Once you make the decision to take the MCCQE1 exam, it’s common to start searching for blogs, watching videos, or even seeing someone going through a question bank. MCCQE1 is mandatory to become a resident physician in Canada. But often, this leads to confusion, leaving you unsure of what to do next. That’s why I’m here to help!
Instead of getting overwhelmed, I’ll guide you on how to study smart and focus on high-yield topics using the right test materials. This way, you can achieve an excellent score on the MCCQE1. Remember, as an IMG, it’s not just about passing the MCCQE1; you should aim for high scores. While the passing score is 226, your goal should be to exceed 260 or even 280 on the MCCQE1. Doing so will significantly increase your chances of matching successfully. So, let’s get started!
What Is an Effective Study Strategy For MCCQE1?
I’ve noticed that many IMGs rely solely on textbooks for their study approach, but this may not be the most effective strategy. On the other hand, some IMGs spend excessive amounts of time reading all day long. While this may work for a few individuals, for most people, it leads to burnout and frustration.
That’s why I want to share with you the three essential study materials that you must have:
These three resources should form the core of your study strategy, and you should use them in a smart and efficient manner. If there are concepts that you’re still unclear about, then you can refer to textbooks for further clarification. I want to emphasize that this article is not sponsored, but I also want to mention other helpful materials like
If you decide to use other study materials, that’s okay too, but make sure you have a plan in place that focuses on high-yield topics in a smart way.
What Is the Average Timeline I Need to Achieve a Score of 260+ on the MCCQE1?
On average, I would recommend that IMGs allocate at least three months, and some may require six to twelve months, to adequately prepare for the MCCQE1. However, the exact timeline will vary depending on your existing baseline knowledge. If you have a strong foundation, you may need less time compared to those starting with less background knowledge. It’s important to assess your individual circumstances and determine the appropriate study duration. Remember, the more solid your baseline knowledge, the less time you may need to invest.
Is there a difference between an IMG and a Canadian medical graduate when preparing for the MCCQE1?
When you speak to Canadian medical graduates, they may tell you that they only studied for a few weeks or a couple of months. However, it’s important to understand that your situation as an IMG is different from theirs.
Canadian medical graduates are already familiar with the concepts covered in the MCCQE1. Throughout their medical training, they have repeatedly encountered similar questions and topics, which makes it easier for them. Additionally, for Canadian graduates, it’s often sufficient to simply pass the MCCQE1.
However, as an IMG, the expectations are higher. While some programs might claim that they don’t consider MCCQE1 scores, in most cases, they do take them into account. It serves as a measure of your excellence and proficiency because it’s one of the few objective ways for programs to assess your capabilities. Having strong MCCQE1 scores demonstrates your outstanding medical knowledge and increases your chances of success during residency.
What is your strategy for achieving a score of 260+ on the MCCQE1?
I recommend IMGs approach their MCCQE1 preparation in three distinct phases, which I refer to as the
- Aspiring Canadian Clinician phase
- The Revision phase and
- Ace the Exam phase
Let’s explore this in detail.
What is the Aspiring Canadian Clinician Phase for MCCQE1 preparation?
In this initial phase, which I call the “Aspiring Canadian Clinician” phase, it is important to familiarize yourself with all the subjects. I recommend starting with Toronto Notes and reading it comprehensively from beginning to end as much as possible. While Canadian medical graduates may advise focusing on a few specific areas, I encourage you to grasp a broad understanding of the entire Toronto Notes content.
Let’s consider the example of the cardiovascular system. Simultaneously, engage with USMLE World questions in tutor mode, focusing specifically on Cardiology. Alongside this, utilize First Aid to reinforce your knowledge. This approach follows an organ-based system of studying, allowing you to solidify your understanding of one organ system at a time.
During this phase, it is beneficial to take notes, particularly in your First Aid book. If you encounter challenging concepts, refer to textbooks, which you can access from libraries or other resources, without necessarily needing to purchase them. This will help clarify any difficult topics, such as pulmonary function tests or other specific areas.
While studying, create a list of topics that you find difficult to remember or concepts that involve numbers. Keep a separate notebook for these notes, as they will be useful during the final week of exam preparation. For instance, you may want to write down normal values like tidal volume or forced vital capacity as examples of concepts to memorize.
