Cracked: Anatomy of a Crap AKT (CrAKT) Question

How do you know when you’re wasting your time and money on a badly written practice AKT?

It has been pointed out that I’ve not yet done a study guide for the FRACGP Applied Knowledge Test (AKT). This isn’t going to be comprehensive, but here are some quick notes following on from today’s AKT writing session at GP18. (If you’re hoping for top secret leaked questions, think again – I’m way too keen on learning to be a real exam writer someday to be into all that jazz). One of the biggest problems I see with the AKT is that there is such a wide variety of exam prep materials that are commonly used by FRACGP candidates. Some of these resources are great, but others are not. Currently most people seem to choose a course or question bank based on anecdote, sizes of question banks and cost. But quantity, quality and cost are not always related.

While the college is actively working on ways to officially crack down on the burgeoning exam prep industry, I think it’s also important to keep a more low-key educational approach going by passing on as much info as we can about what proper AKTs look like. Hopefully then you can at least spot the better-quality prep materials, or even write your own practice questions. So, here’s my (very unofficial) quick guide to spotting practice AKT questions that are not in the true style of the RACGP exams.

CrAKT* Anatomy

This question has been made up of elements from lots of real sample/trial questions published by various exam prep websites that I found online today. Put together this does perhaps over-exaggerate the quality problems out there, but each of these errors clearly does exist in the current available resources.

CrAKT Checklist

  1. Abbreviations: All abbreviations are written out fully in the real AKT.
  2. Symptoms stated not described: Real AKTs require you to interpret and analyse information. Symptoms should be described in language that the patient might use, which you then have to interpret to figure out what their medical symptoms are. For example, they are more likely to say they feel sweaty and like they might need to vomit. They are unlikely to tell you that they feel ‘diaphoretic’.
  3. No interpretation of signs and results required: Examination signs and investigation results should be given to you for you to interpret yourself. For example, the actual vital signs and the ECG should be given here. Poor quality questions will list the signs so that no interpretation is required, making it a basic fact recall question not applied knowledge.
  4. Failed cover test: All AKTs should be answerable without having to look at the multiple choice options. ‘Which of the following statements are TRUE/FALSE’ is an older style of question that is no longer relevant.
  5. Informal language: the exams are set to be fair to doctors for whom English is their second language, so Aussie slang shouldn’t be included. For example, if someone is tired, they wouldn’t report being ‘stuffed’ in an AKT because it could be ambiguous.
  6. Negative questions: there are no negative questions in the AKT any more.
  7. Irrelevant information: Long lists of ‘not X, Y or Z’ are unlikely to all be key features of that presentation.
  8. Red herrings: There aren’t any misleading ‘red-herring’ statements in the real AKT
  9. Clues in the options: Poorly written questions may have multiple similar answers (that clue you in to the fact that one of them is right), or one longer answer that stands out

If you’re an exam candidate, please learn how to identify good questions. If you’re a prep course provider, ditto.

For more information, please do the Exam Support Online (ESO) modules on GPlearning. Do them as soon as you can because you’ll study better if you understand the exam better. Too many people leave them too late.

To the best of my knowledge I’m not breaking any rules by sharing these simple tips. If I’m wrong, the college knows where to find me for the next 3 days because I’ll be trying to hide behind my first conference poster at GP18…

* I ♥ unnecessary acronyms. Not. Apologies for language. Just this once it seemed to fit all too well, given how unfair it is that vulnerable exam candidates get caught by poor quality resources.
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