Pass the MRCGP: Preparing for the AKT exam

Pass the MRCGP: Preparing for the AKT exam

Dr Mahibur Rahman.

The MRCGP Applied Knowledge Test (AKT) examination has recently been made harder – the pass standard was increased after the January 2010 exam, leading to the lowest pass rate so far – 73% passed the exam in January (compared to a long term average of 79% passing).  The secret to passing the exam is effective preparation.

Here are some revision tips to help you pass the exam:

  1. Plan your preparation – to cover the syllabus for this exam while also working will take most doctors 2-3 months revision.  Make sure you allow enough time to cover everything properly.
  2. Remember the boring stuff – registrars tend to do less well at the organisational and evidence interpretation questions than in the clinical medicine questions.  These areas include questions on statistics, types of study, interpreting graphs and charts, practice management, medico legal issues, DVLA guidelines and certification.  20% of the marks come from these areas, and although they may be boring to study, they offer relatively easy marks.
  3. Break your revision into bite sized chunks – after about an hour, your concentration and recall drops dramatically, so you will retain more by revising in multiple short sessions with breaks in between rather than a few longer sessions.
  4. Focus on your weak areas – doctors often enjoy attempting questions on topics they are good at, as they feel good when they get a high score.  You should avoid this and instead spend more time in areas that you are NOT so confident on; as these are the subjects you are more likely to lose marks in.
  5. Mix reading with practice – a good way to cement your learning and be sure that you can apply what you have read is to do a mixture of reading around core topics and practice sample AKT questions.  Ideally you should practice questions to time, as the pace in the real exam is very fast – you have to answer around 200 questions in 3 hours – this is less than 1 minute for each question!

The AKT is a challenging examination, but it is also fair.  Hopefully these tips will help you on your way to a pass.  Remember – if you fail to prepare, you should prepare to fail!

Dr Mahibur Rahman is the medical director of Emedica.  He is a portfolio GP and a consultant in Medical Education.  He has taught extensively on MRCGP and GP careers courses, as well as teaching GP trainers.  Details of the Emedica AKT Preparation course are available at

Emedica Alumni are entitled to a £20 discount – use this code when booking – alumniakt2010

GP Registrar Payscales 2009-2010

These are the pay scales from April 2009 – March 2010 (including the latest pay award).

GP Registrar Jobs

The current supplement for GP Registrar’s is 45%.

pay gpr

*These figures are estimated monthly take home pay net of income tax and national isurance. They have been rounded down to the nearest pound, and are based on a tax code of 647L.  As your pay may change during the tax year, the actual amount may differ.  You can get an accurate monthly calculation here (external link).  These figures do not include deductions for the NHS pension.

GP Registrar’s medical indemnity will be reimbursed less the amount they would have paid for an SHO job.

Starting in General Practice

Starting in practice

Starting out in General Practice (whether in your ST1, ST2 or ST3 year) can be a challenging time. You have to deal with a completely different way of working compared to hospital medicine, new computer systems and electronic patient records and usually a lot more responsibility for your own patients. This article from offers some advice on starting out.

Settling in

Apart from the obvious differences in setting and the range of patients seen, there are changes in the level of responsibility and autonomy you have. Although you will initially be seeing patients with your trainer, you will very quickly find you have your own booked surgeries, and you will largely be working independently (although with help close at hand whenever you need it). This can be both daunting and very satisfying – you’ll be amazed at both how much you do and don’t know! One of the most pleasant changes from hospital medicine is the continuity of seeing patients over a long period of time, and getting to know them. Most registrars also love the freedom of not having a pager after so long.

Practice Routine

You will soon find out that the work day is slightly different in practice compared to in hospital. No more starting the day with a long ward round and then working through the morning and perhaps a clinic in the afternoon – interspersed with trips to the ward to resite cannulas and complete TTOs. Instead, you are likely to have a morning and afternoon surgery, with plenty of paperwork in between, some home visits, the odd tutorial and regular practice meetings. You will soon find out which days you are on call (home visits etc.), and which clinics happen on which days (baby clinic, smear clinic, diabetic clinic, COPD clinic etc. etc.).

Working with the team.

Although you will be in your room seeing your own patients a lot of the time, you will find that in primary care there is a large team of staff with various skills and roles that you have to fit into. You need to find out how to make the best use of the resources available. Some of the members of the team include:

Practice Manager Very important. Will sort out your pay, training on practice systems, may be involved in sorting out study leave and rota. Normally involved in keeping an eye on progress with QOF points under new contract.
Receptionists Practices could not run without good receptionists. They will locate your notes, find results, and be responsible for letting patients know when you are going to be videoing for your assessments. Be nice to them!
Practice Nurse Most practices now have nurse led clinics for various things – CHD, COPD, Asthma etc. May also see patients with minor ailments, as well as dealing with removal of sutures, immunizations, and assisting in minor surgery.
Healthcare Support Worker Many practice employ a HCSW to take bloods, blood pressures and help the practice nurses with clinics etc.
District Nurses May be attached or directly employed by the practice, usually involved in care of terminally ill patients, community management of DVT, care of housebound patients.
Health Visitors Involved in child health surveillance, including developmental assessments, hearing assessments and home visits to children and new mothers.
Practice Secretary Where would you be without someone to type and send all your dictated referral letters? Probably still at surgery until late.
Other doctors Remember that your trainer is not the only one that you can learn from. The other doctors may be involved formally or informally, and should be able to offer help and advice when you are unsure of a diagnosis or when to refer.

Electronic Patient Records

One of the biggest changes in General Practice comes when dealing with patient records. Many practices are paperless (or paperlight), with almost everything done on the computer system. Whichever system your practice uses (EMIS, Torex, Vision, SystemOne), you need to spend some time learning how to navigate it. Keeping accurate and detailed records is essential – not only for your patients, but to help colleagues when they follow up your patient, and also for your own protection in case there is ever a complaint. Make sure that you are comfortable with how to enter consultations, examinations, how to check blood results and access letters from secondary care.

Finally, I recommend that you LEARN TO TYPE! The better you can type, the more detail you can provide in your notes without running late. Emedica have developed a simple, fun way for you to improve your typing skills. You can use this free typing package, called Meditype to practice typing (it has a practice module and a typing game to make it more enjoyable). You can have a go at