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By Marcus Munafo. (Pp 198; £18.99.) Arnold Publishers Ltd, 2002. ISBN 0-340-80911- 6.
Any book which can increase the chances of passing membership examinations would be a welcome addition to a potential candidate’s reading list. Marcus Munafo’s Psychology for the MRCPsych seems, by its mere title alone, to be explicit in doing this. However, potential readers would do well to heed Munafo’s own words of caution in his introduction to this second edition.
The breadth and depth of knowledge required for the written examination can be a significant hurdle, especially if that knowledge is required in specialist areas which may not have previously been taught to any great degree at medical school. Psychology is one of these areas which takes up a significant amount of the college’s exam curriculum. Potential future members of the college can therefore expect to be asked a large number of psychology and human development questions and a grounding of knowledge in these areas is a basic necessity.
Munafo’s book sets about addressing this task with some aplomb. It seems to assume no, or at least very little, prior knowledge of the subject, and all major areas are covered adequately enough for the reader to feel confident that they have a grasp of the breadth of the subject. The book’s close adherence to the curriculum makes it easy to follow for revision purposes. It is clearly and accurately written about the major concepts involved and its conciseness is to be commended (time can seem in very short supply in the run-up to examinations!). There are frequent summaries throughout the text. However this brevity means that some readers may struggle to fully understand some of the ideas without referring to a more discursive, though lengthier text.
To give the author credit, he identifies that his book is not a replacement for a more traditional psychology text or lecture course, but a bridge between the requirements of the exam and the textbooks that currently exist on this topic and that the candidate will have to do a substantial amount of independent work. It is particularly helpful for revision.
The expanded chapter on neuropsychology helps keep the book up to date, and the inclusion of examples of individual statement questions is in keeping with the recent changes to the exam. These should help give the candidate a flavour of what may be asked in the examination but should by no means be seen as exhaustive.
Overall the book scores highly as a basic introduction and a quick reference guide. It should prove very useful as a revision tool for any part 1 candidate, though those wishing to ensure high marks in this section of the paper would do well to listen to the author’s own words and look at additional material elsewhere.
The reviewers have been asked to rate these books in terms of four items: readability, how up to date they are, accuracy and reliability, and value for money, using simple four point scales. From their opinions we have derived an overall “star” rating: * = poor, ** = reasonable, *** = good, **** = excellent.