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Case histories for the MRCP
  1. Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust, The Friars, Friars Road, Newport, Gwent, UK

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    Case histories for the MRCP, Paul Goldsmith, pp 296. Butterworth Heinemann, 1998. £15.99, paperback. ISBN 0 7506 3868 0. ****

    The MRCP exam is the gateway to a consultant job in medicine. It is one of the most coveted achievements in the life of a junior doctor. The pass rate is low and it is usually attained after much hard work and sweat. The College has now removed one of the obstacles which is the limit of only six attempts at Part 2. However, candidates are still going to the exam as well prepared as possible because early success prevents unnecessary expense and enhances self-esteem.

    There are already a large number of revision aids available in the bookshops which has enabled the standard of preparation for the exam to rise. However, as the College inevitably will try to beat ‘the market’ by introducing different styles and questions, then so the market must try to keep one step ahead of the college. This new book of case histories for the MRCP does indeed provide a much-needed source of high quality, challenging, case histories. The case histories are renowned to be the trickiest part of the written paper and usually include some obscure conditions not routinely seen in clinical practice. This book covers many of these including von Hippell Landau, Buruli ulcer and Lemierre's disease to name just a few − I was able to educate myself on the latter condition.

    The book's great asset is the long explanations given with the suggested answers that remove the need to look up unknown conditions in major reference books. Just enough information is given. Each set of 10 cases provides an ideal mock exam with a good range of everyday and lesser known medical problems. There are one or two minor spelling errors which is inevitable in any text.

    The book has been shown to local juniors who found it difficult but useful. The scoring system could be more ‘upbeat’ in order to boost morale and the presentation is somewhat ‘boring’. Perhaps just a few illustrations/X-rays/ECGs might have relieved it. It is really of personal preference whether all the answers should be at the end of the text or whether they should be given at the conclusion of each set of histories.

    This is, as it is meant to be, a practical and functional presentation which I am sure will be of great help to the next generation of those aspiring to acquire MRCP.