The Clinical Assessment of Skills and Competencies (CASC), often referred to as “the CASC,” is the conclusive exam within the MRCPsych certification. Designed to assess a candidate’s aptitude and capabilities, this examination presents its share of challenges. Nevertheless, by adopting a suitable strategy and comprehensive preparation, you can notably enhance the likelihood of achieving success. In pursuit of your MRCPsych qualification, this blog post elaborates on various strategic approaches that you may contemplate as you ready yourself for the pivotal CASC assessment.
Table of Contents
The Structure of The Clinical Assessment of Skills and Competencies Exam
Before developing a study plan, it’s important to understand the structure of the CASC exam. This practical skill exam is composed of 16 stations, each testing a different skill or competency. The purpose of CASC is to test your clinical acumen and your ability to handle a variety of psychiatric scenarios.
The Importance of Good Communication Skills
Good communication skills are essential to pass the CASC. You need to demonstrate empathy, maintain eye contact, use non-verbal communication effectively, and ensure your verbal communication is clear and concise. Make sure you practice these with colleagues as under the pressure of exam many of us can struggle with finding the right words!
Leveraging the RCPsych Website for Effective CASC Preparation
The Royal College of Psychiatrists website is an invaluable source of information, and we would strongly encourage you to make a full use of it whilst preparing for CASC.
Firstly, familiarize yourself with the syllabus. The syllabus lists point by point all the topics you are expected to know. This can help you plan your revision.
Secondly, check out the CASC candidate guide, which offers important instructions and advice for exam day. Make sure you pay particular attention to the information set out in the blueprint as this document outlines the exam’s structure, helping you understand what is expected in each of the 16 stations.
Finally, make sure you read the example marksheet as this will give you insight into how your responses will be assessed and graded. The CASC rules state that examiners score candidates on three domains: Data Gathering, Clinical Management, and Interpersonal Skills. Ensure your responses cover these domains to maximize your scores.
Knowing how you will be marked can significantly influence your approach to the exam.
Review any sample videos available as these are a great way to see what the stations are like and what the expected performance standard is for a pass.
The above resources were developed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists help you in your preparation, so make sure you make good use of them.
Develop a Study Plan
The majority of candidates will have to juggle exam revision with the demands of clinical work and family life. Therefore, make sure you spend some time planning your revision and that you give yourself plenty of time to complete all the tasks you wish in preparation for your exam. We would recommend at least 4 months of solid preparation in order to give yourself the best chance of success. The example study plan below will give you an idea of how to go about planning your preparation, however, please remember that individuals’ learning needs will vary!
Allocate Sufficient Study Time
Try to allocate yourself a quiet time to study each day. A long stretches of protected revision time may not be possible if you are juggling work and family commitments as well as studying so if you are short of time prioritize quality over quantity! An hour of focused revision each day can amount to huge progress if done consistently over a long period of time. You may want to form a study group with your colleagues and meet on a daily basis: you will be amazed at how much material you can cover in a group session!
Prepare Station by Station
As mentioned above, the CASC exam comprises 16 stations. We would therefore recommend that you factor each station into your revision and make sure you prepare for each station. Carefully read the guide (insert link here again) and match it to the assessment sheets (insert link here) as understanding the competencies being tested and how your performance is being graded in each station will help you focus your revision and enhance your chance of success. Remember – you are being tested on the gold standard expected by the College not necessarily what your colleagues or seniors would do in real-life scenarios!
The General Medical Practice outlines the code of conduct for all doctors in the ‘Good medical practice’ guide. These principles form a foundation of the medical practice in the UK, and it is essential that you have a good understanding of those principles going into your exam (and your everyday practice!)
Practice, Practice, Practice
The wise old saying that “practice makes perfect” holds very true for the CASC exam. The more scenarios you practice, the better equipped you’ll be on the actual exam day. Make sure you practice regularly either on your own or with colleagues. Ask your senior colleagues to observe you practice and ask for feedback – it will greatly enhance your chances to pass.
There is a wide range of resources available for help with the CASC exam preparation. These include textbooks and online resources. Consider setting up a study group with your peers or signing up for a CASC course, which can offer valuable insights, practice opportunities, and feedback.
Review and Practice the Mock Exams
Mock exams are crucial in your journey to pass the MRCPsych CASC. They offer the chance to experience the exam’s pressure and identify areas that need improvement. Allocate time for mock exams in your study plan.
The Exam Day: Do’s and Don’ts
Prior to the exam, review your route and make sure you know where you are going and how you are getting there (including if there is parking available). On the day of the CASC exam, arrive early to familiarize yourself with the surroundings. During the exam, read each scenario carefully and plan your approach before entering the station. Always remain polite and professional, even if you believe a station didn’t go as well as expected. Remember, each station is marked independently and you do not need to score very highly in each one in order to pass.
The CASC exam is a challenge, but with good preparation, it is entirely achievable. Understanding the exam structure, utilizing resources effectively, perfecting your communication skills, and practising regularly is key to success. Remember, this is a test of your competencies as a future psychiatrist – and with the right mindset and preparation, you can indeed pass the MRCPsych CASC 2023. We wish you the best of luck in your preparation.