My Experience with the MCCEE

It was a humid and cloudy day in mid-May. I was stressed out because I misjudged how long it would take me to get to the Prometric center. Luckily, I made it with plenty of time to spare. This was my first attempt taking the MCCEE (Medical Council of Canada Evaluating Exam).

My mark: 313


The exam: You start with a tutorial. There was a highlighting function that worked very, very poorly and was rather distracting/time-wasting. Once the tutorial was over, there it was. 1 out of 180 questions in the top left corner. A timer counting down from 4:00:00 on the right. There was no blocks, just question after question. There was a calculator function. No labs button (but the questions gave you normal values in the stem). 4 hours is plenty of time to get through the exam. The questions were fair. Nothing to abstract or out of the ordinary. There was something that annoyed me and I don’t know if it’s because I wrote the exam in the UK, but every time there was any mention of acetaminophen, there was paracetamol in parenthesis right next to it – each time. I don’t know if that’s because I was writing the test in Europe, where Tylenol is known as paracetamol, or whether I would have come across the same thing had I been doing the exam in Canada. Another thing that annoyed me was the highlighter function – you weren’t able to highlight a word without highlighting ALL of the text that came before it. And forget about trying to highlight two different words in a stem – disaster. Anyway, after the exam, you have time for a survey, where I would have mentioned all of the above – but my keyboard wasn’t working! I ended up clicking through it to exit out just to get it over and done with at the end.

My study prep: I bought the CanadaQBank in September for 6 months, with the initial intent on writing the exam in March. However, I wasn’t really studying and work got in the way. Before I knew it, it was February – my exam hadn’t been booked yet and I didn’t feel anywhere near ready. I decided then that I would book it for May, extend my QBank subscription, and really get cracking on it. I went through all the questions in 50Q blocks by topic in tutor mode. I started with my easiest subject (surgery) and saved my worst (medicine) for last. It took me until May to get through everything once. I made flashcards and used Dr Google (Medscape and Wikipedia) to fill in any gaps on my weaker subjects. Finally, I went through a few question sets using only the difficult questions on an untimed mode. The day before the exam, I did four sets of 45 questions in a timed mode – only to practice going through 180 questions in a test-like scenario. I’d like to say I used another resource, but I didn’t. I do think almost two years of clinical work does help though.

My advice: Think back to previous exams you’ve written and those you did well on. Some people like to read books to study. Others like to watch videos or listen to audio files. Others like to learn from question banks. I’ve always found that I learn best by doing questions. The easy ones are those I can apply to patients and medical conditions I’ve seen and treated previously. My one successful strategy is being able to apply medical knowledge to real-world scenarios. That’s where my strength came in. Also, be fluid and adaptable to what’s going on in your life. My plan to write the exam in March didn’t happen as planned, so I had to re-work a few things and re-plan my schedule because life was getting in the way. If you’re in med school, it’s a lot easier to create a study schedule and stick with it. But if you’re working or have a family or other priorities, you need to be able to adjust for them.

Everything is about trial-and-error. I’ve read through dozens of message boards and forums to try to find that one successful strategy. It’s different for everyone. I’ve previously done all of Kaplan. I’ve tried Goljan, DIT, the Pass Program – you name it. I’ve studied for school exams by reading chapter after chapter – I didn’t retain much. I’ve listened to audio files – didn’t retain much either. Most of my knowledge has come from being able to apply what I’m studying to real life scenarios. If I had understood this whilst a student, I would have put in a much greater effort during my clinical years to learn as much as I could from the patients I was seeing.

What’s next: MCCQE1 (approx $1000) and the NAC OSCE (approx $2500). I need to have done (and passed) the NAC OSCE in order to apply to CaRMS in October/November 2017. But I also want to write the QE1 around the same time to have it over and done with; and so I can stick it on my CV. It’s too late to write the NAC OSCE in November, so I will try to get the exams booked for Spring 2017. In the meantime, I’ll have a look around to develop a study schedule and see if there are any study resources that may be useful over the coming months.

