Final Year Medical Student? Check out these Tips for the PSA

Published: 10 May 2019

Written by:
Dr Paris S Bratsos MBBS BSc (Hons)
PSA team @BecomingaDr 

I have just graduated from Imperial College London with distinctions in medical science, clinical science and clinical practice. I was also awarded a first-class in my intercalated BSc (Hons) in Pharmacology from Imperial. I will be working at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust, as an Academic Foundation Doctor. I have a keen interest in research, and I was vice president of the Society of Research and Academia at Imperial. I have presented my work internationally and published extensively. I have a passion for medical education, and I have been mentoring medical students throughout medical school, as well as earning a teaching skills certificate from Imperial. In my spare time I like exercising, travelling and cooking.

How did I prepare for the PSA?

One month before the exam I read the book “Pass the PSA” and took notes of the facts and concepts I was not familiar with. Following that, I did the official practice tests on the PSA website, paying close attention to the feedback on the questions I answered wrong. Closer to the exam, I read my notes from the book and re-did the practice tests a couple of times. Finally, I made sure to familiarise myself with the Medicines Complete platform, so that I could navigate quickly to the different sections during the exam.

How long did it take me to prepare?

I started my revision about a month before the exam, but in reality the total revision time was probably not more than 4-5 days.

What resources did I use? Which would I recommend?

I used the “Pass the PSA” book and the official practice tests. The book was not immensely useful, but I found that it was a good way to kickstart my revision. It provided me with a good overview of the basic concepts examined. By far the most valuable resource were the practice tests, which in my opinion should be done several times.

How did I find the actual exam? 

My exam was in March and it was very similar to the practice tests, however slightly trickier. The pass mark was remarkably lower than other years, perhaps reflecting the increased level of difficulty. Even though it was a relatively time-pressured exam, in the end most students had plenty of time left to go back and check the questions that they had flagged up.

Tips for using the BNF & Medicines Complete

I used Medicines Complete and I think it is incredibly valuable to play around with the platform before the exam. Topics that are commonly examined and sometimes detailed and tricky, such as palliative care, analgesia, hormonal contraceptives, perioperative glucose control and anticoagulation are worth a read. Also, the ctrl+F shortcut is useful to quickly find relevant information.

Final Tips

Firstly, online question banks are not very representative of the questions in the actual exam. Secondly, if you are lucky and your medical school provides you with revision materials, mock exams etc, take advantage of it! Unfortunately, my medical school did not help much with our preparation. Finally, do not start your revision too early. Finals are harder and way more important, so be mindful of how you split your revision time.


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Elliot is a St George’s graduate currently working as an F1 Doctor in East London. As the first in his family to apply to university, Elliot is well aware of the barriers that can be faced in trying to get to medical school. He is passionate about widening access to medicine for underrepresented groups.
 He was the representative for St George’s on the BMA Medical Students Committee, and has done lots of work with local schools and colleges to raise awareness of medicine as a career, as well as working on admissions policies with the widening participation team St George’s. Elliot is part of the @BecomingaDr outreach team and National Health Careers Conference Team.