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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Which MRCGP courses should you take?

Registrars can

choose from scores

of MRCGP preparation courses. Dr Nigel Giam gives tips on how to sort the wheat from

the chaff

With new MRCGP on the horizon, GP registrars need to consider preparation courses carefully. As a GP registrar you need to be well informed not only about the nature of the exam and the educational material available, but the implications of belonging to a body that will have a much greater role in licensing and revalidation.

Courses may be accredited to the RCGP or solely commercial. Recently many new ones have sprung up and there will inevitably

be more. Not all courses have the primary agenda of providing good quality education. So how do you choose?

My deciding factors when I took the exam were as follows.

Cost

Study leave funding is variable and in most cases will not wholly cover the cost of a course. Courses can range from £300 to £700. Cost however is not necessarily a reflection of how good or bad a course may be.

Educational quality

How do you judge the quality of a course? There is little, if any, regulation in who can provide a course and quality control is virtually non-existent. Pass rates are often publicised as a marker of quality, but there is no way to gauge how accurate such figures are. Also the way some courses publicise this information can be very misleading.

Find out about the course organisers. What educational qualifications and experience do they have? Do they have an educational role outside the remit of MRCGP and who do they work with or use as tutors? Find out who will be teaching you – I think this is of paramount importance. Such information should be readily available.

RCGP examiners

The MRCGP is a college exam and my own feeling is that courses that have a 'college presence' – for example an RCGP examiner presence during a mock viva day – offer a more realistic taste of what the exam is really about. This does not mean that all courses held at the college offer this, as external course providers can hire out the college privately with no input from RCGP examiners or tutors. Again you need to find out what affiliation the course and the course organiser has with the RCGP. And find out whether the course will give you any insight into the role of membership.

Deanery

Is the course deanery approved? This is often a surrogate but not always reliable marker of quality for a course – though study leave reimbursement can be easier to access for courses advertised via the deanery.

Feedback

Look at feedback – commercial course providers will only tend to publish positive feedback, which may be very subjective. To access individual viewpoints try accessing MRCGP study groups on line – for example through MSN. You will be surprised at the wealth of information that you can access on courses and the insight can be invaluable before you decide to write that cheque.

Remember after the course to leave feedback. If the course values itself, the feedback will be acted on. At the end of the day the quality of a course will speak for itself.

Course content

Ask yourself what you are looking for in a course. Don't fall into a trap of false security through the 'comfort' of lots of handouts and books, which you may not have time to read. Look for courses that are practical, up to date and offer exam technique and peer support – qualities that cannot be replicated by simply buying a book. Generally a balance between lectures, small group work with different teaching and facilitating styles will prove most useful. There are so many resources out there that are freely available and easy to access. Don't feel pressured into buying unnecessary educational material.

Last-minute applications

Don't leave applying to the last minute – courses get booked up quickly. But don't rush to book a course that you have not researched thoroughly. Courses that guarantee sure passes will never live up to that

expectation and they don't come with a money-back guarantee if you fail!

Dr Nigel Giam, MRCGP Course Director

London Faculties RCGP (South and North/West Faculty)

Checklist

• Shortlist two to three courses

• Check your study leave availability and potential reimbursement

• Compare cost, course content, and different teaching methods

• Do your research on the course organiser and tutors – are RCGP examiners present?

• Ask previous registrars for feedback on courses or try online at groups.msn.com and search for MRCGPStudyGroup

• Don't leave it to the last minute

• Use resources that are freely available, such as past papers and examiners' comments – try www.rcgp.org.uk

More information

For more information on freely available resources and courses

www.geocities.com/mrcgpcourses

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