took a few days’ study leave just prior to my AKT, which meant I had time whilst the kids were at school and at the childminder’s to devote to exam preparation. I read through my notes and highlighted key points (a strategy I know works for me!) and went through questions I’d previously gotten wrong on question banks. In this last period of time, using a variety of different revision strategies (some questions, some reading, some writing) helps to prevent revision from becoming monotonous and maintains focus.

Given our busy lives, it’s not always possible, but my top tip for the days just prior to the exam would be to prioritise sleep! There’s little chance of gaining lots of marks from new information absorbed the night before the exam; there’s much more chance of losing marks on the day because of being tired and misreading questions!

The Day of the Exam

I went into the exam feeling familiar with the style of questions and aware of potential pitfalls when reading the questions.

It’s important to recognise that it isn’t possible to know everything before going into the exam. However, if you’re confident with key topics, and have prepared well for the Statistics and Admin questions, it’s possible to work out a lot of the answers!

Good luck with your preparation and in the exam!

Dr Foster passed her AKT with 94% overall, with an amazing 95.6% in clinical, 95% in stats, and 80% in admin.

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