Five considerations when using the Preparatory Examination to study for the MCCQE Part I | Medical Council of Canada
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NewsFive considerations when using the Preparatory Examination to study for the MCCQE Part I

Five considerations when using the Preparatory Examination to study for the MCCQE Part I

July 27, 2021

The Preparatory Examination (PE) is a useful study tool for candidates preparing for the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE) Part I. There are a few things to consider before starting your PE to help you maximize your efforts. This article will explore these considerations and offer a few tips to help you make the most of your PE.

First, let us cover what exactly the PE is. The PE offers a comparable experience to the MCCQE Part I and can help build confidence with question formats, exam structure, content as well as some of the tools you will see during the exam. Like the official exam, the PE is developed based on the assessment Blueprint which aligns examination content with current health care needs and best practices in medicine. PE-takers have access to 210 multiple-choice questions (MCQ) and 38 clinical decision-making (CDM) cases as well as question-level feedback, including the correct answers, a detailed rationale, and references.

All PE content is developed by physicians who are subject matter experts and refined by test committees. Candidates can choose to purchase the PE as a tool to test their knowledge, identify weaknesses, and get comfortable with question formats they will see on the MCCQE Part I.


Timing: When should I use the PE?

There is no “right” time to take the PE. Generally, candidates use the PE at the beginning of their preparation to identify the areas that require more study time or nearer their exam date to help gauge their readiness and familiarity with the content. In the next section, we discuss how you can use the different test modes to help you achieve these goals.

It is important to remember when deciding to purchase and take your PE, that once you purchase your PE or redeem a PE access code, you will have access to the questions, answers, and rationales for six months.


Choosing between the different test modes

There are two different test modes you can use in the PE: timed-exam mode or self-paced mode. Keep in mind when choosing between the two that you can always switch from timed-exam mode to self-paced mode, but you cannot change once you have selected self-paced mode. In both test modes, you have access within the six-month window to references, answers and rationales.

Let us take a closer look at the two test modes:

Timed-exam mode:

In the timed-exam mode, you have a total of 7.5 hours to complete the PE, 4 hours for the MCQ section and 3.5 hours for the CDM section. This mode simulates the live exam in terms of structure and time allowance.

Self-paced mode:

In the self-paced mode, you have unlimited time (within the six-month window) to answer each question and you have two options to review the scoring key:

    1. Review answers and rationales as you go by choosing to unhide the marking key for each question. You will also be able to view all the answers and rationales after the PE is completed.
    2. Keep the marking keys hidden and review all answers and rationales after the PE is completed.

In both test modes, like in the MCCQE Part I, you need to complete the MCQ portion of the PE before moving on to the CDM portion of the PE. Moving to the CDM section submits your MCQ responses as final, including those left unanswered. Once submitted, you will not be able to go back and make changes to them.


Self-marking and scoring

One of the most challenging aspects of the MCCQE Part I for many candidates are the CDM questions – especially the questions with write-in answers. In the PE, you can practice these and get additional exposure as you mark your answers using the provided marking key.

The MCC has developed a marking module for the write-in CDM questions to help you when you are marking these questions. We recommend reading it before beginning your PE for insights on what is expected for these answers.

A few helpful tips to keep in mind when self-marking:

    1. Pay close attention to the maximum number of responses for each question
    2. If a response is listed as not acceptable or does not appear in the marking key, click the radio button associated with that under the marking key column
    3. Only one answer should be provided per line

Once the PE is completed, you will receive the total number of responses you answered correctly and have access to the correct answers as well as detailed rationales and references for each question.

The percentage of correct answers you submitted in your PE can help you gauge your preparedness as well as areas of strengths and weaknesses. It is important to note that this percentage does not correlate with the score you should expect on your MCCQE Part I. To maintain the anonymity of candidates as well as a clear boundary between the MCCQE Part I and preparatory products, the system that the preparatory products are housed in, and its corresponding data, is kept separate from As such, establishing a correlation between PE performance and total score in the MCCQE Part I is not possible.


Getting familiar with tools in the Practice Test Portal

The tools and layout of the Preparatory Examination in the Practice Test Portal are similar to those you will see during the MCCQE Part I. It can be helpful to experiment with the tools, like the highlighter and question flags in the Practice Test Portal when completing your PE to see which work best for you so you can leverage them on exam day.

TIP: All the tools that are available in your MCCQE Part I are listed in the Exam tutorial, which you can read any time before taking the MCCQE Part I. It will also be presented to you on the day of your examination, prior to starting the MCCQE Part I, to ensure everyone is familiar with the portal. You may review the tutorial at any time throughout the exam. The tools, layout and functionality in the Practice Test Portal are similar to, however not identical to, those you will see during the MCCQE Part I as the MCC preparatory products are delivered through a different portal than the MCCQE Part I.


Using the PE with other preparatory products

You can use the PE with any of our other preparatory products as all the Preparatory Examinations and Practice Tests currently offered by the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) have a completely unique set of questions. Depending on your study needs and schedule, you can use them in a variety of ways to support your preparation.

In addition to the full-length PE, the MCC offers a half-length Preparatory Examination-Lite (PE-Lite). There are also three CDM Practice Tests and three MCQ Practice Tests that allow you to focus your preparation on one question format. You can learn more about the different preparatory products on our website.

TIP: Many medical schools in Canada, and some internationally, provide MCC preparatory product(s) to their students. Before purchasing one yourself, you may want to check with your faculty, so you do not accidentally purchase the same one. If your medical school is providing you with the PE or PE-Lite, they may require you take it in a certain test mode. Once you have this information, you can then consider it when building your study plan and deciding if additional preparatory products make sense for you.

The PE can be a valuable resource for those preparing for the MCCQE Part I. Considering when and how you want to use it as part of your overall study plan can help you make the most of your investment. You can get more information about all our preparatory products or go to the Practice Test Portal to purchase yours today.

Want to learn more about the Preparatory Examinations, Practice Tests, and other resources as you study for the MCCQE Part I?

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