INFORMATION & ADVICE
INCREASE YOUR CONFIDENCE FOR THE CSA EXAM
We’re not here to repeat what you can easily find on the college website.
Here are some practical tips from our own experiences.
Before the exam
Study groups are essential in preparing for the CSA. Join or create a group early on in your ST3 year and get into the habit of meeting up regularly to role play. Think about who you meet up with. Are you the type of person who sticks with the same group or would you benefit from some new opinions and fresh insights by mixing it up a little?
Do you know what your weak areas are? Don’t hide from them. You can select specific scenarios from our case bank. Not sure where your weakness lie? Find them. We have the ability for you to choose a random case, so you don’t know what’s coming up, just like the real exam.
Applying for the CSA
You can apply to sit the CSA anytime during or after your ST3 stage of GP training. Remember, there are a maximum number of four attempts at the exam, although hopefully you’ll pass first time. Our case circuits can be practiced straight through and are designed to be balanced, taking into consideration the breadth and depth of the GP curriculum.
Booking the CSA
Think ahead about when would be the best time to sit the exam. This will be influenced by your work-revision schedule. Are you already running 10 minute appointments in your clinic? Can you keep up to the pace of the exam? Are you planning a nice holiday!Remember to book early as spaces are limited and you may not get the date you wish.
If you think you may need special arrangements for the exam or need to declare a disability, please contact the RCGP directly well in advance.
Getting to the exam
The CSA is held at the RCGP headquarters in Euston, London. Consider if you’re the sort of person who might benefit from arriving the night before or whether you can navigate the stress of rush-hour traffic. Plan your journey and accommodation as soon as your date is confirmed. From personal experience, driving to the exam is a bad idea!
The CSA normally lasts about 3 hours. You cannot leave the examination centre once checked in. We all had a good breakfast to help get us through.
You’re going to an exam not a pop concert. Remember to dress professionally. The RCGP and GMC have further guidance on clothing which covers the face of candidates.
You should bring your doctor’s bag containing your usual diagnostic equipment, including:
- BNF for children
- Patella Hammer
- Tape measure
- Peak flow meter and disposable mouthpieces (EU standard)
There is no need to bring a sphygmomanometer.
When you bring equipment you should know when and how to use it. Our cases help run through scenarios where your diagnostic skills will be challenged.
Although in real clinics we may use the Internet or mobile phone apps to help us make clinical decisions (e.g risk calculations), the use of mobile phones is prohibited in the exam. Can you run your normal clinic without referring to online guidelines or tools? Our cases will test your ability to pick up important scoring criteria and manage patients properly.
During the exam
What is tested
The CSA focuses on testing the following areas of the GP curriculum:
- Primary care management
- Problem solving skills
- Person-centred care
- Attitudinal aspects
- Clinical practical skills
You will be assessed on 13 cases during the session each lasting 10 minutes. It is meant to simulate an average UK GP clinic (although you have no option of running late nor have to deal with the usual daily interruptions…)
Each candidate has their individual consulting room. Unlike real life, however, you will not need to document in a clinical records system. The CSA is delivered in a paper-light format and candidates will have electronic patient lists and case notes. Examiners also mark their cases electronically.
The role players are trained actors and are meant to simulate patients. They are not there to make your day more difficult by withholding information, as some candidates believe. They will give accurate information as requested by the candidate as long as the candidate follows RCGP guidelines for a consultation (i.e. using effective communication skills and appropriate approved consultation styles).
Some trainees are still surprised to find there are paediatric cases in the exam and that they may encounter a child role player. More information about this can be found in some of our paediatric cases.
Examiners enter the room with the role-player and each case is marked by a different examiner. This means they will not know how well (or not) you performed in your previous case. The examiner marks each case on three domains or areas:
- Data gathering
- Clinical management
- Interpersonal skills
Each domain carries the same number of marks, so remember not to focus on one domain too much. The marks for each case are added to create a final mark. Each of the 13 cases contributes equally to the overall score. More about balancing the different domains can be found in the site.
After the exam
Try not to perform a post exam autopsy of the different cases you encountered, either in your own head or with your friends. It’s extremely difficult to accurately assess your own performance in such a high stakes exam without bringing emotion into the equation. There are always things which could have been done better (or worse).
You will not know your result on the day of the exam; so check your eportfolio as advised by the college.