What to expect in the CSA

It will help candidates to understand more about how the Clinical Skills Assessment works, says Dr Mehul Mathukia.

The clinical skills assessment (CSA) has been something of an unknown, and perhaps worrying, entity for prospective candidates, trainers and examiners because it is such a new exam.

Peers and colleagues have felt a sense of dread at the prospect of having to role-play once again, particularly with a sense of uncertainty as to what to expect.

This book aims to allay these apprehensions. The authors are a professor of general practice education and a GP specialist trainee. The introduction gives a clear indication of the aims and purpose of the CSA exam, and crucially, the criteria upon which candidates will be assessed.

Intelligent layout
There are 26 different vignettes in this book. Of course, with the diversity of problems seen in general practice, it would be impossible for this book to cover them all. The authors have selected important, salient topics covering a wide range of physical, psychological and social primary care problems.

Each vignette follows the same format. The candidate is given a brief synopsis of the case, as per the exam. They are told what the patient says on entering the room and then asked a couple of questions to stimulate thinking.

Readers are then given the patient's actual instructions, which are followed by the discussion and knowledge section.

The layout is intelligent, as the candidate is encouraged to start thinking of the issues raised and how they would approach the consultation before turning to the discussion, which is always over the page.

This book makes it clear throughout exactly what the CSA is aiming to test: interpersonal skills, data gathering, examination and clinical assessment skills, and clinical management skills.

The discussion section uses these as headings in each vignette. This format answers the question in a logical and clear manner. The final portion of the vignette tackles the knowledge issues arising from the case.

Interspersed amongst the vignettes are some entertaining cartoons to lift any sullen and anxious mood.

Structured approach
The authors give an example of every topic within the RCGP curriculum. Working through these case studies, one can pick up useful information relevant toclinical practice.

In addition, the structure of the book allows candidates to work individually, in pairs or as a group. Going through the vignettes should give candidates confidence and a framework in which to structure their approach to any given scenario.

Overall, the book is well written, readable and not cumbersome. It is useful, thought-provoking and enjoyable to work through. It should give the candidate the confidence to recognise that this exam is more objective than previously, and more relevant to general practice.

Dr Mathukia is a GP in Loughton, Essex


GP and the Royal Society of Medicine are giving away five copies of MRCGP: Clinical Skills Assessment by Dr Bruno Rushforth and Professor Val Wass, worth £24.95 each.

For a chance to win a copy, email GPeducation@haymarket.com by 4 July 2008. If you are unlucky in the book draw then you can order a copy directly from the Royal Society of Medicine website www.rsmpress.co.uk at the price of £24.95.

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