5 mistakes doctors make when revising for MRCP PACES

With so much to learn for your MRCP PACES exam it is easy to make some mistakes in planning your revision. Avoid these and you will be better prepared on the day of your exam.

1. Avoiding the neurology station
Neurology to many medical students and young doctors can appear to be a ‘dark art’ and one that is to be avoided at all costs. Unless you want to become a neurologist, then for many, it is a subject that can appear, initially to be quite difficult. However, do not let this put you off. Not only is neurology a fascinating subject, but once you have learnt a few techniques for understanding how to classify the neurological system, it does not become that hard. So do not avoid it, embrace it!
2. Not practicing history station because you do it everyday and know how to take a medical history
This is a common issue (see the next top tip to fail as well). You are a doctor, you take a medical history everyday, so why do you need to practice it? Well, the simple answer is, (and I can tell you this from experience in training many doctors to go through PACES,) that you have bad habits and you do not take a proper medical history. The PACES is a performance where everything is done ‘by the book’ and this includes the history. So practice it as much as any other station, because you do not want to fail because you took a bad history.
3. Not practicing communications skills because that is also something you do everyday and know how to do, right?
Wrong. Again, you get into bad habits, and once you start practicing, you will find that you do a lot of the following: talk over the patient; not allow enough time for them to digest the information and generally be too fast. A lot of this comes from doctors having heard most of the responses and trying to reassure the patient. Let the patient talk, give them time, and PRACTICE. Again, failing because of the communications station is not pleasant.
4. Focusing on the complicated, rare conditions
Focusing on primarily the rare conditions is a sure-fire way to fail. You have to know about some rare conditions, but also, do not forget that common conditions happen commonly. In a later blog post we will go over the top conditions covered in the MRCP PACES exams.
5. Not practicing presentation skills
Presentation of your findings is an important part of your PACES exam and verbal diarrhoea is common with nervousness. Again I will go over some presentation tips in a later blog post but in the meantime practice your presentation skills with a friend and get them to (honestly) give you feedback.


The main thing to remember is practice everything, repeatedly and don’t leave anything to chance. Even the aspects of your clinical examinations that you find easy or feel confident about.

What you need to know about the MRCP PACES examiners.

There are 11 of them and only one of you, and they determine your success or failure.  But who are they?

For candidates sitting MRCP PACES in the UK (and most other places around the world) the examiners are a collection of senior hospital consultants.  Their motivation is seeing the next cadre of hospital doctors trained to an adequate standard – and that includes being able to competently examine a patient.

As a minimum, PACES examiners have held a CCT in a medical specialty for at least two years prior to starting as an examiner, and be working in a substantive post.  They need to be active clinically and involved in general medicine.

The other requirements include clinical supervision of core medical trainees in general medicine and having undertaken equality and diversity training in the last three years.

Your examiners will all have completed a day-long training course to ensure reproducibility and fairness, and are encouraged to examine at least 30 candidates per year – a process that will usually take two or three days.

For each station you will have two examiners, who will take it in turns to lead with asking you questions or observing and taking notes.  Each examiner marks candidates independently, without knowledge of what scores the other examiner is assigning.

So what does the 11th examiner do?  You are likely to not even meet them – their role is to troubleshoot during the examination cycle, collate and check marksheets and compile the candidate performance summaries.  In most cases, the host examiner acts as the 11th examiner.