The FRCS exams have for long been regarded as the cream of qualifications when it comes to ophthalmology. Although the format and pattern of the examination are bound to change in the future as a result of the unique state of affairs the COVID pandemic brought about, certain guidelines will remain unaffected.
The examination usually entails a written section (multiple choice and/or essay questions) and face-to-face section – the viva voce and the clinical stations. Keep the following pointers in mind while approaching the examination.
Identify what you are exactly trying to achieve by appearing for this examination. Is it just out of enthusiasm for having additional degrees or to enhance your job chances? Once you figure out what you are trying to achieve by becoming an FRCS, the strategy for appearing and passing the examination will become precise. Moreover, never venture down this path in two minds for it is both monetarily and emotionally expensive. Finally, also be aware that job chances and licensing criteria are both dynamic and liable to change.
The exam is best attempted close on the heels of clearing your qualifying examination. Memory is likely to fade and reviewing topics that one does not come across in day-to-day practice becomes increasingly laborious. Venturing into subspecialty practice further makes things demanding as one is further detached from other fields. Furthermore, one needs to be really motivated to make the most of this idle situation because the initial parts of the exam should be cleared during residency itself.
The FRCS examination is a far cry from post-graduate examinations like the DNB and MD/MS. FRCS largely strives to gauge the capability of a candidate to practice the specialty at an independent, consultant level. A candidate’s answer should live up to this, both in its content as well as presentation. What’s more, most questions test clinical, practical knowledge and experience without being theoretical. Moreover, the questions are often attuned to clinical scenarios that put one’s approach to the test rather than eliciting factual lists as answers.
A lot of emphasis is placed on the safety of the patient. The organized implications of diagnosis and treatment cannot go unnoticed. This concept is reiterated in the topics that are deemed worthy as well as the type of questions asked. Furthermore, one’s reply should always give precedence to a potentially life-threatening condition or complication. Finally, neuro-ophthalmic disorders with high morbidity and mortality are given particular weightage.
This examination is unlike any other qualifying examinations. The application process isn’t any easier. Having a study companion will come in handy. You can each make sure that the other adheres to their study schedule. Moreover, you can also discuss answers and try clinical techniques on each other.
Practicing oral answers given during the viva and clinical stations is extremely necessary. Since the examination is time-bound, providing relevant information in a short time can prove to be critical. There is no room for stalling and obfuscation. If you do not know the answer it’s better to admit because the examiner may offer you a hint. Long silences will yield undesired results since the clock is ticking.