25 March

Prepping for Exams and What to Do if You Fail

By Ciaran Fletcher

As many readers of this article will know, the RCA exam for GP trainees is being replaced by the SCA exam. The SCA has already had it’s first wave of trainees sit it, whilst the RCA only really now has re-sitters of the exam. I’m sure we all know the old adage ‘if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. This highlights just how important it is to prepare for these exams as best as possible, so that you can go into them with the highest level of confidence possible.

For GP trainees preparing for these exams can be a very stressful time. You’re preparing whilst also working and routinely seeing patients. It’s a lot to handle all at once! However, one of the best ways to prepare is to speak with any mentors or trainers that you’re working with at your practice and verbalise any concerns or worries you might have. I have spoken directly with trainees previously who are approaching their final exams but are feeling that one area of their work in particular might be lacking compared to others. Once they raise this with their mentor or trainer, they can find ways to improve their confidence in these areas of weakness.

Communication is so important as you approach your exams. If not with your own trainers or mentor, there are other options too. For example, there are professionals out there like Dr Erwin Kwun. Erwin specialises in helping GP trainees succeed with their exams and beyond. He routinely posts lots of helpful information on social media, such as tips to help you pass your exams and even hosts one-to-one meetings with trainees to really break down where they might be finding issues in their preparations and exam results. (I was recently fortunate enough to record a podcast with Dr Kwun, which you can listen to as part of our Illuminating Primary Care series, available on all your usual platforms).

A potential fear for some GP trainees is what they will do should they fail their RCA or SCA exam. It’s understandable considering that it’s arguably the last major hurdle a trainee faces before qualifying. The best thing to do, should you fail, is take some time to accept it and then approach your trainer or mentor to review where you feel things went wrong. Generally, a mentor can help in this scenario as they can guide you with what to focus on when you next prepare to take on an exam. Talking to fellow trainees to see if they struggled or succeeded in similar areas can help too. You can also consider the professional view and speak to specialists like Dr Erwin Kwun as well. Once again, much like preparing for your exams, communication can help you deal with failing them as well.

Throughout the process though, be that before or after your exams, whether you’ve passed or failed, talking to one of our specialist consultants can really help. We understand what it is like when you’re looking for a new role for once you qualify and can really help you find something that ticks the right boxes for you! We regularly work with trainees in helping them secure a role for once they qualify, but should they fail their exams, we can keep the lanes of communication open between the practice and GP, meaning that, more often than not, the job would still be yours for when you do pass.

So, be it that you’re talking to a mentor or trainer to prepare for your exams, colleagues and friends should you fail your exams, or one of our specialist consultants at any stage in the process, the key really is – communication, communication, communication!

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