MRCPsych papers 1 and 2 – horrorshow!

In order to become a psychiatrist in the UK you have to become a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych).  Becoming a member of the RCPsych involves passing a number of membership exams (Membership of the RCPsych – MRCPsych).  To this end I sat MRCPsych papers 1 and 2 yesterday.

Yesterday was the first time papers 1 and 2 have ever been sat, replacing the old ‘part 1’, so no one knew exactly what to expect and at what level the expected knowledge would be set; the college had made available a syllabus, but this was rather brief. 

I didn’t think that paper 1 was too bad actually, as it covered a lot of what used to be contained in the written section of part 1 and I had used part 1 materials to revise.  The exam was most notable for the arctic temperature of the hall and the fire alarm going off eight minutes before the exam’s conclusion.  We all filled out into the cold and then filed back in again fifteen minutes later, several people having taken the opportunity to steal a sneaky peak at their revision notes in between times.

Paper 2 was a complete horror. 

In retrospect it was rather ambitious taking papers 1 and 2 on the same day.  But oh my!  I’ve sat a large number of exams over the past ten years (an occupational hazard when you’ve spent as many years as a student as I have) but I’ve never set eyes on such a stinker.  Despite having spent a month revising I’d somehow managed to totally miss anything that the college was seeing fit to ask questions upon. 

Most of my selections were based on whatever answer gave me the ‘right feeling’ (impressionable youth note: as a strategy, this is unlikely to succeed).  I wasn’t the only one finding it hard: as I looked around the room, there were a lot of furrowed brows and later, in conversation with my peers I discovered that they had had a similar experience.  There was a lot of statistics in the exam, but my colleague couldn’t do these despite having just been on a statistics course.  The genetics questions required in-depth knowledge of DNA mutations, and a number of questions may have required knowledge of papers of which I have never heard.

I’ve been looking at the SuperEgoCafe forum concerning this exam and candidates are annoyed.  There is talk of complaints.  I’m a a little more sanguine.  Now for next time I know what to prepare for. 

But before I finish, I would like to offer a small prize to whomever can tell me why knowing the specific tracer used in PET scans to highlight specific neurone receptors makes me a better psychiatrist.  I’m not seeing it myself.