Primary Exams

ACEM Primary Exam

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the Primary Examination (Basic Science) resources page!

In 2009 I had the experience of sitting the ACEM basic sciences primary exam and found that, despite getting some fantastic one off teaching in my own hospital, that there was lack of structured material available based on what has been in the exam previously.  This is especially true of the daunting Viva section of the exam which as of this year (2013) is being combined into a single exam.

On this page we make suggestions as to how to best prepare for Postgraduate Basic Sciences exams such as the FACEM Primary Exam.

Working full time and studying can cause strains beyond what you have previously experienced when sitting exams at University.

Take this difference with post-graduate exams quite seriously – your learning style may need to evolve in order to succeed with other competing interests such as work and family.

Seek help, support and advice in your preparation.

Above all use the consultants and senior registrars at your hospital to mentor you through the process.

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DETAILS FOR 2016 EXAMS

Examination
Must be registered as a trainee by:
Applications
Open
Written
Date
Written
Location
Integrated
Viva
Integrated Viva Location
Application Closing Date and
Withdrawal Deadline
PE 2016.1
TBC
23 Nov 2015
19 February 2016
All regions
17-18 March 2016
Melbourne
15 Jan 2016
PE 2016.2
TBC
30 May 2016
12 Aug 2016
All regions
15-16 September 2016
Melbourne
8 July 2016

THE NEW ACEM PRIMARY EXAM

The New FACEM Primary Format is Summarised HERE

ACEM Primary Exam
ACEM Primary Exam

The Future of the Primary Exam

The 4 topics previouslypresented in the Written Primary Exam as separate papers will be integrated into a single exam.

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GENERAL ACEM PRIMARY EXAM TIPS

General Advice for Post-graduate Basic Science Exams

You need to be up to speed with the following in equal measure:

    1. Core Knowledge from the recommended Textbooks

    2. Excellent MCQ Technique

    3. Practice of all available old recalled ‘GOLD’ MCQs

    4. Excellent Viva Technique

    5. Practice of the available VIVA questions from previous exams

    6. Stick to a study timetable such as the one outlined HERE

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Key Point – Viva Practice Early

In the process of revising for the exam I produced some of my own practice oral viva exams. I suggest you do the same to help you get through this component of the exam under the pressure of the big day.

In the new exam format you have to pass all the MCQs before sitting a combined VIVA exam which means sustained practice over time will be increasingly important.

Practicing Vivas early in your revision can also give you a realistic overall expectation about the level of knowledge you require to pass the exam as a whole.

Doing this in front of your colleagues and friends can be daunting and embarrassing but in reality they will think more of you for having ‘a go’.  Hopefully in the coming months I’ll be able to post some relevant material to help you with your Viva preparation.

Life in the Fast Lane has kindly provided a comprehensive list of Primary Vivas:

CLICK HERE

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Key Point = 4 subjects in one single exam = spread the workload over time

Although some consider it foolhardy to attempt all subjects at one sitting, many people have passed all four subjects in one go with hard work and application.

This option saves you some money and allows a significant time saving due to the overlap between the subjects.

If all four subjects at once seems too much (with time commitments such as work and family) it would be reasonable to break the exam up into 2 or more attempts.  I would suggest that the Physiology, Pathology and Pharmacology sections have the most significant overlap, whereas Anatomy probably doesn’t…

In terms of study time, the Anatomy probably constitutes about forty percent of the overall work required to pass the exam.  Therefore, while it is possible to pass all four subjects at once, sitting Anatomy by itself and the 3 ‘Ps’ together may be reasonable.  Having said this, in the context of the new exam format with separate MCQs and VIVAs, attempting all four subjects would seem like a reasonable tactic.

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PRIMARY EXAMINATION RESOURCES

  1. Primary Prep  – a blog dedicated to the ICU primary but also very useful for ED – CLICK HERE

  2. Life in the Fast Lane  – the original and best Primary Exam FOAM website – CLICK HERE

  3. Nambourdemexams – a new wordpress blog dedicated to the ACEM Primary – CLICK HERE

  4. ACEM Exams – a website focused on passing the Primary Exam – CLICK HERE

  5. Pass Primary Blog – a recent blogdedicated to success in the ACEM Primary Exam – CLICK HERE

  6. Pharmacology Tutorials – at an early stage I would recommend Pat Neligan’s tutorials.             These provide a rapid reference of each drug and basic principles – CLICK HERE

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SUBJECT 1 – ANATOMY

This subject is very ‘visual’ by its nature.  It probably takes about 30-40% of the work required to pass.

In making my notes I found it useful to make a number of simplified diagrams. To this end, I would highly recommend ‘Instant Anatomy’ and accompanying CD series with its entertaining podcasts by Robert Whitaker.

