Passing The Final DrPath Medical Microbiology Exam.

It has been a very long time since I post anything in this blog. The main reason for that was because of my final exam for DrPath in Medical Microbiology. I couldn't even think about anything else for the past few months. The adrenaline rush was beyond recommended level. That was an exaggeration but I do feel it that way. 

The good news is, I passed the exam. I had this plan/draft on what to post here if I didn't make it but since I passed, now I have to think about something else to write here. 

Now, every time people met me, especially those who are going to take the exam next year, will asked me on how I made it through. Everyone asking for the tips, which book to read, any notes to pass to them. To be honest, I also did not know how I did it. I just feel lucky. Maybe I am just lucky. 

The only thing that I can share was how the exam was conducted. I feel that it is very important for any candidates to be familiar with the structure of the exam. 

In UKM, our degree are called DrPath (Doctor of Pathology) while in other university it was called Mpath (Master of Pathology), at the moment this two thing can be used interchangeably. We commonly called it Mpath. I have wrote about Mpath part 1 exam which cover general pathology, and now I am going to write about Mpath Part 2 exam which involved your area of interest. For me, my area of interest was Medical Microbiology. 

The final examination was conducted in conjoint with other university. Every year, one university will hold the exam, they rotate every year. I am very fortunate, or not, to do my examination in University Malaya. They were the host for this year. It has been a rough year due to Covid-19 Pandemic. Our exam was supposed to be held in May 2020 but it was postponed to October 2020. 

The examination was divided into 4 components. The first component is the theory. This is the hardest part of the exam. The theory paper was divided into theory 1 and theory 2. Each paper consist of 4 long essays, and 3 short essays. We were given 3 hours to write our answers. This was hard because they can ask anything under the sun. As we know, Microbiology is a huge field. There were literally more bacteria than the number of stars in the universe. This is the part where you need to read all the text book, all the guidelines, all the journals and articles about everything in microbiology. There are three text books in Microbiology that often read by the candidates - Mandell Infectious Disease, Konemann Diagnostic microbiology, and Mahon diagnostic microbiology. Plus other books to cover immunology - Abbas, parasitology - Aurora + whatever atlas you can find in library, Monica for practical stuff, all the latest guidelines - eg: Hepatitis C guideline, GPEI for polio, Covid-19 guideline, Malaysian CPG, IDSA guideline, etc. Also have to kept up with emerging infectious disease so have to visit WHO page frequently and get updated with the new published journals. You are pretty much cover if you can read all this before the exam. 

The second component is Long practical exam. In this exam, there are 7-9 questions. 3 question will required 3 days to be answered. We were given a sample and clinical history of the patient, and we will need to process the sample until we can make a diagnosis and recommendation to the treating clinician. The other questions will be short identification where we were given 3.5 hours to answer. We need to perform any test required to identified the organism within that time period. First day morning they usually gave 2 long identification questions, and a bunch of short ID questions ( need to remind that even though only 5-6 short ID questions, one question usually will have 3-4 sub-questions). The good thing about long practical exam was, we were given the opportunity to open our book to answer the question. It is an open book exam. However, time was very limited so it was not as easy as it sound. I don't think I have time to open my books. We brought a luggage or books and notes but rarely open it because there were no time. Now, they also allowed tablet/ipad to be used. So we can use our ipad to google whatever we want. 

Sound easy? But how do you google for an answer if you are given a colony of small non lactose fermenting colonies that was grow from a patient presented with abdominal pain? They actually want to assess whether the candidates know where to find the answer. I believe this is important. Most of the exam now ask the student to memorize everything while in the real world, patient can also use their smartphone to get the fact. The different thing now is, a good doctor knows how to get a good information. Good updated information. The question for practical exam always asked something that you cannot directly google. It require critical thinking, and with the help of internet, you can definitely gave your advice and opinion. 

Third component is OSPE. This is a closed book exam. As usual, there are about 8-10 stations. Each station will have 1 or 2 questions. Answer it in 8 minutes. This is the exam where you can only rely on what you know. If you didn't know, zero marks. Nothing else. Know, or don't know. 

The fourth component is the viva. There will be 6 examiners asking 6 different questions. This exam assess candidates way of thinking. Perhaps to make sure we are not psycho-maniac that want to commit to bio-terrorism. :D. They can ask anything in this interview session. They can also asked about dissertation / research project. 

Among the 6 examiners, there will be 1 external examiner usually from overseas but this year, they have to use local external examiners because of the COVID-19.

Ok. The strategy is: 

Pass all the component, you pass the exams. 

Fail theory component, you can repeat it within 6 months time. 

Fail any other component, you need to repeat it in a year time. 

How you pass is all up to you. You can study with a group (study group), you can make colourful notes, you can practice writing the essays, you can beg for your lecturer to give you lecture session.... There are no standard here. 

For me, I just read all the text book, I love to read new journal, and I like visiting WHO page for new information. I don't have organised notes so don't ask for it. I don't like answering pass year questions because it can be misleading, so don't ask for it too. 

Just be updated. Read the news, read KKM / DG blog on new policies. My senior once taught me to go to medscape and read the news/update there... that is the most useful thing and I am very grateful that my senior (now already a specialist) told me to do that. 

The rest, is just luck. You can pray for a good luck, or do whatever spiritual thing to get it. It may help. 

Me wondering why my team who also pass the exam were pixelated? 


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