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The AKT is a relatively new exam. It was introduced in 2007 by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) as part of their radical shake-up of membership assessment and is described by the college as a “summative assessment of the knowledge base that underpins independent general practice in the United Kingdom within the context of the National Health Service”.

You should already be aware of the basic facts about the AKT exam:

  • 200 questions of the best-of-five and extended matching type
  • 3 hours
  • Approximately 80% of question items will be on clinical medicine, 10% on critical appraisal and evidence based clinical practice and 10% on health informatics and administrative issues
  • Around 73% of people passed the AKT at the last sitting

Over the last couple of years the AKT has gained somewhat of a reputation for asking obscure and detailed questions. This partly reflects recall bias (candidates remember best the unusual questions they couldn’t answer) and also an attempt by the RCGP to keep the exam fresh and unpredictable. Whilst this can be frustrating (there’s no better feeling than recognising a question during an exam) the RCGP should be commended for trying to maintain the integrity of the AKT. This approach contrasts to some other postgraduate exams where similar questions are used year-on-year resulting in the exam being more about reviewing past papers rather than studying the curriculum.

The January 2010 feedback report makes interesting reading. In it the Royal College describe how they have taken steps to increase the difficulty of the exam after concerns were made regarding patient safety. Previously around 80% of candidates passed the exam and there was no limit on the number of attempts a candidate could make. The pass rate has now fallen to 73% for the last sitting and the College have stated that the lower pass rates are here to stay.

Given the wide scope of general practice revising for the exam can seem a daunting task. For some candidates it may have been several years since they last took a substantive written exam. We still feel the best approach to passing the AKT is to cover the core areas (NICE guidelines, contraception, common drugs etc) sufficiently. This should allow you to pick up the majority of marks and will also stand you in good stead for future practice. Passmedicine concentrates on these areas. One of the biggest potential causes of not passing (other than not revising) is being a ‘big book failure’, i.e. a person who spends too much time remembering obscure facts about uncommon conditions – an approach that has a very poor yield.

The RCGP have attempted to make the AKT focus on “higher order problem solving rather than just the simple recall of basic facts”. As such part of the process of revision is learning how to work through problem based questions to find the right answer – the so called “exam technique”. The best way to hone your exam technique is simply to do as many questions as time allows. Hopefully, after revising for a while, patterns will start to emerge and you will find your average score creeping up.

Passmedicine have increased the number of questions in their medical student finals resource from 1,750 to 2,300. Click here for more details.

The Royal College of Physicians have announced that from August 2011 possession of the full MRCP(UK) will become a mandatory requirement for ST3 entry into any of the medical specialties.

This will increase the pressure on medical trainees to gain PACES as soon as possible. However, in some ways this reverts back to the pre-MMC system where gaining the full MRCP was a requirement before applying for registrar jobs.

Please see the link for more details.

The very fact that you are studying for a postgraduate medical exam suggests that your revision skills are already finely tuned. The team at passmedicine would however make the following suggestions.

Using passmedicine

Probably the most efficient way to revise is to attempt all the questions once and then repeat the questions you got incorrect. After doing this you may wish to reset your history (go to the ‘My Account’ menu) and attempt all the questions again. This has the advantage of reseting your scoring data as well (scoring data only includes first attempts to improve the comparability of scores).

As you get closer towards the exam date you may wish to take a timed test to simulate answering questions against the clock.

Other suggested resources

AKT feedback reports – provides hints on which topics were covered in past exams

AKT sample papers – gives a good idea of the scope and standard of questions set in the AKT

RCGP Curriculum Statements – provides detailed information on what the College expect you to know

RCGP Essential Knowledge Updates – these are released twice a year. They provide a number of modules on specific areas. There is also an ‘Essential Knowledge Challenge’ for each update which contains around 50 questions. Available to RCGP Associates in Training (AITs)

nPEP – 150 questions from RCGP Scotland aimed at doctors who are preparing for the AKT. Available to RCGP AITs

Many candidates who have sat the exam recommend reading the introductory notes in each chapter of the BNF

The Oxford Handbook of General Practice is also recommended

NICE and SIGN guidelines – many questions will be based around recent guidelines

Clinical Knowledge Summaries – provide high-quality, evidenced based guidelines aimed at primary care

DermNet NZ – probably the leading dermatology resource on the web. Along with thousands of images DermNet NZ also provides information on treatment options

Welcome to the passmedicine blog. Over the coming months we aim to keep you updated on the latest developments in both postgraduate and undergraduate medical education.

Passmedicine.com offers comprehensive, quality revision material for medical exams including the MRCP Part 1, nMRCGP Applied Knowledge Test (AKT) and Medical Student Finals. Why not visit our site and take a free demo?

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