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Top 10 tips for preparing for the FFICM exam

February 17, 2018

1. Pick a good time to do the exam

Be that just after completing the final FRCA, MRCP (UK) or MCEM (Full) or when life’s commitments will allow you to commit.

2. Set aside up to 6 months of your life to lay waste to.

The reality was it was 3 months toying with the idea of doing work and 3 months working hard and a further step up once you pass the MCQ.



3. Get yourself a revision buddy.

Not so essential for the Final FFICM MCQ but a must to pass the Viva. This is probably the most important advice you can have. 


4. Borrow a textbook.

You could buy one but in this short period of time until there are some essential textbooks why waste the cash. People suggested: Oh’s Intensive Care Manual (I bought it but didn't have time to read it) or The Oxford Desk Reference In Critical Care but that was published nearly 10 years ago so it can’t be up to date. I borrowed Critical Care Secrets 5th edition which was very good, concise and easy to read although the units were American not UK.There are a few MCQ and OSCE/SOE textbooks springing up. Let us know if you have any good suggestions here


5. Listen to podcasts and watch vodcasts.

Maximise your time when you’re on the go by listening to podcasts from the FOAMed community for free while commuting about the place. Emcrit would be good start in the world of resuscitation podcasts, embrace the american style. There are also some amazing videos for learning about ultrasound and echo and most things ICU. See the expanding podcast section of this website.


6. Use a Journal club/Journal summary resource.

These free resources provide summaries and take home points from a lot of the most important papers published in our specialty. It would be nice to read all the original papers but there isn’t time. I used an 'ICUtrials' APP to read info offline on the move, if online I would recommend The Bottom Line. Also the free critical care reviews books covering the big trials from the last 3 years are now a must (See here).


7. Learn some Chest Ultrasound and some Echo.

If your already on the FICE and CUSIC pathway then all the better. If not there probably isn’t time to do a course but for the OSCE and possibly the VIVA you absolutely must be able to recognise the four echo views and basic findings e.g. normal/severely impaired function, kissing ventricle and tamponade. You also need to be able to recognise basic chest USS views e.g. normal pleura/parenchyma, pneumothorax, pleural effusion. I hadn’t done either FICE or CUISC pre-exam but thankfully I spent two days learning it. You can do this through 'Intensive Care Echo & Basic Lung Ultrasound' module from E learning for health which you should have/get access to here. For more echo and lung ultrasound check the vodcasts at or the ultrasound podcast.


8. Be slick at interpreting investigations.

Otherwise you will be throwing marks away. For the OSCE but also any part of the exam you need to be able to identify abnormalities on bedside tests, radiology and laboratory data.  Modalities you should be able to interpret include CT head, CT abdo, CXR, AXR, USS chest, Echo. You should be slick at providing a structured presentation of ECG (time to break out ‘ECG Made Easy’ again). You need to be able to interpret lumbar punctures, lab results etc. it may even be worth looking at Sleep studies. If you want a really useful tutorial in CT brain Anatomy that's free go to radiologymasterclass. For more radiology cases with images try such as this necrotising pancreatitis  case with CT here. For a fibreoptic bronchoscopy simulator to remind yourself of the anatomy head to 


9. Do a VIVA/OSCE Course it’s probably worth it.

I don't think doing a course for the MCQ would be worth the money especially as the MCQ seemed so random, mostly about microbiology that I hadn’t revised and doubt would come up on a course. I think a VIVA/OSCE course is probably worth the money given you didn’t want to repeat it and waste even more of your time and money. I did the Leeds course and it was well run by a nice faculty and not too expensive. Any reviews or recommendations for other courses contact us here and write a review. I have been told that the Sunderland course (see here) provides a realistic experience of the exam day. 


10. Get some VIVA practice from consultants/colleagues.

As embarrassing as it is to put yourself out there in front of your consultants or colleagues better that than getting down to London and realising you don’t have a hope of passing the exam. Find a friend who has done the exam recently and get some old questions from them. Most of it is technique so refine that, most success is gained in the first 90 seconds so practice your opening for common topics. Remember to work on your non-offensive open body language that makes you look like your enjoying yourself, looking broken and miserable ensures failure. 

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