Apologies this may be a bit long. Our colleagues in the northern deanery all submit their experiences on their orthnorth rotation website and the many other rotations (Oswestry, Oxford etc) also have a question bank as well. We thought it would be useful to build up a question bank for future colleagues taking the FRCS (Tr +Orth). The following are our experiences and cases the 5 of us had at the recent FRCS exam Chesterfield Feb 2015.
- All of us would like to acknowledge our friends and family for their support over the last year.
- We would like to thank all our trainers during the last 5 years as well as those we have recently worked for whilst doing the exam.
- We would like to thank trainers and senior colleagues who kindly gave up their valuable time to viva us, as well as colleagues kind enough to swap/cover commitments over the last few months
We would concur with most people revision is extremely personal and depends on how you work. Bola has already published his “long/short game theory”! The only advice we would give is if you have/will have a busy job or home life then start earlier. There is no avoiding the fact that life for minimum of 6 months will be pretty stressful and friends and family will be neglected so they should be warned in advance.
Word of warning – you need to pay the £1700 up front approx. 6 months before the written exam and it can take time to get references etc. You should also set aside around another £1500 for revision courses (1000 for courses, 500 for hotel rooms including exam hotel room) so in total will be nearly £3500 to take it! (You should book courses ASAP around same time of going in for exam – see below) Some people will do more courses and so will be more expensive. You apply through the JCIE. www.jcie.org.uk.
We would definitely suggest setting up a study group with like minded people after the written exam to help with revision/viva and clinical practice/share knowledge and bounce ideas. We tended to stick to people doing the exam in the same hospital for weekdays and sometimes all 5/6 of us would meet up in our homes on a weekend. Nearer to the exam we spent more time with each other than our wives/children/friends.
Usual suspects. Miller or AAOS review/Ramachandran.
As many questions as possible. There are a few MCQ books around such as SriRam, black book etc. We did all the orthobullets questions and the week before the exam did a past UKITE every evening as well. There was a lot of anatomy in the exam and some questions would appear very random.
Courses (we all went to these together)
- Luton FRCS. £200. One day, good value for money, viva and clinical practice
- Oswestry clinical and viva. £850. 1 week before exam. Excellent. Saw lots of pathology you wouldn’t otherwise see and tips on how to examine difficult pathology. Book well in advance, only 16 places. This is true for many other courses which book up well in advance. For our January 2015 course had already booked up by May 2014 beforehand so something to think about if you are doing clinicals in Feb 2016!
Exams are Sunday to Tuesday. We went up Saturday and booked into the nicest hotel. Turns out the examiners and vivas were also being held in same hotel. Important to spend money on nice hotel though and was convenient to have vivas there. Clinicals were on Sunday in outpatient department.
In summary, after the exams most of us did not have a clue how we did and a few of us were convinced we would fail. I think the approach is the same as you would in clinic, if you get flustered in clinical stick to basic look/feel/move. Think about doing proper examinations when you are in your clinics and present to your consultants like you would in the exam. Vivas you just need to practice, practice, practice. It becomes abundantly clear that a few questions get asked over and over again. The key is structured answers.
Listen and look before speaking!!! There is a reason we have two eyes and ears and only one mouth! Pause and think of a structured answer before speaking. Answer the question and not the question you would like to be asked. Know a few things about everything rather than everything about a few things. It’s the breadth of knowledge and there is not time to go into significant details or minutiae. Having said that in the exam rare things are common!
A few misconceptions (in our humble opinion)……..
- It is claimed that children never come to the exam as it “is too hard to get them there”. As you will see, a lot of our clinical cases were children!
- You don’t need to know classifications. We were asked a few in our vivas!
- You don’t need to know literature. We disagree with this. Technically you can get all 6’s without papers and pass. However it is highly likely you will get a 5 somewhere along the way (there are 96 scoring episodes so you need 96×6= 576 to pass. If you get 575 ie one “5” then you fail) and so you need a few 7’s in the exam to pass. If you can quote a few papers then your exam will be less risky.
- Examiners are there to trick you – We did not feel this to be true. Some may be stonefaced and difficult, but most are trying to help and guide with some hints – take the hints, they are trying to help if you are going down the wrong path!
We hope this information will be of use. In the immortal words of our predecessors (provided you have put the work in and say sensible things!) : you’ll be fine!