Why choose haematology as a career?
For medical professionals, the specialty of haematology in the United Kingdom (UK) provides an extraordinary career option. Clinical haematology is also unique by requiring expertise in both laboratory and clinical expertise in this dynamic specialty. The potential haematology career options also reflect this, from a generalist in a district hospital to super-specialist roles in transfusion, stem cell transplantation and haemophilia.
What are the FRCPath exams?
The FRCPath stands for ‘Fellowship Examination of the Royal College of Pathologists’. It is an exam that is done to assess a trainee’s knowledge and skills in the field of haematology. The exam is organised by the Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath), who also organise postgraduate exams in other specialties, including histopathology. A similar exam format is also available for clinical scientists, which has a focus on laboratory aspects of haematology. Wherever you live, the exam can be sat not just in the UK but a number of cities around the world.The exam is in two parts, part 1 and 2. Part 1 is a one-day exam composed of 2 papers lasting 3 hours each. Questions are a mix of multiple choice and extended matching questions essay paper and essays. After passing the part 1 exam, you are able to apply for part 2, a grueling 3-day exam, aimed at being the final safety check before practicing independently as a consultant haematologist. The exam assesses competency in a range of clinical and laboratory scenarios. The first 2 days are written papers in a short answer format covering morphology, transfusion, haemostasis and thrombosis. The last day is an oral viva covering all aspects of haematology. For paediatric trainees in haematology, the exam does not differ much to those training in adult haematology. The main difference is a focused viva covering paediatric cases.
Why should I sit these exams?
The FRCPath exam is an internationally recognised qualification that reflects a high level of skill and expertise. For UK trainees, these exams test competencies set out in the national curriculum. Success is needed to obtain a certificate of completion of training (CCT), a requirement to apply for a consultant haematologist post.
If you are an international graduate living outside the UK, the FRCPath can open many doors in your career. The qualification can provide a boost to your chances of promotion in many clinical and academic roles outside the UK. If you are thinking of relocating to the UK and practice as a haematologist, the FRCPath is a must. If you have a background heavy in haematopathology, be aware that these exams have a significant clinical aspect to them. This can be a challenge to international candidates but can certainly be overcome.
8 Tips and Tricks that you need to use if you want to pass the FRCPath in Hematology
1. Register early
Every year, the number of people taking the FRCPath is increasing. To secure your chance of taking the FRCPath in what is the perfect time slot for you, make sure to register early. That way, you get to plan your revision around your schedule.
2. Give yourself enough time
Avoid cramming for your exam only days before you sit it. Give yourself as much as six months or even longer. Starting early will give you more time to focus on the most troubling topics and refine your exam technique. Experiment with different learning techniques and resources – all to pass the FRCPath with flying colours.
3. Plan out your revision
Take the time to plan out your revision. Divide your time into blocks to allow yourself enough time to focus on each area accordingly. Identify which areas you find more difficult than others and allow yourself more time to focus on them and any troubles that they may be giving you. If you are sitting the part 2 exam, identify the microscope you plan to use early. Use it for all your morphology revision when using physical slides. Give your microscope a MOT by cleaning the lenses and installing a new bulb.
4. Identify your weak spots and make them the priority of your revision.
Start by going through the curriculum and making a list of areas of priority. Do not get discouraged if you find yourself struggling as you go through these topics. Improved familiarity in a timely manner will help increase your confidence.
5. Fit your revisions around your daily routine
Time is often limited with work and home both placing extra pressures on your revision time. Your studies need to fit into your daily routine, as demanding as it may be. Do you use public transport for your commute to work? If so, go through a guideline or try some questions on Blood Academy on the go. Take 1 or 2 weeks off work before the exam to help get some focused revision away from your bleep!
6. Do a few practice exams
Recreate the exam-like conditions at home to help you prepare. Use the Blood Academy question bank and create practice exams and refine your exam technique. Get together with others and set questions for each other using interesting cases encountered at work. Mark them as right or wrong, but do not stop there. Take the time to review each question and answer. Try to understand why you answered the question that exact way and focus on why you got something right or wrong. Explore other possible answers that may have been a better option in the case as well.
7. Use different resources
As difficult as it sounds, make studying fun by exploring with different resources and studying methods. Get yourself a whiteboard, use post it notes, or even electronic reminders to list key topics and facts. Use the Blood Academy website, with its extensive collection of resources to help in your success. It is important you are familiar with guidelines from the British Society of Haematology as many questions will assume knowledge of these. Other useful resources include the ‘How I treat’ series from the journal Blood, Haembase and Blood Bank guy. A range of courses are also available (e.g. FRCPath revision courses) depending on your budget and time. The Dr Vishal course in Kingston hospital is especially popular but demand is high so book early!
8. Ask for help
Getting in contact with someone who has had the opportunity to take and pass the exams can be very useful. They can share additional tips and tricks that have proven to be useful for them. You can also learn more about the whole experience and things that you need to know to pass such a demanding exam. Ask senior trainees, consultants and scientists to quiz you.
If you are worried about taking the FRCPath in Hematology – don’t be, Blood Academy is here to help! With our tips and tricks, you are on the right path to succeed and earn yourself the right to practice in hematology. Remember to give yourself more than enough time, dip into the different resources that there are, and even ask for help from someone who has gone through this very same experience before you! Good luck!