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Pro-tips from AKT high scorers

The most sought-after tips from past AKT high scorers to make your preparation effective & minimise stress

What is the AKT?

The Applied Knowledge test (AKT) is a computer-based examination with a total of 200 questions, lasting up to three hours and ten minutes. The exam requires knowledge of the most up-to-date guidelines, clinical experience, and repetitive revision. Candidates are required to demonstrate a good understating of general practice within the UK and apply independent knowledge at a high level. For more information on the AKT exam breakdown and other MRCGP examinations check out our blog post on everything you need to know about the 2023 MRGP assessments.

When should you start revision?

Although subjective, it is advised to give yourself a great deal of time to familiarise yourself with the exam content - a good grip on all topics is essential for success. Ideally, candidates should begin exam preparations at least 3-4 months prior to the exam, with 6 months being the most advantageous.

Most students scoring over 90% on the AKT have advised the 3-4 month time frame, as an accumulation of knowledge and revision momentum is key to success.

Your patients are key

If you are an ST1 reading this, you are ahead of the curve and your AKT prep is going to be so much easier now you’ve read this article! If you are not an ST1 don’t panic though! Being a reflective clinician is second to none for exam preparation. The day-to-day interactions with your patients are gold dust for increasing your retention of knowledge. It is a known fact that when a piece of information is obtained through multiple sensory sources the rate of memory retention significantly increases.

Researching patient cases and up-to-date guidance after consultation doubles as revision in the long term. Making a note of the cases in a reflective log format will act as a precious study material resource when it comes closer to the exam.

Practice makes perfect!

Supplementation of your learning with frequent question practice is key, the more questions you practice the higher your score will be! The RCGP website has lots of question banks for you to practice. In total there are over seven types of different question formats that can appear on the AKT these include drag and drop, multiple choice, picture format, free text, rank ordering, single best answer (SBA) and extended matching questions (EMQ). Being able to navigate the different question styles and identify the correct answer with ease will be key on exam day.

Let’s focus on the two most frequently asked formats: SBA and EMQ.

Pro tips for answering SBA questions:

SBA questions require higher-order thinking, allowing the candidate to demonstrate application and evaluation of knowledge.

The standard format for SBA includes:

  1. A statement or clinical scenario

  2. The question

  3. Optional answers

Finding the single correct answer and discounting the several other distracting options is the goal to pass this section with the best possible score.

Typically, several of the answers will be correct with only one answer being the “best” answer. The key here is to look for clues within the statement or clinical scenario that allude to the most correct answer.

For ease of reference, it is always encouraged to highlight clues within the text to aid the decision process. Clues to look out for:

  • Results of investigations

  • Examination findings

  • Vital signs

  • History points

Pro tips for answering EMQs:

EMQs have increased in popularity over the past few years due to the MCQs and SBA-style questions receiving some criticism. It has been suggested that candidates can guess through the utilisation of clues in the case scenarios and a process of elimination. EMQs thereby, address some of these flaws and demonstrate the representation of higher knowledge, instead of factual recall. The key to answering EMQ well is a solid understanding of the topics within the questions.

Components of a standard EMQ:

  1. Background information setting the stage

  2. A list of options to choose from in which the question can be answered

  3. Instructions on how to answer the questions

  4. Clinical scenarios or statements of data that require interpretation

A key element to watch out for with this style of question are distractors. These are often included within the clinical scenario to increase the complexity of the question and to help discriminate the better candidates. Whenever possible highlight information that you believe is useful this will help you summarise key information within your head before giving your answer. Another key element that often throws candidates off is that the same answer can be used more than once for this style of question. This thereby, increases the difficulty of attaining an answer as the number of potential answers for each part has increased.

Don’t ignore your right answers!

We are all guilty of this one! You have spent the past few hours completing a mock exam only to skim through the correct results and zero in on the incorrect answers. This tactic makes sense, you are focusing on your weaknesses advantageous to exam success. However, by skipping the answers you got correct you are doing yourself a disservice! It is just as important to zero in on the wrong answers as it is the right, you might have got the question right completely by accident or for a different reason than what you thought.

It is key to cover all basis when revising, the results you attain from your mock assessments are key in shaping your revision.

Reference material is key

Reference material is key to supplement your learning. Therefore, knowledge of the most up-to-date guidelines within the UK across each topic is important.

Here some key reference material has been summarised:

Don’t revise alone!

Creating a small group to discuss ideas can only help develop your understanding further and stimulates further learning. Every individual has different strengths and weaknesses thereby working together can maximise your differences by minimising each other's weaknesses. It is human nature to want to focus on our strengths however, isolating areas of weakness and making a concentrated effort to focus on these areas will pay off in deviance!

Mix up your revision

Revising for an exam can be tedious at times so mixing up your revision sources is key. Writing reflective logs, flashcards, and even recorded audio all are great for retention. If you are looking for a passive way to learn more and crave a source that is more conversational in style The InnovAiT AKT podcast has produced a special podcast episode in which the programme director and deputy lead for the AKT provides helpful top tips and answers the most common Q&A regarding the exam. The podcast itself comes highly recommended as it is packed full of interviews with similar GP trainees!

Your Wellbeing

Although this is the last tip, this is indisputably the most important. Exam season can be an extremely stressful and anxious time, make sure you are making time for yourself amongst the revision. Just like you would check in on your patients, you need to ensure you are looking after yourself too. Performing at your best requires proper nutrition, sleep, and mental well-being – you are no exception! Here at Hippocratix, we have many different resources to help you optimise your well-being under pressured exam situations. Check out some of our resources here.

Good luck with your exam



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