Company’s Coming! 

Last week, I finally wrote the MCCEE. Results coming out in about 8 weeks.

Coming up next week is the tortuous deadline for having all my work -related tick boxes filled in and completed by the appropriate people. This is one of the worst and most useless things of the Foundation Program – the dreaded ePortfolio. In theory, it’s a great concept; but in reality, there’s so much useless shit associated with it that it really does end up being just a tick box exercise at the end of the year. But enough about that.

My good news this week came from one of my closest friends who lives in Scotland – she got accepted into the same GP program as me and we’ll be spending the next three years working together!!! She started looking for a place to live and she’ll be coming down to visit in a few weeks to check out the area. Can’t wait 😉

Crunch time

There is only 10 more days until my test. My heart starts to beat a little bit faster each time I think about that. I’m ready – I’m more than ready, but I can’t help but panic each time I think about writing the actual 7 hour exam.

I won’t be alone. There are several other people in my class who will be writing with me. I don’t know if that makes me more nervous, or if it provides me with some relief.

Oh well. 10 more days. Diving into complete hermit mode. The only time I will leave my house this week will be for the gym and for groceries.

Countdown is on

There is just a little over three weeks left before I write what I’m going to consider the hardest test I’ve ever studied for – the USMLE Step 1. Oddly enough, I’m ready for it. Oddly enough, I haven’t burned out yet – despite having gone into full-hermit-study-mode as soon as school ended.

I’m currently in the process of finishing up my unused UWorld Q’s, and going through a full out Kaplan review, which I’m hoping to finish this week. Doing an NBME this Friday. Another one the following Friday.

And I just remembered that I need to book my flights…

Would you call me a bad friend?

So now that it’s officially summertime and my roommate went home for the summer, I have the entire apartment to myself. I’ve actually started practically living in the living room (I even sleep in here now). The entire “dining room” table (more like a conference table) is taken up with my books and notes. All my laundry is hanging here to dry. It’s the Step 1 Study/Review Time.

And my days are long. I basically wake up and study all day. I have breaks where I either (1) go to the market for fresh fruit (usually strawberries), (2) go to the mall for groceries, or (3) go to the gym. I have no time for anything else. Not for the next 8 days anyway.

So it’s 9pm, I’m about to get into my last study session of anatomy review, when the intercom-phone-thingy rings. Someone’s at the door. I wasn’t expecting anyone, so I don’t pick up (I never do because it’s usually solicitors). Plus it’s 9pm on a Sunday. They call again. And again.

I peeked out my balcony window and then I saw that it was one of my friends. I saw as he walked away with his suitcase. That’s right, I remembered! Dan was coming back from his week-long vacation to Croatia! But why was he ringing on my door? Why did he have his suitcase with him?

At this point, I feel that I should have called out to him so that he would come back. Maybe he was locked out of his house? But he has a roommate. You might be thinking that I should have texted him – that’s a lost cause because he never has any credit on his phone and doesn’t have a smart phone, so sending an email or iMessage was out of the question. I just let him go. Watched him walk away.

I did this because deep down inside, I couldn’t be bothered with a visitor. Not now. I still had so much to study. My stuff was taking up the entire living room. If he wanted to crash here for the night, I would feel like he was intruding. I wouldn’t be able to finish my studying for the night. I would have to move all my study material back into my room. I wouldn’t be able to wake up in the morning and just leave to go to the gym. I wouldn’t be able to just wake up and start studying either. My entire study routine would be thrown off balance, and with the Step 1 looming just under 2 months away, any distraction from my ultimate study schedule is something I am determined to deter from.

Normally, I’m the type of person that would bend over backwards for my friends, but I feel that med school is either turning me into a real bitch, or a hermit. I’ll opt for being a temporary hermit right now, because that’s what I feel I am.

With regard to the situation, was I in the wrong? Would it have been better if I called Dan back from the balcony to hear his situation? Or was I right to ignore him and just return to studying?