How to Pass CASC – 2020

This blog has advice from the successful candidates of MRCPsych CASC exam from the Sept 2020 attempt, which was an online exam. They include a mix of UK graduate and IMG.

Doctor#Job title at point of passing CASCIMG or UK GraduateUK psychiatry experience
1MTI IMGYes
2FCPS training in PsychiatryIMGNo
3Consultant PsychiatristIMGNo
4Instructor in PsychiatryIMGNo
5CT3UK GraduateYes
6CT3IMGYes
7CT3IMGYes
Candidates who provided the feedback

Can you please summarise how you prepared for CASC?

Doctor # 1

Initially, I watched SPMM CASC videos to get an idea about stations and communications skills. While watching videos my focus was on different ways in which native English speakers construct their assessment questions. I made a list of important questions for each stations after watching videos. Then I read all the stations from Get through MRCPsych CASC book by Zhang and Melvyn. While reading I made notes about important points on each station. I then practiced with a group of UK trainees under supervision by a consultant or a registrar and got feedback on different stations.

One week before exam I glanced through SPMM CASC notes and increased the depth of my knowledge and added some important points from SPMM notes to my own notes. Thus 3 days before exam I had notes on all the important stations and around 10 points on each station. I revised them for 3 days. On the day of CASC I used to read the exam station quickly and I made a template on rough paper before the station begin. The template had name of the patient/caregiver, task for the station and 5 important points i need to ask for this station based on my notes. As the station begin all I had to do was to remember those 5 points and go on with the station and improvise if needed as per response from the actor.

Doctor # 2

Around 2 months of regular practice in groups online 2 hours a day at least. Involvement with various groups (3-4) helped to get a good hang of the dos and donts throughout. Watching CASC prep videos helped a lot specifically towards the end to polish skills further. A good motivated team to practice with is important. Positive mindset and optimism specifically during the final days was crucial.

Doctor # 3

Loads of practice. Due to COVID 19 pandemic, we practiced regularly over Skype. We also got many Psychiatrists practicing in UK to supervise us.

Doctor # 4

I used Zhang, SPMM notes, SPMM videos and Birmingham videos. I practiced with 2 different groups along with occasional 1:1 supervision and practice.

Picked every chance to practice and tried overcoming my own hesitancy to perform in front of complete strangers. I also took oxford weekend course and SPMM mock.

Doctor # 5

Regular online revision groups. Practice exam. In private time – Flashcard taking.

Doctor # 6

One study partner, going through all scenarios twice with him.

Doctor # 7

I can split the preparation into two parts. Reading through the notes which is a compile of all the past stations then I wrote down constructs for different groups of stations as history taking/management/counselling/risk assessments. The second stage was practising, I did this with as many people as I could.

I had a small study group (a total of three) which I think I’d the ideal number then I practised with other people too in order to get different feedback on the way I conduct the stations. Recording yourself can be of great help as it will let you pick up any faults in your performance.

What resources you used?

Doctor # 1

SPMM CASC videos (20%)

Get through MRCPsych casc book (60%)

Spmm casc notes (20%)

Doctor # 2

Zhang (for initial practice to get a hang on the stuff) SPMM notes (to get an idea of exam scenarios – must do) mandatorily. Sometimes Seshni notes to try to find helpful phrases. Birmingham video’s including introduction keys and SPMM videos – helped a lot. Practicing with people who had passed the CASC already, getting useful practical tips – much much helpful.

Doctor # 3

Seshni, Zhang, SPMM notes and Videos, Birmingham Videos. Since May attempt was cancelled due to COVID pandemic, we had ample time to do all of them.

Doctor # 4

Mainly SPMM videos and notes.

Doctor # 5

“Get through MRCPsych” book. Online notes (SPMM). SPMM videos

Doctor # 6

Zhang CASC book, SPMM notes and vids.

Doctor # 7

SPMM Notes

How many months or weeks of preparation is required for this exam?

Doctor # 1

This will vary based on experience in Psychiatry. Core trainees with 2 to 3 years of experience will need a minimum of 4 to 6 months. IMG’ s with post graduation in Psychiatry or UK trainees with 5 or more years of experience should be able to do in 2 months.

Doctor # 2

Everyone has their own style. I hardly studied for 1.25 months dedicatedly for it and passed. People I know passed it after studying for 6-12 months. So whatever makes you more confident.

Doctor # 3

3 to 6 months

Doctor # 4

5-6 months

Doctor # 5

3 months

Doctor # 6

2 months with last 15 days constant study

Doctor # 7

About 6 weeks

How many hours a week were you preparing leading up to the CASC exam?

Doctor # 1

Three hours per day for 4 weeks before CASC and around 8 hours during 1 week study leave before CASC.

Doctor # 2

Practice sessions for at least 2 hours a day for around 2.5 months. Was watching even if I wasn’t actively participating. Self study as much as you can pull off while remaining sane and attending to your life chores.

