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By Una Coales. (Pp 310; £19.95.) Royal Society of Medicine Press, 2002. ISBN 1-85315-526-8.
The MRCP examination is hard and daunting to get through but the better prepared the candidate then the chance of success early on in either the first or second attempt is obviously much higher. Part 1 is more difficult than part 2 because it is largely theoretically based and revision is tedious and dependent on reading books whereas the part 2, even the written paper, requires clinical knowledge and clinical skills. However, part 1 can be made much easier to prepare for if candidates base their revision around practice questions. There is no point just sitting in the library reading endless textbooks from cover to cover. The MCQ books on the market have been able to give candidates the opportunity to test their knowledge and then to “read around” the subject areas at which they do badly.
With so many books available, one might ask “why produce another?” This is a very pertinent question at the moment as the Royal College of Physicians has decided to drop MCQs from the examination. There will still be two papers, one of which will continue to be the recently introduced “best of five” and the other will be “n from many”.
Una Coales’s book contains six complete mock examinations (each with an MCQ paper and a “best of five” paper). The MCQs in this and other books will not be wasted as they still provide an ideal opportunity to “test one’s knowledge” on a syllabus that will largely remain unchanged.
This book offers a fairly comprehensive range of both theoretical and practical questions that are marginally easier than the examination itself—good in the early days of revision when confidence building is essential and reassurance needed that it is possible to pass! It is the first book we have seen to address questions on ethics. However, there are some questions which are outside the MRCP syllabus—a fact that may relate to the background of the author. Each question is criterion referenced with the star ratings giving an indication of the degree of difficulty and what percentage of candidates are expected to get it right. The book’s suggested pass marks of 68%–76% for MCQs and 76%–78% for “best of five” reflects the abolition of the negative marking.
The best books available have answers that come complete with explanations; here they are not always present and those that are could be longer and more comprehensive. The MRCP examination as a whole has undergone radical changes to ensure equity and fairness and the candidates of the future need as much practice as possible. All these books, this one included, are there to help.
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.