For the last few weeks, I’ve had my bum glued to the chair as I try and cram as many facts, principles and theories into my head as possible before my exam next month. I have to say that I feel much happier about my chances of actually getting through it now. I think that there are definitely certain stages that I go through when preparing for a big exam like this one.
Stage 1: Denial.
I think to myself that “everything is going to be OK, other doctors have passed this exam, so it’s obviously not impossible.” I have a vague notion that I’ll need to do “some work” at some point but I’m not at all concerned by the prospect
Stage 2: Trepidation
You can count the number of weeks to the exam in single figures now and I start to get tetchy. I look at some example questions and realise that I can’t do any of them. I look at the pile of anaesthetics books that I have and it hits home hard that there is a HELL OF A LOT of work to get through. At the same time, I’m almost scared to face up to it and start studying in earnest because I know how miserable studying is.
Stage 3: Fear
I’ve tried to learn stuff. I’ve been trying to remember the anatomy of the spinal cord or the shunt equation and its applications, but it just won’t go in. I just don’t “get” it and I can’t remember it all by rote. Everything that goes into my brain leaks out again and I feel I’m never going to know enough. It’s about this time when I start panic-buying more textbooks and ringing round revision courses to see if they have any last minute places.
Stage 4: Hope
Eventually, this stuff starts to stick. I begin to understand it. I realise that I actually DO know some stuff. I CAN derive the Bohr equation from first principle, I CAN talk sensibly about pharmacokinetics and the 3-compartment model, I DO know the side-effects of phenytoin, suxamethonium and a host of other drugs. There’s a glimmer of hope and I realise that, provided I’m lucky and get asked about the topics that I know well, I might just pass.
Stage 5: Determination through the dark days
At this point, I’m thoroughly fed up with it all. I’m sick of the sight of my books, my house is a mess with bits of paper with diagrams and graphs on thrown everywhere. I’m working 56 hours a week (8hrs a day, seven days a week) and then coming home and trying to do my studying on top of that. I have no social life and there’s nothing fun to look forward to. I think to myself “You know what, these are dark days and I’m REALLY miserable. There is NO FUCKING WAY that I’m going to put myself through all this again if I can possibly help it. I’m not going to leave it to luck, I’m going to work even harder to make sure I pass this bloody exam. Failure is not an option.”
Stage 6: Consolidation
The exam is only a few days away, I’ve done all the work I can, I know my stuff now and I feel quietly confident that I’m going to pass.
At the moment, I’m somewhere between stages 4 and 5 and I'm just hoping I can get to stage 6 before the exam itself. I’ve still got a lot to do, but I’m actually starting to believe that I WILL be able to at least cover all the topics before the exam.