How long to study for FRCOphth Part 1 - FRCOphth Part 1 Revision Guide
15 Feb 2022
This is the second instalment of our FRCOphth Part 1 Revision Guide blog series. To read the first instalment, click here.
A big and obvious question on everyone’s mind when approaching the exam, is how long should I study for the FRCOphth Part 1?
My answer is three months.
Some will prefer longer and perhaps others will need less time. But in my experience and those of others who have passed the exam first time, three months gets the balance right.
A healthy work-life balance and mental health are just as important as accumulating the requisite knowledge. Furthermore, you want to avoid overpreparing and peaking your knowledge too early.
Also bear in mind that you may also be juggling commitments as a junior registrar (with on-calls and the demands of e-portfolio!), so it’s important to achieve a balance and avoid letting the exam taking over your life.
Another way of thinking about this question is when should you sit the exam relative to your stage of training. To progress in Ophthalmic Specialty Training, Part 1 needs to be passed before the end of ST2 (the second year of the run through program).
However, you don't need to be a specialty trainee to sit Part 1 so it is open to more junior doctors, such as FY1s or FY2s (recently qualified doctors in the UK). Plenty of candidates at this level are successful in the exam but to my mind this is a bit risky (and an expensive one at that!). Once you're in OST, the support and guidance you gain from working as an ophthalmologist as well as the relevance of your daily work, helps immeasurably.
For this reason, I think the sweet spot is mid-way through or towards the end of ST1: when you have an optimum support network, but still plenty of time to pass before the ST2 deadline.
Making the best use of these three crucial months is key to maximising your chance of success. So it's essential that your studying is productive, otherwise it wouldn't matter if you prepared for a year!
We will explore some preparation strategies in more detail in a future instalment of this series. But for now, here are some top tips to boost your productivity.
Learn to learn
This may seem a bit meta, but it basically refers to taking some time early on to consider the strategies, sources and routines that are best for you. It can be difficult to have to change your approach mid-way through the study window because you didn't consider this enough at the start.
Be smart with your time
In life, as in exams, time is your most precious resource. For years I've found it helpful to keep an active calendar (either in hardcopy or on a smartphone) to schedule activities and essentially reduce the cognitive load of keeping myself organised.
This is a valuable habit to get into more generally, especially as your involvement in different projects increases. For exam preparation, book some time in your calendar when you plan to study in advance. It keeps the time free and in a small way, helps to keep you accountable. Alarms on your phone or wristwatch can also be helpful!
Wake up early
Speaking of alarms, consider waking up early. There's a myth out there that some people are night owls while others are early risers. In fact, your sleep pattern is a habit like any other which evolves around the demands of your life.
In his book, "The 5am Club" Robin Sharma describes the many benefits of an early start. As uncomfortable as it can be in the moment, rising early can be a significant boost to your progress since the first hours of the day are often the most productive. The motivation to study drops towards the end of the day, especially after a long day at work!
Get enough sleep
While waking up early can get earn you some productive study hours, it is equally as important to get a full night's rest. Sleep is crucial for our wellbeing and studying while sleep-deprived is likely to be almost worthless.
So for the early risers, this means going to bed early! When exam season comes around, it is worth considering sacrificing the late nights for productive, well-rested mornings.
Be efficient and cut out waste
Similar to the point above, don't be afraid to ditch strategies or books which aren't a good fit for your study technique. Most books out there have a lot of extraneous material which isn't useful for the exam.
Eye Notes is designed to be more streamlined and hone-in on the high-yield topics and can offer a great backbone for your preparation to keep you on topic and provide structure. You can try our notes for free here: https://eye-notes.com/study-notes/frcophth-part-one/intro
Find time to relax
We'll explore this and other productivity themes in a future instalment. But for now, remember that an hour of high-quality studying is worth far more than three hours of wandering focus. So build leisure activities and relaxation into your schedule to keep you refreshed and motivated to study.
There's no escaping the fact that cramming at the last minute is never the best strategy for exam preparation. One of the benefits of the RCOphth exam registration opening so far in advance of the exam date, is that it commits you to the exam with plenty of time to plan your studying and avoid needing to cram.
My general advice would be to avoid "all nighters" especially as the exam nears, and prioritise sleep instead of a few hours of low-quality reading.
But if you are making a late start to your studying for whatever reason (and of course sometimes life gets in the way!) then I would definitely recommend you check out our FRCOphth Part 1 Study Notes. We have everything you need in one place and condensed into high yield chunks for very efficient learning. This means all you need to do is sit down and study!
What are your productivity tips for exam success? How long do you think you'll need to study for FRCOphth Part 1? Don't forget to drop us a message in the contact form or leave us a tweet to let us know how you're finding Eye Notes, we'd love to hear from you.
See you on the next post, where I'll review the tried and tested resources which ophthalmologists have used for years to pass Part 1.