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Friday 22 June 2018

Tips for Newcastle University MBBS Year 3 and Year 4 SBA Examination

LAST UPDATED: 13 September 2023

For Year 3 and Year 4 of the MBBS course at Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (NUMed) and Newcastle University UK, there are Single Best Answer (SBA) examinations. I scored 75.1% (Green) for the Year 3 SBA in 2017, 68.0% (Green) for the Year 4 SBA in 2018, 69.7% (Green) for the Year 5 SBA in 2019 and 75.5% (Green) for the Year 5 SBA in 2020. I was a teaching fellow at NUMed.

Here, I would like to share some tips on passing the SBA exam. These tips are intended for all NUMed and Newcastle University UK MBBS students who are taking the Year 3 and Year 4 SBA exam in the 2023/2024 academic year. For students who started the MBBS course in 2017, 2018 or 2019, there is no SBA exam in Year 5.

I am writing the tips based on how I revised for the exam previously. However, different individuals may have different learning styles, so you should just take this as a guide.

First, you have to start your revision no less than 2 months before the SBA exam. I recommend studying at least 5 hours per day on weekdays and 7 hours per day on weekends and holidays. If possible, you should revise every day. To pass the exam, you should aim for a score of at least 66%.

If you do not understand any topic when doing revision, ask a lecturer or a friend for further clarification. Personally, I do not find group study helpful for the SBA exam.

The subjects covered in the SBA exam are as follows:
Year 3 SBA 1 - EoCP and MACS
Year 3 SBA 2 - EoCP, MACS, MH, CH and RH
Year 4 SBA 1 - CDM and ACE
Year 4 SBA 2 - CDM and ACE

When revising, you should go subject by subject. Finish all topics in a particular subject before moving on to the next subject. Your focus when doing revision should be on risk factors, pathophysiology, diagnosis, investigations, management and complications. You should complete at least 4 full rounds of revision for all topics if possible.

MBBS should be studied mainly through understanding, not memorising. Basically, for every fact you come across in your revision, try to think "Why is this the case?" If there is an explanation, read it and make sure you understand what it says. If there is no explanation, try to come up with your own explanation based on your knowledge. Even if your explanation is wrong, it does not really matter as the exam questions will not ask for the explanation. You can also look up the internet for an explanation. The fact is that, when you actively seek an explanation for a fact, you will end up remembering the fact much better and your revision will also become more interesting. This is so much more effective than simply memorising the facts. However, not everything can be studied this way. Certain facts have no possible explanation at all, so the only way to study them is by memorising.

You do not need to memorise the normal range of values for investigations as it will be provided in the questions during the SBA exam. You also need not memorise the doses of drugs apart from very commonly used ones.

The most important revision resource for the SBA exam is the textbooks. I recommend using the following textbooks and resources for each subject:
CDM - Resources on the MLE and Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine (11th Edition)
Internal Medicine - Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine (11th Edition)
Ophthalmology, ENT, Dermatology, Orthopaedics and Trauma - Oxford Handbook of Clinical Specialties (11th Edition)
Surgery - Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine (11th Edition) and Surgical Talk (3rd Edition) 
Psychiatry - Psychiatry by Ten Teachers (2nd Edition), Psychiatry - A Clinical Handbook and ICD-11
Obstetrics and Gynaecology - Obstetrics & Gynaecology by Lawrence Impey & Tim Child (5th Edition)
Paediatrics - Illustrated Textbook of Paediatrics (6th Edition)

These textbooks are not essential for the exam but may be helpful to refer to if you are looking for some specific information:
Davidson's Principles and Practice of Medicine, Kumar and Clark's Clinical Medicine, Apley and Solomon's Concise System of Orthopaedics and Trauma, Robbins Basic Pathology, Underwood's Pathology, Rang and Dale's Pharmacology

For Year 3, you should revise topics relevant to the learning outcomes and other topics taught by the lecturers. For Year 4, you should revise all topics in the textbooks.

While Year 1 and Year 2 knowledge can be helpful at times, they are not essential for the Year 3 and Year 4 SBA exams. There is no need for you to specifically revise any Year 1 or Year 2 topics.

Resources on the Medical Learning Environment (MLE) are useful as well. While the textbooks are very good, the MLE resources may contain some additional information. After you have revised the textbooks, you should revise the MLE resources as well. The MLE resources are particularly important for CDM.

You need to know the clinical guidelines for the more common conditions. Important guidelines are those that can be found in the textbooks, and you should look up the internet for the most up-to-date version of those guidelines. For obstetrics and gynaecology, use NICE and RCOG Green-top guidelines. For asthma, use BTS guidelines. For other conditions, use NICE guidelines. However, do not place too much emphasis on the guidelines, as it is more important that you revise the textbooks and understand everything.

You should also do practice questions for the SBA exam. Go through all practice questions provided by the lecturers. Passmedicine and Pastest have a large number of practice questions. They require paid subscription and I recommend that you subscribe to one of them. Some of the practice questions are similar in style to those in the Newcastle University SBA exams while others are not. For Year 3, you can skip the practice questions that are irrelevant to the learning outcomes. After finishing each practice question, check the correct answer and make sure you understand the reasoning behind every correct or wrong answer. Although doing practice questions is important, you should not prioritise it over revising the textbooks.

During the SBA exam, you will have an average of 72 seconds to answer each question, which is quite a short amount of time. Therefore, you should always time yourself when doing the practice questions to finish each question within 72 seconds. As you are reading the question, you should already be thinking of the diagnosis so that you can get to the answer faster.

All the best in your revision! I hope you will be able to do well in the exam.

Tips for the WriSkE can be found here:

Tips for the Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA) can be found here:

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