Tips To Help You Ace The Clinical Skills Assessment CSA
Having sat the Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA) earlier this year, I know exactly what needs to be done to ensure that the CSA is passed with flying colours. In this short article I will divulge a few tips that will help improve your chances of success.
It is just an exam
We all know what it is like to sit an exam and many exams at that. We have all been through the necessary hurdles to get to this point, our last ever exam to complete our training. Yes, it is a ‘high stakes exam’ but it is just an exam. Many people are frightened of it and if you let it the exam can quickly get under your skin too. You should sit the CSA when you are ready (don’t worry, you will know when you are!) You should ideally be seeing patients within fifteen minutes at least, have a good amount of positive and useful feedback from a variety of colleagues and peers. Your knowledge, of course, should be sound. However, do not be worried if there are things you do not know, this will always be the case in life! Just make sure you know where to go if there is something you are unsure of in the exam (and real life!)
If you do find yourself getting stressed, then please take my advice and schedule some time out to relax. Do something you enjoy and take your mind off the exam. In the long run, staying stressed will not do you any favours. When preparing for any exam, it is important to not ‘overdo it’ and to maintain a good support network, within and outside of work which will ultimately help you succeed.
Practise, Practise, Practise
Practising regularly is important but it is also important to ensure you practise in the ‘right way’. Before you begin practising, make sure you have a solid structure which you can use for each case, tweaking as necessary. Do not underestimate how important it is to practise with patients, (admittedly not all patients will be suitable) but the cases you see may well be very similar to the CSA cases. Practising with your peers will also help but ensure you give useful and honest feedback, not being too harsh or going too easy on each other either! It would also be useful to practise with colleagues who you do not know and those at your practice who may have sat the CSA in the past. I cannot stress how crucial it is to get varied and objective feedback from colleagues other than your friends whom you may not feel completely comfortable with. After all, you will not feel very comfortable in the CSA! Finally, I would always recommend the use of actors. Of course, many people pass the CSA without ever practicing with actors, but if your VTS programme does not provide this for you or not enough then ensure you find a way to practise with them whether on courses or private sessions. I would recommend a role play agency which I used when preparing for the exam. You can sign up here.