Passive Learning

Apart from all the textbook study you do for this exam, which involves long boring hours at the desk, there are many other ways you can ingest knowledge in ways that you may not have thought of, which will help you on exam day.  These involve so called “passive learning” techniques. Passive learning means learning when you’re not trying to learn, and there a few ways to do this.



If you start 12 months in advance and think about how many times you do repetetive tasks around the house, you’ll be amazed at how much time you spend doing menial things that could turn into learning oppourtunities.

Shower: 7 minutes a day for 365 days = 43 hours

Brushing teeth: 3 minutes, twice a day for 365 days = 37 hours

Going to toilet: at least a couple of times a day

Open fridge: several times a day

If you have lists of study material posted up on the outside of your glass shower wall (facing inwards) you can read the lists while you’re showering.

If you have them on your bathroom mirror you can read them while you’re brushing your teeth.

Depending on your gender and bathroom layout, placing lists in front of or up behind the toilet is another revision oppourtunity.

Putting lists on your fridge door and making yourself read one every time you open the fridge is another great method.

This may sound ridiculous, but we challenge those without photographic memories to sit at their desk and in one sitting memorise the list of causes for hyponatraemia, and reproduce it accurately 6 months later. On the other hand if you were to read this list once a day for 6 months while you are brushing your teeth, we’d be surprised if you could forget it 6 months after the exam.

We’ve found that some of the least intuitive/hardest to memorise lists are in the Metabolic/Electrolytes section of the syllabus, so we are preparing pre-made flashcards that you can edit (to suit your own learning style), print out, and post up around the house, of these topics.  These are also great for revision closer to the exam. Time permitting we will create flashcards on other topics.



Along with EMRAP, EMA and the other audio resources you will bombard yourself with this year, another way to consolidate your knowledge is by hearing yourself read the notes out loud.  There are many free audio recording programs you can download from the internet and these will save your recordings in any format you like (mp3 is the best) and you can then upload them onto your phone/mp3 player/ipod, and play them back to yourself while you are doing anything that allows you to listen to them.

You will do an inordinate amount of driving this year, so this is a great time to listen to your notes. Driving to work, driving to study sessions, driving to the gym or supermarket. These are all oppourtunities for passive learning. Walking the dog, going for a jog or mowing the lawn can also be turned into effective study time this way.

Given the huge volume of notes you will write this technique may not be suitable for all of your notes prior to the writtens, but using it for topics you find hard to memorise, or difficult topics is good.  However this technique comes into its own in the short couple of months before the clinical exam, when time is at a premium and you have to cram all of those pesky lists from Talley & O’Connor into your already overloaded brain. Using “spare time” to memorise lists is invaluable.



Remember there are many people out there putting hundreds of hours of work into summarising much of what you need to learn for the exam.  One great way to imbibe this knowledge is via podcasts.  Get an ipod/iphone/mp3 player, and go to our Podcasts link section, where we list all of the great free and paid podcasts/audio/video resources that you can use to passively absorb useful exam facts.  Remember to listen to these in “wasted time”, such as driving to work, standing in ques, on the plane, or while exercising.  You will be amazed at the stuff you retain.  Many of these resources  are such good summaries that you will find they help you write more succinct, pointed answers for your VAQ and SAQ sections, and will also help with the SCE’s, as you’ll have heard good speakers speak succinctly about complex topics, and you can emulate their style.


This is the end of the section on Self Directed Learning.

Please check out our Exam Study Tips for general study tips and section-specific advice on the 6 sections of the ACEM Fellowship exam

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