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  • Gazala Hitawala

5 Key Elements Before the MBBS Practical Exams

This is part 2 of the MBBS practical exams series. In the previous post, I shared about the MBBS practical exam free resources. With this post, I am taking it a step further by talking about the 5 key elements to implement before you appear for the MBBS practical exams. The term ‘exam’ in itself carry anxiety, let alone the practical exams, that too for a medical student is mentally exhausting. I hear you, I have been through these tormenting exam experience myself. However, I realised over the years that there is a way to decode these exams. And with this post, I am sharing those insights with you. Here are some cardinal points you should take care of before the MBBS practical exam.

Talk to your college seniors

Medical college seniors are of great help. Especially when it comes to the practical or clinical MBBS exam. And why not? They have gone through the exact same process before you. Since the practical/clinical exam’s format and marking scheme may vary from one MBBS college to another, your seniors can guide you more effectively.

Do not just take the list of the exam questions from your seniors or just get away with the list of the faculty members who take the exam. In fact, note all the little details.

Ask the following questions:

What resources should I use to study before the exam?

What resources do you think is not helpful for the exam?

How did you prepare with this resource?

What other strategies did you implement alongside these resources?

Can you give me the list of the specimens/ spots that are asked in the exam?

How did you identify these spots in the exam?

Do you have any notes for the identifying features of the spots?

How should I proceed with the exam after identifying the spot?

What are the key points I should cover?

How should I begin my answer?

What is the best way to present my answer?

Which faculty members are likely to take the exam?

What are the personality traits of each of the faculty members?

Which faculty member has a tight hand in marking?

Which faculty member is the most generous to award marks?

Do the faculty provide a chance to pick a topic of my choice for the viva?

Which topic is the most important in each subject and should be on my tips for the viva?

What are the one-liner questions asked in the viva? How is the marking scheme divided?

How can I cover-up in the practical exam if one section of the exam gives me a hard time?

How did you manage time between the multiple practical exam sections?

How should I dress up for the exam?

What are the necessary pieces of equipment I should carry?

Is the exam expected to stretch till the evening?

This might sound like too much but it isn’t; consider it a part of a casual conversation you have with a friend and slide through each question via a fun interaction with your seniors.

Meet the residents/ faculty members before the exam

You see the pattern here? We are running through the hierarchy to take information at every level, and turn it into our best. First college seniors; then the residents.

As residents are more experienced than your immediate seniors, they can tell more about the ‘real clinical world’. Moreover, residents are mostly present in the clinics during the exam; thus, they know how the real exam is executed every year. Often times, residents also have insight about which examiners will take the exam on the set dates.

Since they are working day and night with the faculty members, they can tell you more about their ‘exam personality’. Take everything with a pinch of salt, we all have different perspectives about every situation. Likewise, what your seniors or residents consider a challenging situation might not be as challenging for you. You are just trying to get some idea to be prepared for the worse but do not let it overpower your sanity.

Most importantly, take help from the residents to learn everything clinically. Even if it is a preclinical subject, go to the labs sit with them and ask them to show you all the cases/ experiments. This will build visual memory in your brain.

Keep in mind that you have already talked to your immediate seniors about the crucial topics and resources. So, use that list here to ensure you have gone through everything with the residents. If there is something on your list that the resident/ faculty missed out on, politely make a request to them.

Try to build a camaraderie with the residents during these days. As they might themselves be assisting on the exam day, they can make you feel more comfortable during those anxious hours.

Do it yourself

After taking care of above-mentioned, take hands-on experience yourself before the exam. Go to the hospital or the labs and go through everything on your own. Do it like you would do it in the exam. Follow all the steps and the protocols in the same way.

Put a timer to keep a record of the time. If you find yourself exceeding the time limit, practice more. Evaluate yourself to know where you can minimise the time.

Look at the spots, and identify them on your own, spend time with the patients from the history to creating a management plan. Look at all the drugs as the brands may vary from what you have seen in presentation or textbooks. Note the identifying features of each drug.

If you are in the preclinical years, take permission from the faculty to access the labs before the exams.

Click pictures and create videos for everything that you see. This will help you revise before the exam. Do not just rely on the videos or images shared by a friend.

You won’t get it unless you do it yourself.

Organise your videos/ images

From personal experience, I can say how important this step is. After putting in work and spending extra hours in clinics, if you do not organise the images/ videos/ notes, it will turn you into a mess before the exam. Make sure to create subject wise folders in your phone or laptop where you have everything well organised with tags. This should be your one-stop where you can find everything together. You can use applications like Notion or Google Drive, which syncs between multiple devices.

Please do not skip this step, you will thank me later.

Q and A before the exam with your friends

The most effective way to study before the MBBS practical exam is to have a study partner. The practical exam often gets boring to prepare for, as you have already learnt this material, you are less proactive. And if there is something de novo, you are not motivated to start from scratch. To make it fun, prepare with a friend by quizzing each other.

You can even simulate the exam experience by doing a doctor-patient role-play and the student-examiner role play. This will take away the boredom, and you will learn better from the mistakes.

You need emotional and mental support when you prepare for the MBBS practical exam; to find someone who is in the same boat as you motivates you to take a stride.

Be available to your friends as well. Make it interactive and practice ‘mutualism‘. If you see that your friend is overstressed, don’t follow the same path; take steps to break the chain.

Be the support system for each other, and you will shine after all of this ends.

Do not forget to celebrate the end of the exam with a big cheesy pizza.

All the best.

You can’t achieve anything entirely by yourself. There is a support system that is a basic requirement of human existence. To be happy and successful on earth, you just have to have people that you rely on. -Michael Schur



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