"Preparing for the exam is as much about understanding the context of the exam as the content."
The first is that it's a fairly blunt learning tool, and we worry that candidates spend a lot of time rehashing stuff they already know. So, that's probably time that's not well spent.
Second, it's easy to get (really) bored doing this, and burn out your study enthusiasm very quickly.
Thirdly, as we have previously posted, the exam is about a whole set of skills (application of knowledge, question translation etc) which aren't exercised very well by simple note taking. We also recently posted about listening to what the examiners are telling you, and making pretty colour coded notes is not a good way to learn the language of the fellowship exam.
Finally, we are always a,mused by candidates who make a summary of Dunn's excellent emergency textbook. Dunn functions as a consultant level summary of major issues, and summarising the summary seems to be an element of work for work's sake.
So, are there better ways to learn?
We think there are, and our belief is based on a few key points:
- Candidates have survived a minimum of 5 years of emergency medicine practice to become eligible for the written exam. Therefore they must have some baseline knowledge of most issues.
- Candidates are adults, and adults learn in different (and complex fashions). The undergraduate approach of writing notes is probably not efficient.
- Preparing for the exam is as much about understanding the context of the exam as the content.
At fellowshipexam.com we use a variety of ways to approach and foster learning and understanding in our candidates. Each week we ask candidates to WATCH, READ, SOLVE and WRITE on the relevant topics. We are particularly big on the writing aspect, because it's only in constructing questions that candidates truly learn to break them down. More on this in a future post.
Above all, the fellowship exam represents a huge investment of your one irreplaceable asset: time. Peter wrote about how this affected him personally earlier in our pearl of the week blog. So, think very carefully about what you are trying to achieve in studying for the exam, and how best to achieve it. It's probably not related to highlighters and pretty notes.