Category Archives: Advice

Study Advice

When making a plan on how to get past this exam, I was pretty daunted. The aim of this website is to help others to get past an exam, which in my opinion, is highly irrelevant to becoming a good anaesthetist. Nevertheless it is necessary.

The driving force behind my work is that:

a) I dislike textbooks. I find them a very inefficient way to learn. Relevant facts squeezed in-between many unnecessary  words. I was told the other day that American Textbook authors get paid by the word. This might explain it.

b) I dislike topics being made over-complicated. The concepts and topics for this exam require learning. They do not require a great deal of intelligence (hence my success). Thus my notes should be very easy to understand with simple explanations of all areas.


I wrote the notes to cover the syllabus as laid out by ANZCA. It took me a long, long time. That said, the syllabus leaves a lot of wriggle room for the college to pick abstract topics to examine.  However, i believe i have got a very balance of breadth and depth in the notes.

When i started studying i was handed a CD of notes from someone else. I don’t know the author of these but they were very helpful in writing mine. Thank you!!! I re-wrote these, integrating them into my previous study notes for ACEM primaries (yup, for some reason I’ve been through primaries twice). I also sourced information from texts such as Ganong, West, Power & Kam & Peck Hill & Williams.

Due to the vast syllabus of this exam, I think it is very difficult to achieve success, unless you have a good efficient study plan. The exam is very much in 2 parts. The following is a summary of my plan. Of course peoples learning style varies, but in hindsight, my plan was spot on for me:

1) The written (50% total mark)

I would suggest almost total focus on the SAQ’s. 50% of doing well in the SAQs is technique not knowledge. It is a ridiculous bun fight. I used Amanda Diaz’s model SAQ answers extensively. The key is to excel on previous SAQs quickly in the exam, then do as well as you can in the new ones. Knowing previous SAQs inside out will really help. I think i went through Amanda’s notes over 20 times ‘cover to cover’. I supplemented this technique with my notes for difficult topics or an overview where required. I didn’t practise writing down SAQ model answers myself because of time pressure. Instead, I would talk through what I would write in my head, or out loud. This served me well, allowing me to cover more topics more quickly. (I was concerned about not building enough endurance in my writing hand before the exam, but i think adrenaline saw me through fine on the day).

You can cover the MCQs in the immediate run up to the exam. Previous recent MCQs are invaluable. 25% of the next MCQ paper will be from the previous one. 25% will be from recent papers, and 50% will be new. Thus in theory you should already be able to score a pass mark by learning recent MCQs.

2) The VIVAs (50% total mark)

Congrats on your success! I was told the viva’s should be easier than the written and to stay broad. I was also told by specialists not to study anymore but to brush up on viva technique. I disagree. The modern viva is much more about knowledge than technique compared to the old viva. Yes, the ability to categorise topics remains essential but you must have an in depth knowledge of the syllabus. I took 2 days off after the written and started studying again. Probably harder than before. I used my notes much more here to supplement topics from SAQ study. I also used Kerry Brandis’ “Physiology Viva” book. Look in the Study Aids section on this website for Diagram or Die and the definition document. They are very useful.

Lastly, on VIVA day pool your resources with other candidates. Surprisingly, viva topics are recycled across the 3 days and some even the same day (perhaps this will change as the new syllabus establishes itself?). Ask each other what you got to give you advanced warning.

So good luck to you all. I hope using this resource will save you months of work that i had to go through.

Summary of Other Exam Resources Amanda Diaz’s Primary SAQ sample answers The legendary black bank, compiled by Kerry Brandis. Education resources for ICU. I would especially recommend their drug manual. They also host very comprehensive exam study notes for CICM exams.