My Top Revision Tips for Student Veterinary Nurse
As a student vet nurse, you face revising for written, multiple choice (MCQ) and practical (OSCE) exams. This can feel daunting as you may not have sat OSCE or MCQ style exams before.
Do you need to revise differently and how can you best prepare?
Revising for written exams
Much of what is written here applies to any exam. Much of it is common sense and I imagine you’ve heard it before, but it's gets repeated because it works!
The caffeine-fueled all-night sessions may seem to be the road to success but rarely are. Keep yourself healthy and happy. Eat well, sleep well. Have a schedule and make time for a something you enjoy. Stress is made worse at exam time so keep yourself physically and mentally well – and make sure it's personal to you. While a friend might relax with a 20 min high energy gym class, if that’s not for you then do what you prefer.
Revision is best in short sessions split up with breaks and rewards and different activities. Keep your revision as interesting as possible, try to spend short periods on different topics so your brain doesn’t get bored reading the same type information. Also consider revising from different formats – reading, audio and video all stimulate the brain in different ways, reducing revision burn out.
Not all subjects on your course will be as interesting to you as others. Some you will find harder than others. However, you need to pass these too. Be prepared to spend a little longer on areas you don’t enjoy as it may take longer to work through the material.
You will hopefully have ready your course notes and access to reading lists and module information. If you don’t – don’t panic you can still succeed. You’ll just have to work a bit faster and harder. In an ideal world you will have reviewed the course information 3-4 times before starting to revise:
Pre-revision information gathering
- Pre-lecture information checking
- Check subject area
- Print off lecture notes/seminar topics
- Find out any words or names you don’t recognise
- Post session note review
- Find out about any new ideas or terminology mentioned
- Review notes for filing, associate with upcoming assessments
You can then start your revision feeling that you understand the notes you have and can make connections across the information you have. If you haven’t done this, don’t panic, but also don’t be fooled that time spent filing notes is actually revision – it’s not! This might look pretty, but it’s not made me learn anything!
Vetlife phone number is 0303 040 2551 – exams are stressful!
Revision for an exam is different to preparing for an assignment. It can feel odd preparing for an exam after writing assignments. You can still refer to works you have read informally in an exam, but you aren’t creating a list of new work you have researched and need to reference in Harvard style.
Therefore there should be less time spent on research when preparing for exams. While you may need to read around the subject a little more to fill any gaps in knowledge you feel you have it isn’t to the same extent as writing a 3000 word assignment.
Revising for MCQs
MCQ exams are used as they allow an exam to cover a large subject area in a relatively short exam. Most essay based exams will cover certain sections of the module syllabus and you may also be able to choose which questions you answer giving you some control over the subject areas you are examined on.
This means MCQs are a blend of a detailed exam that can cover a large amount of what you have learned through the high number of questions that can be asked.
The phrase “Devil is in the detail” can be accurately used for MCQ exams. While you may know general information or can remember details when discussing cases MCQs are an exam that means you need to know the subject area well and not rely on the answers being in front of you.
This can feel quite daunting. Exams are not just memory tasks but you will need to feel comfortable working out the best way for you to recall information in a way that helps you in an exam.
The difference between revising for written exams and revising for MCQs is that MCQs will give you the answer, but also 3 or more incorrect answers, or distractors. These are usually from the same subject area and so will appear familiar.
The danger is that you may not be totally clear on spelling or the use of terminology and so have 2 answers that you find very similar. This is where your revision needs to be focused less on ideas and arguments than for written exams and more on facts, and correct terminology.
Make sure your revision includes practicing sample questions – even if there are limited amounts of these learning to read and answer questions correctly is part of your revision. You can even start to make up your own MCQs as practice – perhaps sharing with friends who are doing the same.
If you consider the digestive system, running cranial to caudal from teeth to stomach
What MCQs could you write for these areas of the body?
- Number of teeth in adult and juvenile
- Tongue tissue and salivary glands
- Pharynx/larynx and movement of tongue
- Position of oesophagus in relation to trachea
- Tissue of oesophagus
- Stomach emptying
- Contents of stomach acid
I’m sure you can think of lots more, and try writing them. This makes you research the correct answers and the wrong answers and provides a great overview of MCQs.
Revising for OSCES
Well, how do you do this? Do you sit and read the mark sheet and memorise every step? Watch a DVD or video and mimic everything they do?
Either method will only get you so far – you need to practice doing each task. Yes, you should check any information you’re given about the exam – mark sheets, key steps, and other info – but nothing prepares you like doing what you need in the exam.
This can vary from doing a whole exam from beginning to end, making sure you carry out your everyday tasks to exam standards or practicing the little bits a task that niggle you. Swabbing bottle tops, counting drops per second in a fluid task or anything you feel you may forget or not do well.
Approaching your OSCE exams in an open way is key. Remember that these are tasks you carry out regularly or could be asked to carry out if needed. This isn’t just about being “exam ready”, it’s about being a safe, competent practitioner.
When you “revise” try to do this as part of your normal day. Set up fluids properly, carry out full checks on bottles of medication using DEBS and so on. You will need to set up and practice the tasks under timed conditions to make sure you will achieve all that is needed, and practice controlling your exam nerves, but apart from this, every day is a revision day for OSCEs.
Revision is hard work, for any exam, but it needn’t be boring – start planning your revision today.