Tips for if you fail PACES

PACES is a difficult exam and it is not uncommon to fail the first time you sit it. The important thing to do is analyse your MRCP PACES preparation and performance and work out where you went wrong. You can then use this information to be better prepared for the next time you sit the exam.

1. Analyse what happened.

After you fail the exam, do not just jump headlong back into revising, take a step back and review your revision.

Firstly how did you revise? Were you systematic or did you jump around between subjects in your revision? It is tempting to just revise what you saw on the ward that day but it might mean you missed something. Try and stick to a systematic revision plan.

Did you see enough patients? It can be hard to go out of your way to see patients sat at the other end of the hospital especially when you have so much work to do but the extra legwork is worth it.

Did you focus on one station too much? A simple mistake is to focus on the station you are most worried about and spend less time on the one you are confident on. Many friends of mine who failed their MRCP PACES exam passed the station they were most worried about (because of the excellent preparation they put in,) and failed on the one they thought they could do without studying too much.

Did you have a study buddy? These can help you to identify gaps but more importantly watch your presentation technique and help you hone it.

These are some common issues for failing, but everyone is different and you will have your own issues – think about them, talk them though with a colleague and rectify them.

2. PACES will take over your life – just accept it.

You need to plan when  you want/can sit your exam with no distractions. It does take over your life. Did you try and fit in your exam while planning a holiday, taking extra shifts to pay for the holiday or when you just wanted to spend some time on your social life or hobbies? This could be a reason you failed.

To give yourself the best chance of success plan your PACES revision and exam for time when it can take over your life for a few weeks. Accept you might not see your friends for a few weeks – but then this is the next 30-40 years of your professional life for a few weeks of pain. Of course, I recommend planning a holiday or a treat once you have finished – you will have earned it.

3. You are a better doctor for having taken the exam.

Failing anything is not pleasant but the PACES is an exam that works, and doctors are better for having gone through the process. You may have failed at an attempt, but you are a better doctor for having gone through it and as such your are better for your patients.

4. Stay positive

Stay positive! Yes you have failed, and most doctors are not used to failing at pretty much anything academic. However, failure comes to all of us at some points in our lives, and how you deal with it is more important. So, if you have failed then do not despair and work your way through it.  Learn from your errors and mistakes and make sure the next time you do the exam, you give yourself the best chance of success.