Finding that you’re running out of time trying to write your VAQ answers in 7.5 mins? Then here are some tips to speed up your answers!
1) Practice, practice, practice:
The more practice questions you do, the more stamina your hand muscles will have, the faster you will be able to write. The best way is to do a full, 8-question, timed VAQ session every week, with some timed practice at home as well.
2) Use a better pen:
Put the biro away, and invest in some “roller-ball” type ink pens. These flow much more smoothly on the page, and allow you to write more with less effort, faster.
3) Be succinct:
Point form answers are acceptable as long as your logic is clear & you answer the question. Some questions require some explanatory statements/qualifiers in sentences; so often you’ll end up with a combination of point form lists and a few sentences, but lists are much faster to wirte than sentences. Try to avoid using long-winded explanations. Think: “Decisive, short, punchy & to the point” answers.
4) Review your answers:
One way to get more succinct answers is to go back and review your previous answers, and think about how you could get the same information out in fewer words. You need to re-write at least one or two answers a week, sometimes a doing it a couple of times each, actively thinking about shortening your responses without losing any information. You’d be amazed how much you can abbreviate your answers, and therefore buy yourself time to either write more (and hence score more points), or buy yourself time for the next question. If you have trouble with this, just read your answer and for every word think “is this word scoring me points, or can I cut it out?”, or “how can I rephrase this sentence to make the same point in fewer words”.
5) Know your stuff:
Clearly a good knowledge base will stand you in good stead, but knowing the right answer helps you avoid waffle, and it also allows you to “cut to the chase” and make every word a point scoring word.
6) Get confident, stupid: (our favourite Simpsons quote, from Try McClure)
As you make the transition to Consultant ED Physician you’ll realize a lot of the time what’s needed is a balanced, confident opinion. As your knowledge base improves, and you get more confident you’ll find your answers will become more punchy, direct and to the point. Avoid sounding arrogant or over-confident (as you also need to exercise caution when it’s needed), but confident answers (that are also correct) are easier to write in a succinct manner.
7) Use the reading time: Read ALL of the questions in the reading time, and think about what the crux of each answer will be. Then in the last minute or so, go back and start phrasing the answer to the first question in your mind, so when the writing time starts you can hit the page running, and get your first answer out quickly. You may be able to buy yourself 30secs or a minute that you can “carry-over” to the next question.
8) Always use a timer: You must, must, always, without fail, time yourself when you are doing VAQ’s. To not do this is to allow yourself a luxury that you won’t have on exam day. Perhaps in the first month or two of your preparation year, when you are learning how to do VAQ’s, you can not time yourself, but after that you must learn to cut yourself off at the 7.5 minute mark and move to the next question.