BY AFIZA AZMEE
Resources I used for Part A
Question Bank & Notes
- SPMM notes and question bank
- MRCPsych Mentor notes and question bank
- Birmingham Course
In terms of notes, all SPMM, MRCPsych Mentor and Birmingham Course provided me with pretty good notes.
But in terms of practice questions, the most helpful question banks are those from SPMM and MRCPsych Mentor. SPMM questions are tougher than MRCPsych mentor and they represent the real toughness of the questions that would come out in the exam. However, MRCPsych Mentor gave me the basics that I needed before I could go on to do the tougher questions in the SPMM. If I had jumped straight to SPMM instead of doing the MRCPsych Mentor questions first, I would probably feel a bit discouraged to take Part A. Hahaha. So my advice is to do the MRCPsych Mentor questions first, and then you can move on to do the questions in SPMM.
I don’t like the questions from Birmingham Course, though. I found that some of their answers were wrong and would be misleading if you did not double check the facts. (They might have improved on this aspect throughout the years, though. So, I don’t know. Maybe you can check it out yourself, if you are curious. I am just telling you my own experience.) If you do not have enough funds to subscribe to all three question banks, I suggest you abandon Birmingham Course, even though their notes are quite good. But I think, SPMM notes, text books and your own studying and research should be sufficient to make up for whatever that you may find lacking when you don’t have Birmingham notes. (Subsequently, for my Part B, I did not repeat my subscription to Birmingham Course. Like I said, Birmingham Course is not an absolute necessity for me. But I did repeat my subscription to SPMM and MRCPsych Mentor for my Part B.)
The price for each of the three resources varies according to the subscription period. I subscribed to SPMM course for a period of 6 months and I had to pay around RM1000++ (Sorry, but I could not recall the actual price). I subscribed to MRCPsych Mentor for 6 months also and it was less than RM600 (again, I could not recall the actual price. It might be around RM400-500). The price for Birmingham is about the same price as SPMM.
Some people do not prefer to subscribe to these resources too early because they don’t want their subscription period to end before the actual exam itself. Of course, it is ideal to still be able to access those questions when the exam is near. However, if you subscribed late, you would also start studying late! So what I did was, I subscribed early and I took notes on some important questions that I should re-do or revisit later… or I saved some of those questions in my own Word document to study them in my own good time once my subscription period was over. Some people also took screenshots of those questions as they were doing their questions via their mobile phones. Whatever method suits you, do it! But subscribe early and save those questions so that you can revisit them later! (Or if you are filthy rich, you can just renew your subsciption to last you until your actual exam. As I am not filthy rich, this is not an option for me. I do not subscribe to any of the resources twice!)
In general, I believe that it is pretty good investment to buy Psychiatry books that you will use throughout your career. For the rest of our lives as a Psychiatry doctor, we will need to refer to these books to help us in our clinical practice or to help teach our juniors and fellow comrades. Let’s be honest! We forget stuff after exams and having books like this with us helps us when we need to revisit the facts later! (But then, I admit I am a book hoarder. Hahah Some people did pass without buying books at all and only used the PDF version of those books throughout their exam journey. But like I said, this is just my own personal experience and you guys may choose your own course of action accordingly. I personally just love buying books, guys!)
1. Stahl’s Essential Psychopharmacology
2.The Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines in Psychiatry
3.Fish’s Clinical Psychopathology
4.Revision Notes In Psychiatry
5.Companion To Psychiatric Studies
If you are short of funds, I suggest for you to buy Stahl’s Essential Psychopharmacology, first. (I love the diagrams, the contents… so easy to understand! I bought it at a price of almost RM400 but it is really worth it, guys! I finished reading 80% of this book before doing my Part A. Even though some people passed their Part A without ever using Stahl’s but I was hooked by the diagrams in the book. I think the author is a genius in how he explained psychopharmacology in those fun, easily-understood diagrams. Highly recommended!)
You can postpone buying The Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines for Part A. But I personally used this book a lot for Part B and CASC. I love this book too. (Maybe, I just love pharmacology, hahha. Not that I am good at it or anything. But I think this is the main thing of what being a doctor is about! You must know your drugs! And therefore, I naturally gravitate towards pharmacology books.)
SPMM/MRCPsych Mentor have pretty good notes on psychopathology. So I personally feel like you can forego buying Fish’s Psychopathology if you want to save your money.
Revision Notes In Psychiatry is the main reference book for most people studying Psychiatry. But I personally rarely used the book during my exam preparation. (Doing a lot of questions, reading notes from SPMM/Mentor/Birmingham, reading Stahl’s and psychopathology… these are already so helpful to me. Alhamdulillah, this strategy certainly helped me to pass my Part A in one attempt.)
Companion To Psychiatric Studies is not a necessity. You can choose not to buy this one if you don’t want to. Like I said, I just love buying books.
All the books above can be used throughout your MRCPsych journey; not just for Part A. So, I do feel like it is pretty good investment for you to have them. But again, if you absolutely must save your money, I highly recommend that you prioritize Stahl’s, and Maudsley. Your SPMM/Mentor/Birmingham notes and question bank will make up for whatever else that are lacking in your arsenal of psychiatry books.
Part A Syllabus
Neuroanatomy, Neurophysiology, Neurochemistry, Neuropathology, Applied Neuroscience
-Basic Pharmacology, Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics, Adverse Drug Reactions
6) Sociocultural Psychiatry
Learning Theories / Attachment theories / Freud Psychosexual stages / Piaget /Bowlby / Bandura etc etc
8) Classification (DSM and ICD)
9) Clinical Examinations – MSE, interview techniques
As you can see, there are A LOT to learn, guys! As I have mentioned earlier, subscribe to question banks early! Don’t wait ngam ngam 6 months before your Part A exam to subscribe to these resources! The earlier you study, the more time you have to understand and memorize all the facts.
