Dr David STark & Dr Luke Phillips

Welcome to our Unlocking the ACEM Exams blog posts where we unlock the key study habits, resources and top tips from recent successful exam candidates.  This week we got to sit down with Dr David Stark who recently completed a successful sitting of the ACEM fellowship written exam (2022.1). David outlines some of his key tips to success in the post below.

Dr David Stark

Dr David Stark

Emergency Registrar

David is an Emergency Advanced Trainee at The Alfred Hospital with an interest in trauma and retrieval medicine. His special ability is uncovering critical illness in the most unexpected patients. Outside of work he enjoys mountain biking and photography.

“How did you prepare for the exam?”
  • I used the following strategy
    • 9-12 months out
    • 6-9 months out
      • Perused previous exams, answering questions whilst revising topics from the reference texts
      • Completed the AFEM course to gain an understanding of breadth of content, depth of answer required and to identify knowledge gaps.
      • Joined the Alfred registrar written preparation small group at tail end of previous group ahead  to gauge the level of where you I needed to be in 6 months
    • 3-4 months out
      • I sat the MMC practice exam
    • 2-3 months out.
      • I was  completing at least 1 practice exam week per week (can be broken into 1 hour sittings) and submitting these practice sittings to FACEMs/ post written candidates for feedback.
      • Weekly questions offered by the registrar program at the Alfred.
    • 1-2 months out
      • I was completing 1-2 practice exams per week to time in (ideally) 3 hour blocks
    • <1 month out
      • Completing 2-3 practice exams per week to time.
      • Completing MCQ papers to time.

“What are your top tips for success?”

  • Submit answered 1 hour/ 8 SAQs blocks previous successful candidates/ examiners to get feedback and optimise your responses

  • Identify early what you don’t know via courses like AFEM/ looking at past papers and learn it, e.g. admin/ disaster/ ACEM guidelines

  • Practice papers to time, shorter 1 hour blocks are acceptable 2-3 months out.

  • Every second adds up in the exam. It is extremely time pressured. If you don’t know an answer flag the question, move on and return to it later.

  • Review your time vs progress every 3-4 questions, adjust your pace accordingly budgeting for ideally 15mins to go back to skipped questions at the end.

  • Ensure you read the question and relate your answer to the patient described. Vague management principles score you nothing

  • Ideally save the official past MMC/ RNSH papers that are on the ACEM portal until this stage so you are comfortable with the exam portal layout and interface.

Any resources you would recommend?

  • Textbooks that I found useful:
    • Dunn online manual – essential resource. Rapid, searchable, concise core topics
    • Camerons – valuable for topics such as admin/management when paired with ACEM guidelines
    •  ABG interoperation for the ACEM Fellowship exam – essential
    • Murray Tox Handbook – essential, the tables for ingested dose vs expected outcome differ to Austin Tox. Reminder the MJA paracetamol toxicity article supersedes Murray’s current guidelines
    • Tintanelli – low yield, very wordy, only useful for deep dive topics
  • Websites and other resources:
    • Doctor’s Writing Website – best source for past exam papers
    • MMC/Sydney ACEM Portal practice papers requiring DEMT to issue password
    • EMCQ – mildly useful to have blocks of Qs that were the same length as the exam. Overall questionable usefulness.
    • Recall MCQ banks. Somewhat useful. Nearly no repeats in last exam.