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Moore’s Textbook is the recommended textbook.  The answers to the MCQs seem to be coming directly from this textbook, although many questions historically have come from Last’s Textbook.  The college uses a bank of questions and they add to this each year.  The questions are often taken word for word from the current textbook.

moore-anatomy

In the Viva Exam McMinn’s Atlas is used and the examiners use standardised models of various regions such as the eye and larynx.

There is also widespread use of joint models (e.g. ankle, knee and shoulder) and bone cadaver samples (e.g. humerus, clavicle, 1st rib, radius/ulna, femur, tibia and pelvis).

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I would also recommend revising in a small group (or  friendly pair) and practice Vivas with your consultants from the start.   It may seem obvious, but your consultants will reward the consistent commitment and enthusiasm you show and probably help you more as a result nearer the last minute exam rush.

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ANATOMY DOWNLOADS

Here are some Notes, MCQs and Viva started to help you get started:

MCQ – Anatomy MCQ

VIVA – Viva Selection

Notes – Anatomy CNS and Neck

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SUBJECT 2 – PATHOLOGY

We know of a cadidate who passed the Pathology part of the exam with less than a weeks work and another who failed having read most of Robbins Textbook.   Therefore, focusing on the old exam topics for Pathology rather than trawling through large textbooks is probably the most pertinent approach.  Robbins’ is a daunting and unnecessary prospect for reading from cover to cover (and I don’t think this is the best way to pass).

By all means read the first few chapters of the Robbins text (there’s no doubt it is wel written), but focus on the ‘mini Robbins’ textbook for a general overview and research the questions with the full book.

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For pathology ‘Google books’ was extremely useful for rapidly looking up MCQ topics and answers.  This saved a lot of time during my revision.  In using the ‘dreaded google’ it is possible to cover many more MCQ questions in a revision session using a computer compared with flicking back and forward using the index of a dusty textbook.  I used “CONTROL F” on the PC to rapidly search for content in electronic documents.

PATHOLOGY DOWNLOADS

MCQ  PATHOLOGY MCQ 1

MCQ – PATHOLOGY 2 (2008-10)

VIVA – Viva Selection

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SUBJECT 3 – PHYSIOLOGY

West’s and Ganong’s Textbooks make the standard reading for physiology.

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From our experience the majority of the Physiology exam is made up of Respiratory, Cardiovascular and the ‘Basic’ Physiology topics outlined in the first few chapters of the Ganong textbook.

Download a free copy by clicking here

There is a focus on calculations and fluid balance and there where multiple ‘repeat’ questions in the MCQ exam.

As far as the Viva is concerned the examiners are expecting a clinically relevant discussion of ‘basic concepts’.

There are unlikely to be surprises in terms of the topics as in my viva exam all the questions had been in previous papers.

Here is our Viva Checklist – Physiology Viva Checklist

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PHYSIOLOGY DOWNLOADS

MCQ PHYSIOLOGY MCQ 1

MCQ – PHYSIOLOGY MCQ 2 (2009)

VIVA – Viva Selection

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SUBJECT 4 – PHARMACOLOGY

Overview

This is where you may get a surprise in both the MCQ and the Viva.

The Syllabus and Textbooks have been changed in 2010 and again in 2011.

The most important thing for the Pharmacology is practicing your answers using a standardised template covering either Pharmacokinetics or Pharmacodynamics of selected drugs which is what they will ask about.

There are about 50 Drugs in particular that you must know for the Viva.

Here is our Viva Checklist – Pharmacology Viva Checklist

Recent MCQs have had multiple repeat questions taken directly from the text of Katzung’s Pharmacology Textbook:

Katzung

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PHARMACOLOGY DOWNLOADS

MCQ – PHARMACOLOGY MCQ 1 (2009)

MCQ – PHARMACOLOGY MCQ 2 (Autonomic)

MCQ – PHARMACOLOGY MCQ 3 (General)

VIVAS – Viva Selection

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THE PHARMACOLOGY “TEMPLATE”

Most Questions in the Pharmacology Viva are on either ‘Kinetics’ (what the body does to the drug) or ‘Dynamics’ (what the drug does to the body)

I suggest you Memorise the 2 templates below You can use them as a framework for answering questions in the Viva.

I found it a useful way of forming my answers and I think you will too:

PHARMACOKINETICS

  1. Introduction (Drug, class, prototype drug, history etc)

  2. Absorption and Routes of Administration and Bioavailability

  3. Distribution

  4. Metabolism of Drug

  5. Clearance

  6. Half Life

  7. Dosing

  8. Monitoring

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PHARMACODYNAMICS

  1. Introduction (as above)

  2. Mechanism of Action of the Drug

  3. Organ Effects (E.g. CV, Resp, GI, CNS)

  4. Side Effects

  5. Indications (Primary Secondary)

  6. Contraindications

  7. Toxidromes

  8. Major Drug Interactions

  9. Other Specific Idiosyncratic Issues with the Drug

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Good Luck!

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