Alright, so it turns out you definitely want to work as a vet in the UK, but your veterinary degree is not recognised and now you need to sit an examination… However, how can you prepare for this? What’s involved? This article will help answering your questions.
What’s in the examination?
The RCVS Exam takes place once a year but has 3 parts.
The first part is a large multiple choice questionnaire (as in, you go and do it on two days!). The first day focuses on companion animals, the second day focuses on equine and farm animals.
The second part is another multiple choice questionnaire focusing on the Code of Conduct and other legal aspects that you should know of if you want to work in the UK. For this test you do have access to an online version of the Code of Conduct.
Both questionnaires are done on a computer, not with pen and paper.
The last part of the examination, which you can only do if you pass both questionnaires, is the “OSCE”. OSCE is “Objective Structured Clinical Examination”. So this is in fact a practical test based on your clinical skills and it’s not “one” single test, as you will be required to go through several scenarios in companion animal medicine, production animals (including public health) and equine. As a matter of fact, you will be going through thirteen scenarios. It will also test you on your communication skills and professionalism on top of your technical skills and clinical reasoning.
In order for you to register with the RCVS, you need to pass all three parts.
Preparing for the clinical exam
This is the first exam and you only have one chance at it – if you fail, you won’t be able to register with the RCVS and need to re-sit the whole thing the following year.
Because 50% of the exam is on companion animals, you should make sure you know this stuff. Don’t forget that rabbits, ferrets and small furries, such as guinea pigs and hamsters, are also companion animals.
Use reliable study resources
This is easier said than done, but try to use resources from the UK. I recommend the BSAVA series (of course very hard to know everything), but also the MiniVet Guide (if you would like a copy contact me). There are other online resources that can be very useful, such as WikiVet.
Join UK Facebook groups or communities
This will allow you to get used to the UK reality. There are a few Facebook groups, such as this and this, which you can try to join. You may also join the vetsurgeon.org community, which has an active forum that you may find useful to read through or ask some specific questions you may have. These will be useful for you to start to understand the reality of UK practice and the types of cases commonly seen, as well as their approach.
Go to UK practices
This is the most important tip to help you with the very last part of the test, but it’s also invaluable for this. Visiting practices and seeing how the vets work, what they do, the drugs they have available, the cases they see, the investigations they perform… all of that will help you understand what is expected in the UK – which is what this exam is all about.
The “professional” exam
This is a very tricky one and this is why it’s an “open-book” one. This is about you abiding by the rules of the veterinary profession in the UK – and it’s tricky even for those that work in the UK! The best tips for this is to make yourself familiar with the Code of Conduct but it’s also fundamental that you get yourself familiar with the supporting guidance that accompanies it, as it focuses more on the “grey” areas.
I also highly recommend that you create a free account with The Webinar Vet so you can watch this webinar, which is a free webinar created by the RCVS to help you deal with the “grey” areas or more commonly misunderstood areas of the Code.
This is likely the most nerve-wrecking part! OSCEs actually have very define steps that you need to take. An OSCE can be something such as “placing an IV catheter” or “perform examination of the respiratory system of a horse”. You will be doing several of them during the course of your examination, but to my knowledge the RCVS has not yet created a list of the different OSCEs you may be asked to perform.
Practice is important, but it’s not a success guarantee
OSCEs usually assess best practice and gold standard. That means that, while seeing practice in the UK and getting familiar with it is useful, it may actually be detrimental in terms of copying what is done during your OSCEs. Practical example – most of the times, when you draw blood or place an IV catheter in practice, you won’t wear any gloves. However, for the OSCEs, that may be the very first step and skipping it along with one or two minor mistakes (such as not scrubbing the skin) may mean you actually fail that OSCE. The important thing to realise here is that there are specific criteria for you to pass your OSCEs and it may be harder to find out about it than you realise.
Look into other OSCEs from Universities
OSCEs are the practical examinations that UK vet students go through, so it’s useful for you to reach out to a few students or search for OSCE criteria. There is often a checklist with all the steps you need to take to pass an OSCE and you can often reach out to UK students to find out about this. The Facebook groups previously mentioned, as well as UK VetMove’s own Facebook group, may be a good place to ask for help – as some of the vets are also assessors, which makes it easier to get advice from the people assessing and not just the students! 🙂