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How I passed AKT despite struggling to focus: Dr Khine

If you are a GP trainee preparing for your MRCGP AKT exam, this this blog is a must to help you pass. We are lucky to have Dr Khine – a GP trainee who recently passed her AKT despite feeling stress, anxiety and lack of focus – share her experience of how she prepared and eventually passed first time…  

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Intro…

I feel this blog would help anyone with anyone who has difficulty focusing on one thing at a time – this was certainly me. Added to this I have constant brain fatigue, get anxious easily and struggle with feeling stressed.

I’ll try to cover how I gathered my resources as well as how I managed the time needed to prepare for AKT. To read about what MRCGP AKT is, click here.

Setting the time required

Initially I was quite scared to book the AKT exam as a) I had long covid health issues and b) I was seeing some of my friends and colleagues having to take it several times to pass. 

It seemed a very daunting process and was definitely anxiety provoking for me. I started by planning the time needed to prepare in advance. In my case I knew that I can’t concentrate for long periods of time and so I allowed myself 4 months for preparation. 

I knew that I would need regular breaks and therefore factored this in. Having seen my friends and colleagues prepare, I would say the average trainee with ‘normal learning speed’ might need a maximum of 3 months preparation. If there are other factors eg health issues, you have children or care responsibilities, you might need to factor in more time.

AKT Resources

There are lots available!! I spent a fair bit of time reading lots of blog and reviews by other trainees, as well as asking my friends who had already passed the exam. In terms of question banks I decided to subscribe to passmedicine as it was free (provided by my deanery), on examination and RCGP self test (which is free and my opinion most resembles the real exam questions). Nearer to the exam I did the Arora AKT Mock bundles.

In terms of learning material I purchased the Arora triple audiobook package for clinical, stats and admin.

Getting started and obstacles that I faced

For me the first couple of weeks was a real struggle – even completing twenty questions in one go was a challenge. I kept on getting distracted and wanted to rest as my brain – it was certainly not used to doing regular questions like this anymore! 

I tried to learn with my friends and set up time to study questions together online, however everyone had different learning techniques and learning speeds. My long Covid was leading to exhaustion and so I ultimately stopped this approach. 

Early on I would suggest trying a number of different learning techniques to know which way is the best way for you – both in terms of speed and effectiveness. This will help significantly in reducing stress and anxiety – something that was my biggest struggle.

I later learned that I study better with background soothing music and just doing it at my own pace – alone – and having the mindset that just doing however many questions that I could (even just two or three question at a time) is profit for me rather than no questions at all. 

Targeting a certain number of questions a day tended to stress me out and made me feel like I was going to fail (I know this helps for others however). I ended up just doing 10 questions at a time, followed by reviewing notes around the topics that I wasn’t familiar with. I then took a quick break and moved onto the next 10 questions.

After I got into the habit of doing questions regularly – even a few a day – it eventually got me a little motivation as I realised my own strategy.

How I used the AKT resources

If I encounter a subject that is quite new to me (for example cows milk allergy in paediatrics), I would use passmedicine notes (which are concise and to the point) for clinical notes. 

For a ‘system by system’ summary I found listening to the Arora clinical audiobook very good for me. I found that I could learn much better by listening rather than reading, and found it much less stressful than reading whole paragraphs and steps in management – something that I initially found exhausting. If you prefer visual/video learning then the clinical crammer online course may help instead.

I chose to listen when I was in a good headspace, or at times when I was not focused enough to do questions – for example before bed time, after lunch, whilst travelling or sometimes even when I simply didn’t feel like doing anything at all.

When I did questions, I tried to mix it up – I might do ten questions from one question bank, followed by ten from another. I definitely felt that mixing it up made me better equipped to deal with questions in the real exam as they came in various formats. 

For me it really doesn’t depend on the number of questions done in a day, it depends on how much you understand the topics inside the questions. When you do questions, I’d suggest really reviewing the answers closely, trying to understand the disease, pathogenesis and reasons for management – especially which is the next investigation of choice.

For the statistics part, the Arora stats on-the-go audiobook is only the resource I used to pass the exam. It is very clear and you can rewind and listen to it as many times as you want in order to understand the whole process of statistics. If you are struggling with statistics please don’t only do lots of calculations – take time to understand the principles behind the calculations as well – something that Dr Arora explains very well in his audiobook. 

Regarding admin, I would use passmedicine notes again as a good summary eg of disability benefit system, leave system, DVLA guidelines. But to remember it all, the only source for me was again the Arora admin audiobook as I found it a very convenient way to listen to key guidance and administration summaries.

Following Dr Arora’s Instagram helped right up to my exam as he posts a lot of AKT-relevant material on his insta feed (plus I am a social media addict!). For Dr Arora’s teaching follow @dr_aman_arora.

For mocks, I personally did the Arora mock exam bundle. These are more difficult than the usual ones and definitely highlighted my weak areas such as not reading the questions carefully (although I knew the subject well) and skipping to the end and not reading the small question details. I would definitely recommend the Arora mocks as they really helped set me straight.

The last few weeks and the exam itself

In the week before the exam I was very lucky to have the support of my partner for food and general ‘looking after’, making sure that I studied the most that I could. Ordering takeaways for the week is a good suggestion, and don’t forget to pamper yourself too lol.

On the day before the exam I just revised the summaries of stats and admin, did a few couple of questions, rested and ate well. 

The exam itself felt very confusing and was certainly tiring. I managed to finish on time although usually I finished very early in practice. 

Please don’t try to study on the day of the exam – especially if you have a morning sitting – by then you will have studied your best. I’ve always found that last minute cramming just makes me feel frustrated and not able to focus on the exam itself – but of course you may be different!

After a long and challenging journey I was lucky to pass AKT first time. I really hope my blog can help those people who struggle to focus, those who have difficulty concentrating or those who feel anxious and easily flustered – I certainly fit all of these categories and I still managed to get through 🙂

Dr Khine GPST2

About Dr Aman and Dr Pooja

Dr Aman Arora is a GP who is now 100% committed to transforming medical education, helping doctors across the globe to ace their exams and enhance their careers. He is proud to hold FRCGP (Fellow of Royal College of General Practitioners). Previous roles include:

  • GP Training Programme Director
  • NHS GP Appraiser
  • GMC PLAB 2 Examiner
  • GP Recruitment Examiner
  • GP Recruitment Question-writer
  • HEWM IMG Board Member
  • HEWM Advanced MRCGP AKT Trainer

Dr Pooja Arora is a GP with a background in Medical Politics, passionately focusing on improving the opportunities and working conditions for junior doctors. Previous roles include:

  • Vice Chair Birmingham LMC
  • BMA Council Member
  • BMA General Practitioners Committee elected representative 
  • BMA Sessional GP Committee elected representative 
  • BMA National Deputy Policy lead for working at scale
  • HEE GP Ambassador
  • HEE GP Stage 3 Assessor
  • RCGP Midland Faculty AiT representative

* Blogs written on our website are not for professional, financial or medical advice. Please seek appropriate professional, legal or financial advice where appropriate * 

 

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