Patients-not just Images

Devoted to Education and Practice in Patient-centered Radiology

Examinations - a walkthrough

Ravi Ramakantan

Applicable to postgraduate examinations in radiology in India (DMRD, MD, DNB etc)

Tips for the theory examination:

1. Usually, you would have been on leave for a month or more before your theory examination. It's important to practice writing during this time; otherwise you will have trouble completing a three hour paper. Incidentally, during this period of leave, visit your department and be in touch with radiology practice so that you do not get lost during the practical examination.

2. Prepare as well as you can and as you normally do for the theory examination. It is never possible to read everything or even substantial part of the 'portion'. During the examination, there will be questions, the answers to which you may not have studied. Do not worry.

3. It is very important to read the instructions at the beginning of each paper. Read them carefully and understand what it says. Follow these instructions scrupulously. Not following these instructions is a sure way to get the examiner angry.

4. Ration your time carefully between various questions. Do not spend too much time on a particular question just because you know the answer well and then be left with very little time for the other questions. This is commonsensical but many students do not follow these instructions.

5. When you come to a question, read the words carefully: such as when it says the words like – enumerate, describe, compare et cetera and follow these instructions. This is of utmost importance so that you write what is asked for and do not write what is not. This way you will generally save time and not run out of time.

6. As a rule, do not write sheets and sheets of answer words without being illustrated with flowcharts, diagrams and colour. Use points rather than boring paragraphs. Most examiners are bored correcting theory papers and they require an easy way to see what you have written on what you know. This can be best achieved by drawing and charting. Colour adds meaning to your answers and easily draws the attention of the examiner towards salient points of your answer making his life easy. However, do not overdo this.

7. As I said before, there will be questions the answers to which you really do not know. Think back on the days in residency where you'd have seen such a case or heard somebody talk about this and make up a reasonably good answer. Do not leave out any questions simply because you do not know an answer to it from textbooks

Practical hints for practical examinations!

Most examiners are kind and helpful; a few rare ones are unhelpful and aggressive - but, do not get intimidated by these.Keep your cool.

1. Exam outcomes depend more on what you have learnt and worked at in 2-3 years of residency rather than just what you mugged up in 2-3 months of exam leave.

2. For best performance – learn to enjoy your in-exam time. The more you are relaxed, the better will be your performance. I believe this is of utmost importance.

3. Examination is a consultation or a conversation between two near equals. One who is already a consultant (the examiner) and one, who is on the threshold of becoming one (the student). As a rule, on many topics, students tend to know more theory than the examiner himself - only, the examiner happens to be sitting on the 'right side' of the table. This 'inequality' is so - just because the examiner happened to be born before you and this is no fault of yours!

4. So, behave in a exam just as you would with any other consultant who seeks your opinion on any case.

5. In the spots, do the best you can. There is no magic answer to difficult spots. Guess as best as you can, do not leave out any as blanks.

6. When you take your seat at the examination table for viva, long and short cases, pleasantly wish the examiner. This helps break the ice.

· When you are shown films/images, do not keep staring at them; instead start describing as early as you can.

· As you talk and describe, see and think further.Be confident in what you say.. do not whisper.. talk 'loudly' and clearly.

· After you have described, do not wait for the examiner to say “so what do you think the diagnosis is or "what will you do next" ?

Instead, right after you give your description, you yourself volunteer a diagnosis or a list of differential diagnosis with most likely diagnosis as the first in the list and where relevant say "I will do a ....... to confirm the diagnosis".

7. In your statements, answers and conversation with the examiner , lead to questions that you know the answer to and do not put your foot in areas you are unfamiliar with. This is a simple trick to avoid messing things up.

8. When you do not know answers to some of the questions, do not guess too much, too often. Frequent wrong answers may irritate the examiner. Instead simply say “Sorry, I do not know the answer”.

8. After you finish the exam, say a polite “thank you” to all examiners before you walk away.

9. The best thing that can happen in an exam is that you can get the gold medal. And the worst thing is that you may fail. Do not agonise. It is okay to fail even if it is for the first time in your life. After all, a lot of luck is involved during the course of practical examination. In fact, a failure, gives you even more time to prepare better for the next time. And you get six more months to learn radiology as a resident. Believe me, these times will never come again.

10. Finally, make sure you have slept adequately the night before the exam. There is no point in trying to study late the night before the exam. This does not really help.

All the best for examinations!