Cultivating Healthy Study Habits

The often stressful period before the MRCP Part 1 exam can have a negative effect on the health and well being of junior doctors. As doctors we always emphasize to our patients the effects that stress has on the body both physically and mentally however, we often neglect this knowledge with regard to our own well-being and allow our body's to take strain and this has an adverse affect on exam results in the end.

Having a multitude of resources at your disposal in preparation for your MRCP Part 1 exam is a great advantage to junior doctors, sadly its use in never fully maximised as doctors succumb to fatigue, low concentration, anxiety and even depression. Cultivating health study habits facilitates better study progress ultimately resulting in a better exam outcome.

Proper Diet!

As doctors we often advise patients on what the effects of a poor diet can lead to such as fatigue, weakness and a decreased ability to concentrate? Now its time to “practice what you preach” and follow this regiment.

Most of us live off coffee as our schedules are disruptive and irregular. However it’s advisable to avoid high caffeine in take during this period. Caffeinated products when used excessively are often associated with dips and surges in your energy levels. In fact many students experience the “jitters” and an adverse effect on the level of and length of their concentration. Instead, get more sleep, exercise to renew your energy and substitute with caffeine-free beverages like fruit and vegetable juices, fat-free or low fat milk and water. Green tea has become a popular alternative to coffee as is low in caffeine and high in vitamin C.

Watch out for high calorie “comfort foods.” Eating to control your emotions can result in bingeing on high fat foods, which are low in nutrients. Eat smaller portions or substitute with more nutritious options like fresh fruits and veggies, pretzels, low-fat popcorn, whole grain crackers, low-fat yogurt and cheeses.

Healthy Herbs

Perhaps this advice sounds a little too obvious for you and you want something a bit more exotic. Here are few of the less orthodox foods that have been used in eastern practice to increase memory retention and concentration.

In their book Herbs for Health and Healing, Kathi Keville and Peter Korn discuss clinical studies which have shown that the "four Gs" - ginkgo, ginseng, Siberian ginseng, and gotu kola, enhance mental abilities, including "concentration, aptitude, behaviour, alertness and even intelligence." This may be due to an increase in oxygen flow to the brain when these herbs are taken.

The best-known herb for improving memory is ginkgo and almost all the "memory enhancing" supplements you come across will contain this herb. As Keville and Korn report in this excerpt from their book, when students are given ginkgo before a study session, "usually at least half the students say they can really tell the difference," and the effect is even more pronounced when it is combined with ginseng or Siberian ginseng.


Make exercise a priority and don’t skip meals! Taking time out to eat a healthy snack or meal can energize you and take away that yearning for unhealthy food that undermines your energy and stamina needed for studying.

Healthy Sleep

Healthy sleep is a product of a number of factors. Since rotations are often irregular junior doctors should try and balance other factors to help improve the quality of sleep. The improved quality of sleep represents the chance to capitalise on optimum study time.

Maintain a social balance

As difficult as it is to cope with the pressures and time constraints of preparing for your MRCP Part1 exam, having a social life is a welcome respite from work and studying. The social aspect of this is taking a walk in the park, attending events organised by you Mess hall or even just placing aside time to spend enjoying relaxation once you’ve achieved a set goal. | | | | | | | | | | | | Grand Rounds