Doctor # 3

We started with an hour practice daily and in last 1 month, we were practicing 3 to 6 hours daily.

Doctor # 4

I started with10-12 hours a week in the beginning. 3 weeks before exam, I gradually increased the duration to 40+ hours a week.

Doctor # 5

Between 10-16 hours.

Doctor # 6

25- 40

Doctor # 7

Built up the hours as the exam approached. Two hours a day initially then about six to eight hours before the exam.

Any tips on how to conduct group practice for CASC?

Doctor # 1

There should be maximum of 3 to 4 people in the group. If you have a native English speaker or someone with an experience with UK NHS work culture that’s a plus. Also ideally there should be someone who has passed CASC to supervise and give feedback. It should be structured and pre decided topics till 3 weeks before the exam. Then 2 weeks before exam random stations.

Doctor # 2

Time bound. Regular. Dedicated group of people. Initial months should have topics pre decided. Last 1.5 to 2 months should be random (but structured according to exam past stations) practice. Supervisor is recommended who has already taken the CASC. Different supervisors preferred, helps get different perspectives. Also doing sessions with a larger number of attendees (a part from smaller regular groups) once a week or once in two weeks helps to build confidence better and reduce anxiety. Highlighting the positives is extremely crucial for a trainee as much as giving constructive feedback is to pass the exam. The feedback should always emphasize on the fact that they have all the chances to pass the exam.

Doctor # 3

4 to 8 members only. Make a Rota in advance so that there are no rifts. Record videos. Involve consultants and well as those who recently passed CASC.

Doctor # 4

make a WhatsApp group of interested trainees. coordinate and check for time availability and practice regularly. check with your consultants and seniors who have passed CASC their feedback is very important. be open to feedback and improve on it as you practice. don’t take feedback personally, you are there to help each other so the idea is to learn and make best use of the time you are investing.

Doctor # 5

Same time every night helps coordination. Repetition of difficult stations. Examiner input is really helpful to relate to the real exam.

Doctor # 6

Best to go through all scenarios quickly with group first, then role play.

Doctor # 7

Ideal group size of three, as this will allow the third party to comment and give proper feedback. Practice with different people. Record your performance. Get feedback from seniors, consultants and if possible examiners.

Any more general advice for the future trainees / candidates?

Doctor # 1

C- Conquer Anxiety and complete the task for each station

A- Allow patients to speak and empathize

S- show confidence and professionalism

C- Communication skills mastery

Take as many Mock CASC’ s as possible. If you have anxiety about group practise its completely ok not to practise in group. Don’t feel guilty or loose confidence that you are not practising with group. Many people pass without significant group practise. You can record yourself on zoom meetings for practise. Make sure you read your theory (stations) thoroughly before practise. Its ok to do less practise but whatever hours you put in practise should be of high quality. For quality you need to know the theory of the stations well. Its all about training yourself to remember 5 points about each station within 1 minute under high pressure exam conditions.

Doctor # 2

Anybody who is eligible to take the CASC can pass it. Just need to work smart with persistence. Know the exam criteria well. Know what they are looking for. Practice throughout while keeping that in mind.

Doctor # 3

Record videos and watch yourself do stations and reflect on feedback.

Doctor # 4

1. There is no shortcut to CASC prep. Start early because that will provide you with adequate time to practice.

2. Do each station multiple times, focus more on the areas where you lag.

3. Record and hear yourself again, be your own critique. Then compare your approach to those of your peers and SPMM/ Birmingham you will pick up some learning aspects this way

4. Don’t try to be someone else. Everyone has a different approach to each station. Try picking up the positives from others and incorporate that in your usual style.

5. Don’t listen to myths all around, take CASC as your usual clinic setting, be confident. They expect you speaking confidently.

6. English doesn’t matter, your tone, your way and empathy does. So don’t think your are at a disadvantage if English isn’t your first language.

7. Practice practice and practice. you will not get much time to think during those 90seconds. I felt being on ‘autopilot’ Mode 😀 so how you organize yourself, make your structure in your practice will go a long way!

Doctor # 5

Online regular practice is good as it easier to organise than face to face. Repetition of stations is good, I found myself getting bored of repeating stations near the end, which means you know them!

Doctor # 6

Get feedback from consultants.

Doctor # 7

Start the exams as soon as possible and don’t miss an intake. Implement CASC style constructs into day to day practice (work). If you aren’t working in the UK, read and get a general idea about how the services are run and what available services are available in the community.


Best Wishes and Good Luck

A similar blog from the 2018 candidates is available via this link below.

https://psychiatry-training.com/2019/01/02/mrcpsych-casc-experience-advice-from-successful-candidates-2018/

Published by Raja Adnan Ahmed

I am a Consultant Psychiatrist working in South Wales. I am interested in raising awareness of mental illness, fighting the stigma around mental health and also medical education. I am passionate about supporting junior doctors & IMGs.

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