There are some documents that you must prepare when you register for the first time with the Royal College of Psychiatrist to take your Part A. These can all be found in their website.
I remember that I had to fill up an online registration form when I wanted to take Part A. Subsequently, I also had to mail certified copies of my Medical Degree, my MMC registration certificate, my APC, and my IC (or was it my Passport? I really couldn’t remember) to the Royal College. I got all of them certified by a solicitor (not a Pesuruhjaya Sumpah, guys!)
For the exam fee, I had to pay GBP 588 (if we convert this amount to Malaysian ringgit, it was around RM3000. I remember wanting to cry a little bit after paying the fee. Hahah. But it is so worth it when you pass. That is why you must aim to pass at one attempt! So, subscribe and study early, guys! You don’t want to waste that exam money!)
The exam itself was craaaaaazyyy! I thought, I was surely gonna fail. By the time I finished doing my last question, I had only very little time left to check all my answers. I was stressed whenever some candidates got up from their seats to go out for either toilet breaks or because they had finished early and wanted to get out of the exam hall. I was like, “Was it so easy for you that you have the time to go to the toilet?! And how could you finish so early?! Why am I so slow? Am I the stupidest one here?” (Yeah, I can be pretty neurotic when I am stressed. Hahah)
But I found out later that they got up and went out of the exam hall due to the frustration at the difficulty of the questions. Some of them who had gotten out early did not even make it in the passing list.
This is my personal opinion: use all the time you have to REALLY analyze the question and the answer options. Do not go out early if you don’t have any urgent matter to attend to. I would have cried bloody tears if I had gotten out early and didn’t pass the exam. I would start thinking that “Maybe, I should have checked my answers properly. Maybe I should have used all the time wisely instead of getting out early. Perhaps, I would pass if I had only been more careful and analytical in answering the questions.”
If I had used up all my time and STILL failed, at least I could console myself by saying “I had done my best with all the available time that I had! I did not leave any stone unturned. I did everything I could.” There would be no regrets! But if I had gotten out of the exam hall early and failed, I would surely be filled with remorse and regret that I had squandered my time so foolishly!
Guys, I believe in using up and maximizing all my resources to its best potential. And time is the most valuable resource we could ever have! Use them all! Jangan membazir masa yang dah diberikan!
Guys, the questions are in the formats of ‘Best of Five Answers’ and ‘Extended Matched Items’. These formats are designed to confuse you. The question didn’t ask for the right answer… but for the BEST answer! Read the clinical scenario/the context carefully before deciding on your answer. What is the right answer to you… may not be the best answer. For someone to go out so early out of the exam hall but end up not passing the exam, they must have interpreted the question too simply. (But if you had gone out early and you did pass, you are amazing! I really tabik spring! But I personally am not a rich person who can take the risk of losing RM3000++ just for the sake of going out of the exam hall early. If I had invested RM3000++ for this exam, then I am going to maximize all the chance I could get to pass the exam and that includes using up all the time to continue ruminating on all my answers until the time is up! Unless you are damn smart, you better use ALL the time wisely!)
Remember! Best Answer! Not just the right answer! All those answers can be right… but they are not the best for that particular clinical context. This is especially true when the questions are asking about pharmacological options and psychological treatment! Pay attention to the details given in the scenario that would determine which one is the best answer among all the right answers! Look at the age of the patient, the symptoms, the co-morbidities that the patient had, the possible side effects of the pharmacological treatment that might worsen the comorbidities that the patient had, the possible drug-drug interaction that would happen if you had chosen one drug instead of the other! Jangan main pilih tanpa fikir! They give that long scenario for a reason! For you to make use of ALL the information to make the BEST answer!
Some people had to take Part A 3-4 times before they passed. I know a few who had decided to take Part B first before taking Part A after failing their Part A a few times. Perhaps, I might be wrong… but I think the reason they didn’t pass their Part A a few times is because they didn’t appreciate the subtlety that is present in the question. Try to think like an OCPD over-thinker when you are doing your Part A and Part B hahah. (As a self-proclaimed OCPD overthinker, I had used up allllll the time to the very last moment. I could NEVER walk out of the exam hall early because I always challenged and second-guessed my own answers before I would commit to them. Tu pasal, aku selalu jer tak cukup masa! Adeh! The same thing happened in my part B… in the 30 minutes time that I had left, I still had 60 questions to answer. It was a race against time! And therefore, I just could not compute…. why would anyone not use up all the time that they have? Kalau lah korang boleh derma sikit masa lebih korang kat aku, I would ruminate even more LOL!)
I hope, you guys will get some idea about Part A exam based on this writing. I will add more pages to this particular section of my blog in the future to discuss about other aspects of the exam and about my MRCPsych journey, Insya Allah. Hope this is helpful to you guys who are thinking of taking Part A.
I think, I am going to end this post here. If you have any question regarding Part A, you can leave a comment and I will answer them as soon as possible. I am pretty prompt in answering questions about studies and exams. So, don’t worry. I will reply to you in the comment section too. I do not encourage people to try to contact me via Facebook Messenger or Instagram especially if you are not in my Friends list. I tend to reply quite late if I don’t know the person who is contacting me via Facebook/Instagram.
All the best for your Part A, comrades! May Allah reward your patience in pursuing His knowledge by bestowing upon you the best of success in this life and the hereafter. Amin. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.