By the end of this phase, you will have developed a solid understanding of all the concepts covered. As you progress, make sure to review and revise these challenging topics in the days leading up to the exam.
What is the Revision Phase for MCCQE1 preparation?
The subsequent phase, known as the revision phase, involves focusing on USMLE World. Here, it is recommended to tackle one block at a time, utilizing either timed or tutor mode, depending on your preference. Personally, I suggest using timed mode to simulate exam conditions. Complete a block and then allocate two to three hours afterward for thorough revision. During this revision period, refer to your First Aid notes and review the corresponding sections in Toronto Notes to reinforce and solidify your understanding. Does this approach make sense to you?
If you require personalized assistance in developing a specific strategy, you can explore the services offered on website, www.imgsecrets.com. There, you will find detailed information to support your preparation.
During the revision phase, which typically spans one to two months or longer, depending on your available time, your focus shifts towards consolidating and recalling concepts. As you become more comfortable with this phase, you will progress to the next stage of preparation.
What is the Ace the Exam Phase for MCCQE1 preparation?
I refer the Final Phase as the ‘ACE the exam’ phase.
Remember most people don’t even feel they are in the ‘ACE the exam’ phase because they are so stuck with the revision, they feel like they are always under prepared. Now come out of this because there is no perfect preparation you have to be at a reasonably comfort level and confidence level, but you can’t expect to know hundred percent of the things. You have to take the exam; you have to take the leap and do it really well.
During this final ACE the exam phase, skim through your USMLE world as your primary study material along with your Toronto notes for those concepts in which you have trouble with plus your first aid.
The two things you should cover thoroughly are the USMLE world and the first aid and Toronto notes as it’s appropriate for this. In this stage you typically would not need a textbook because you would have already clarified all your concepts.
What Is the Importance of Self Care During MCCQE1 Preparation?
During the MCCQE1 preparation, it is crucial to prioritize self-care. Remember, this exam is not the end of the world, so it’s essential to maintain a balanced approach.
Taking care of yourself includes paying attention to your physical and mental well-being. It’s important to
- Eat healthy, nourishing foods, ensuring you provide your body with the energy it needs.
- Make an effort to step outside and enjoy fresh air, whether it’s going for a walk or engaging in any other outdoor activity.
These activities can help you relax and clear your mind, ultimately enhancing your ability to retain and recall concepts. Always keep in mind that taking care of yourself is an integral part of the preparation process. So, focus on self-care to optimize your performance during the exam.
Is Preparatory Exams Necessary to Get 260+ on MCCQE1?
I highly recommend considering taking one of the MCCQE1 preparatory exams. Although these exams can be expensive, it’s worth exploring the option that is more affordable to gain a real exam experience. Taking a test exam can provide valuable insights into the format and structure of the actual MCCQE1, boosting your confidence in the process.
However, it’s important to note that some individuals, like myself, may choose not to take the test exams if they feel confident in their abilities. If you are confident in your preparation and believe you will perform well, it may be a reasonable decision to save the money and refrain from investing in these costly preparatory exams.
What should I focus on during the last week and day of my MCCQE1 preparation?
Now, as you approach the final week of the exam, prioritize the topics that you find most challenging. Avoid trying to read everything, as it may not be practical or beneficial at this stage.
On the day before the exam, it’s essential to take it easy and relax as much as possible. Remember that the next day will be a long and demanding one. Focus on getting good rest, staying mentally and physically refreshed, and maintaining confidence. It’s important to recognize that the concepts you will encounter on the exam are derived from the knowledge you have acquired over the past weeks or even during your Medical College training. Therefore, the last day itself is not a significant factor, so it’s advisable to approach it with a calm and composed mindset.
By following these strategies, the potential for your MCCQE1 score to rise exponentially increases. This will make you a competitive IMG to match in many specialties including surgery. I base this recommendation on the success stories of IMGs who have taken the exam. However, this is my personal opinion, and if you have any other valuable insights or thoughts on achieving a high score on the MCCQE1, please feel free to share them in the comments below.
Dr. Rajeev Iyer, MBBS, MD, FASA
Associate Professor of Anesthesiology
University of Pennsylvania, USA
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of the University of Pennsylvania or any other organization.