Insights from my personal journey
The Australian Medical Council (AMC) OSCE exam is one of the most competitive qualifying exams across the globe. Passing AMC OSCE exam has proven to be quite a mammoth task for many candidates. As one may be aware of, clearing this exam is mandatory to obtain general medical registration in Australia. In my view, optimal planning, adequate practice, and positive attitude would maximize one’s chances to pass the AMC exam.
First things first:
One has to understand the key features of the AMC exam and its curriculum. The AMC Handbook of clinical assessment is a good starting point for the exam preparation, as it not only outlines the exam requirements but also lays a strong foundation that a candidate can build on.
Keep a close eye on the clinical examination events and dates on the AMC website, as exam slots in recent times have been filled out completely in a matter of few hours (some even in few minutes!) on the opening date. Missing out on these important dates leads to a waiting period of few months for the next available exam slots. This could be a potential stressor for those who have been offered a job with a start date, and whose requirement is to pass the exam. (I have personally known few colleagues in such scenarios)
When to start?
Most people begin preparing for the AMC OSCE exam three to six months prior to the exam date. The time requirements may vary between individuals depending on a candidate’s personal and work commitments. For instance, working mothers or candidates with young children may potentially require longer time to prepare for this exam. So, one must plan their schedule taking all these factors into consideration. Remember, each one is running his/her own race in his/her own life!!
Try to set yourself realistic short-term targets that you would like to achieve each week during your exam preparation phase. Do not lose heart when you occasionally fail to achieve your target, however regroup and keep working harder. It is vital to keep self-reflecting on your own progress.
The AMC OSCE exam primarily focuses on the importance of optimal doctor patient rapport and demonstration of safe practice, which are fundamental elements of good clinical practice. It is crucial to recognize these key words “rapport”, “safe practice” and demonstrate them in each clinical scenario.
As the age-old saying goes “Practice makes perfect”, the best way you can prepare for the exam is by PRACTICE. You must have a study partner or a study group where you can practice role plays. Try not to be too critical, instead focus on each other’s strengths and provide constructive feedback to assist others to improve their skills.
Attending bridging courses would help one to identify their own strengths and weaknesses. Also, it’s a good opportunity to maximize learning in a shorter time frame. In addition, it assists to learn skills from fellow members as well. Following group sessions, allocate time to introspect on feedback given, and continue working your way to success.
Approaching the exam in a positive manner and focusing on the essentials is pivotal to exam success. Below are some of the essential tips which would assist to excel in the AMC OSCE exam:
- Primacy effect and recency effect: It is well known that facts presented at the beginning (primacy) and facts at the end (recency) are more easily recalled than items in the middle. So, be sure to perform your best at the beginning and at the end of each station.
- Two-minute preparation outside the exam station is the key. Make sure you read the scenario carefully, identify the setting (hospital, GP clinic, etc.), understand what is expected of you and plan your performance.
- Do not worry about ACCENT. As we all know, there are many overseas trained health professionals in the medical workforce in Australia.
- It is important to follow the tasks carefully and perform only what is mentioned on the candidate instructions.
- Make sure that you suitably use the time for each of the expected tasks, as completion of all tasks is fundamental to passing the station.
- As you enter the room, introduce yourself, your role and the expectations the role player should have of the session.
- Make good eye contact with the patient/role player and ensure the role player is comfortable as you perform.
- EMPATHY IS KEY!. Make sure you demonstrate this in every station.
- Speak clearly and confidently. If you have received feedback that you speak faster, please practice during role plays and try to speak slowly in the exam.
- Though every minute is important, take time to clarify and answer questions raised.
- One must bear in mind that you can (and in most cases, should) discuss scenarios with the concerned specialists and multidisciplinary team.
- Always finish with referral/ follow up and take-home information.
Personally, I believe that the optimism I nurtured within me during my exam preparation phase was the single most important factor that led me to success. It calmed me down during nerve wrecking moments and strengthened me during setbacks. Perhaps, I believe it also helped to instill a sense of hope in my patients, i.e. the role-players in the exam. I made a sincere effort to end all my role play stations with a positive outlook offering guidance on support available, which were pivotal to my AMC exam success.
It is also vital to surround yourself with positive people who constantly motivate you to improve on your skills. Schedule some time each week for relaxation and do things you enjoy, which would help you rejuvenate and recharge yourself and help sustain positive energy throughout your preparation.
It always seems impossible until it’s done. So, believe in yourself, get your focus right and put your best foot forward on the exam day, you can make it possible. All the best!