Ace the exam season
No one likes revision season – it feels like the whole world is out there enjoying themselves, and you’re stuck in the library.
You hear cries of excitement about Christmas parties while you’re concentrating on how to do a cardiovascular exam. Summer is no better, with weather reports declaring ‘it’s the hottest day of the year!’ as you’re knee-deep in flashcards.
But fear not! Revision season can be less painful and more productive with our guide to acing your exams.
See top tips from medical graduates, discover the seven best revision apps, create a soundtrack for your studies and find out how to make the most of your BMA membership at this time of year.
Top tips for revision
We all have a unique way of working, find out yours.
Are you a visual learner? Use diagrams and tables to help things stick. Auditory? Record yourself reading your notes out loud, and listen to them when you’re on the go.
Experiment with resources
Figure out what resources you’ll use for each subject at the beginning of term, while you have more time. For subjects like anatomy, for example, you might find that videos are best, while for a particular clinical subject you might prefer a certain book.
Ditch your notes
Look at a couple of books and notes that you’ve taken in lectures, and try to consolidate them – then throw the old notes away. Not only does this help you to digest and remember the information, it reduces stress and means fewer pieces of paper everywhere.
Study for the type of exam
If you know the end-of-year will be multiple choice, practise with actual multiple choice questions. If your exam is an OSCE, use videos, study groups and patient information leaflets to your advantage.
They say the best way to learn something is to teach it, so if you can find a study group it really helps. If not, talk through the material out loud as if you’re explaining it to a non-medic.
Instead of reaching for your phone or Facebook, try a different type of revision.
If you are getting fed up of reading from a textbook, tune into a podcast or quiz yourself with some flash cards. Anything for a change of scenery.
Take revision to placement
It’s always worth carrying a small book like the Oxford Handbook with you, so you can make the most of last-minute lecture or clinical cancellations.
This timer technique takes a few days to get into, but it will help you work effectively in 25-minute chunks – long enough to get your teeth stuck into a topic, but not so long that you would be tempted to have a mid-work break.
#janmedstudytips papers/ebooks (freely accessible via library) on kindle and keep on person. All those times teaching is 5mins late adds up!— Ɛmily Law (@eal89) January 9, 2016
#janmedstudytips take advantage of your phone as a revision tool, SBAs and textbooks on the go!— Sidra H (@Sidra_h92) January 13, 2016
#janmedstudytips Plan everything. Need to get reading done? Put time aside where you're only doing that reading. Reward yourself when done.— Katie (@katiehodgie) January 9, 2016
More from the BMA website
Our pick of the best revision apps
These links take you to external apps, not managed by the BMA. We think you’ll find them helpful, but their inclusion does not imply our endorsement or approval of the apps’ operator or content.
This app is great for group revision sessions. It allows you to take photos of whiteboard or flipchart notes, and recreates the notes in editable Word and PowerPoint documents. As a side note – it’s also good for scanning receipts straight to your phone. Handy.
StudyBlue enables you to make flashcards from your notes. It also allows you to add text, images and audio, providing a sure-fire way to make sure you never forget where that iliac artery is located.
A medical revision app that tests your knowledge using exam-style revision questions. The app includes double the amount of practice questions compared with its competitors.
You can also challenge a friend at the same assessment, give feedback for each question, review answered questions and list key learning points for incorrect answers.
A free WebMD app which provides up-to-date news and information. You can also access drug information and tools, clinical presentation, workup and treatment information. Also included is a clinical reference database.
PasTest provides questions on topics from SJTs for final-year students to OSCE practice and PSAs.
Questions are graded on difficulty and you receive recommendations on what subjects you could do with brushing up on. It costs £6 for access until March – but the cost of subscription gets higher the closer you get to the exam date.
What’s your revision jam?
Sometimes it’s a simple approach to revision that helps to clear your mind and restore your focus: music.
For those of you who like a soundtrack to your studies, we’d love to hear what dulcet tones keep your attention from drifting. It could be the haunting keys of Nils Frahm, the wistful jazz notes of Miles Davis or even the crooning lyrics of Drake’s Views – we all have our own tastes.
Here are a few of our favourites to kick things off:
We can help
Are you a BMA member yet? Now is the best time to make the most of your membership.
Increase your chances of a good exam result with training in common cases and skills. BMJ Learning gives you free access to hundreds of peer-reviewed, CPD-accredited professional development modules.
Also featured in our seven best apps, BMJ OnExamination is the perfect gateway to exam success!
Ask Doctor Clarke
Strengthen your knowledge and learn effective exam techniques with interactive revision sessions by Dr Bob Clarke.
Save £15 per course as a BMA member.
The BMA library offers student members a complete range of core clinical textbooks and a free UK postal send-and-return service. You can also gain access to thousands of e-books and e-journals. Perfect for swotting up before your exams and a great money saver too!
For any expert help on your studies or research email the team at [email protected]
Join the conversation and share your revision experiences and concerns with fellow medical students in our Future doctors forum
Look after yourself
Feeling overwhelmed? There’s always someone you can talk to. BMA well-being support servicesoffer confidential 24/7 support for all doctors and medical students. Speak to a counsellor or ask for information on the peer support service.
Call 0330 123 1245 – open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Not a member? Get your first year of membership for free!
BMA membership will give you essential support throughout your studies and in your personal life.
Freshers are eligible for a free year of BMA membership, and a discounted rate after that.