Career Support

Studying for professional exams whilst working: Our top tips

Tips to help you prepare for your examinations whilst meeting the demands of a busy clinical job

1. Plan ahead 

Deciding which exam to take and when to take it are the first steps. Once you’ve chosen, take note of the application window for that sitting and diarise the dates.

Note that different exams set limits on how early you can take them, so be sure to look into the eligibility criteria.

2. Begin preparation early 

Meeting the demands of a busy clinical job means that it will take you longer to prepare for your examination and cover the material.

Begin studying at least 4-6 months in advance to allow yourself sufficient preparation time.

3. Research the exam format 

Knowing how the exam is formatted is equally as important as the content. Consider the time that you have for each question and for practical examinations, the topics and behaviours which are being assessed.

4. Create a study schedule

Work out how much time you can study each day or week and plot your available periods of revision.

Try to keep your study sessions short and frequent and utilise any other time which you may have available – such as commuting to work – to read or listen to a podcast.

When creating your schedule, make sure that you account for covering the entire curriculum. Allow yourself extra time on the topics in the curriculum that you’re most concerned about.

5. Create or join a study group

Form a study group with any friends or colleagues who you know that also taking the exam – Studying with others is a great way of helping you remember key topics and for practical assessments, it’s excellent for practising your skills. 

Your peers can also advise which courses (if any), books or question banks that they’ve used and would recommend.

6. Use the right resources

Research which courses, books or question banks are available to you and use any free practice questions or past papers that can be found online (if official).

Take advantage of any study leave which you’re given to attend relevant courses, conferences, seminars, study sessions etc. If you have a study budget, you may be able to use this to cover the costings of any preparatory resources that you opt to take.

7. Do what works for you

As a doctor, you’ll have a wealth of experience in passing exams and should know which revision techniques work for you – leverage the learning styles that have been effective in your past.