A registrar survival guide ... MRCGP study groups

The right mix of people

Studying with the right group of people can seriously cut down on your exam workload, but get it wrong and it could be another source of anxiety and frustration.

Choosing the right combination of people is essential. Don't be tempted to join a group thinking that everyone else will do all the work - you will be found out. Equally, inviting the class workaholic to join your group may seem like a winner, but they could end up increasing your exam stress.

Have a threesome
I found three people to be a good number. Still worth turning up if one could not make it, but not such a big group that finding a free evening became impossible.

Most importantly, we all got on well and all wanted similar things from the group.

Each session usually started off with some limited-time gossip and/or moaning about our week, then it was down to some concentrated study.

Identify the hot topics
Early on we generated a list of 'hot topics' we felt likely to come up, for example hypertension management.

There are several lots of topics available online and a quick internet search can easily help with this.

We each volunteered to present a topic each week and summarise the relevant studies, usually in the form of a hand-out. Each week one of us would skim the journals for any interesting articles or editorials and present them succinctly for the group.

We would work from past exam papers. Each person prepared a question in advance and we then worked through the questions as a group. Three brains are definitely better than one when trying to think broadly about an ambiguous or complex question.

Do not be a martyr
It would have been possible to perform this all alone, but it would have taken much longer, and would have been much more depressing. I found the guilt factor quite motivating, as no one likes to let down their friends.

Most study groups work well, and I was very lucky with my group, but what should you do if the group is not working for you? What should you do if you don't see eye to eye or someone refuses to pull their weight and lets you down week after week? My advice would be if you can't fix it, then walk away. There are no prizes for being a study group martyr.

Dr Anna Greenham is a locum GP in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She qualified as a GP in February 2006

Essential checklist

  • A quiet room.
  • A couple of friends.
  • Cup of tea.
  • An interesting titbit of gossip.
  • Hand-outs, journals, guidelines, past exam papers.


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