Use these revision strategies to make sure you’re ready for your Medical School exams.

What Type Of Exams Will I Do At Med School?

In general, Med School exams can be separated into:

  • Written exams
  • Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OCSEs)

Some universities expect students to do both of these exam types from the first year, while some universities save OCSEs for later in the course.

Written Exams – Multiple Choice Questions

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) offer you multiple answers to choose from. In Med School exams, you will frequently be presented with five possible answers and you’ll need to select the best one. 

Sometimes several of the possible answers (or even all of the answers) are valid in some way, so you’ll need to make a value judgement as to which answer is the most relevant. For example, you might be given a scenario, e.g. a patient has presented with certain symptoms, and you must choose the best way to proceed.

MCQs can be text-based or picture-based. You might be familiar with this type of question from your UCAT or your BMAT.

How To Answer Multiple Choice Questions

To find the best answer to a multiple choice question, you should use a process of elimination. This is a key skill that Doctors use on a daily basis (e.g. when figuring out what is likely to be a patient’s diagnosis based on their symptoms) so it’s an essential thought process to get to grips with.

For example, think about how you would tackle the following multiple choice question:

What best describes the mechanism of action of the combined contraceptive pill in preventing pregnancy?

  1. Increase cervical mucus thickness
  2. Prevent endometrial proliferation
  3. Prevent ovulation
  4. Physical barrier for sperm to enter the endometrium
  5. Toxic to sperm cells

Using a process of elimination, you can firstly rule out D and E because these options are inaccurate. You can then rule out A and B because these are both secondary actions of the combined contraceptive pill. Option C is the primary action, so it is the best answer to the question.

If you’re in a situation where you’ve read the options and have no idea what the answer is, you can also use a process of elimination to make an educated guess. You should always try to answer every question!

A useful revision strategy for this type of question is to practise coming up with your own MCQs. This can help you to get inside the mind of the examiner and gain a better understanding of how these questions work.


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Written Exams – Short Answer Questions

It’s likely that you’re already familiar with Short Answer Questions (SAQs) from your A-Level science exams. 

You’ll be required to give answers that range from a few words to a few sentences long. You could also be asked to draw a diagram or label a diagram in some instances. 

How To Answer Short Answer Questions

When answering a short answer question, you’ll need to read the question carefully and focus on any keywords that it contains. If stated, think about the marks that are available and whether your answer includes a sufficient amount of information to be awarded these marks.

Make sure your answer is focused and specific, and think about what the examiner will want to see. Remember, you only need to answer the question that you’ve been given!

Written Exams – Essay Questions

Essay questions are less common in Med School exams than MCQs and SAQs are, but some universities include them. You might be familiar with this type of question if you sat the BMAT.

How To Answer Essay Questions

Preparation is vital for answering essay questions. If you begin by planning your essay structure, this will make your essay better and save you time later on. While writing your essay, make sure it stays focused and answers the question at hand, without going off on unnecessary tangents.

When it comes to writing scientific essays, less is more so try to be concise. Write in a scientific style by using technical terms and including sufficient evidence to back up your points. It’s also a good idea to prepare by reading scientific papers to get more familiar with this writing style.


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Objective Structured Clinical Examinations

OCSEs will test your ability to communicate with patients, examine them, and perform practical procedures. Depending on your university, you might be required to do OCSEs in your first year or later in the course.

This type of exam has a similar format to MMI interviews, with multiple stations lasting 5-10 minutes each. You could be asked to, for example, talk to a patient about their problem and perform a relevant examination on them, or you might be asked to take someone’s blood pressure.

How To Prepare For OCSEs

OCSEs are different from other types of Med School exams because they’re practical, so you can’t really revise for them by reading or writing. It could be helpful to practise for them with friends or family members, or you might want to start/join a study group with other Med students.

Another good way to prepare for OCSEs is to engage as much as possible when you’re on clinical placements. Talk to patients and colleagues, observe and offer to help with clinical examinations, and ask for feedback so that you’re constantly learning.

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