Exam format and content
2 x 3 hour papers morning and afternoon, all single best answer format. 100 questions per paper and about 5 picture questions across both papers.
The exam is designed to cover the whole core infection curriculum so expect both micro/viro and ID questions. From speaking to others, the relative proportion of each appears to vary quite a lot between papers. This may be because the perception and memory of what was included varies depending on whether your strengths and experience are primarily in micro or ID. It’s a good idea to work out where your weaknesses lie and make sure you focus a bit more on that in your revision.
It is almost certainly easier to do this exam when you have had a bit of experience in all specialties so although it might be tempting to get it out of the way early, this may be a false economy.
During the exam
You need to work fairly steadily to get through the questions but I do not know many people who have completely run out of time. It seems to be more common to finish and then to start second guessing your answers!
This is very similar in format to the MRCP part 1 and 2 so it should be familiar ground. If you struggle with the single best answer format and get distracted by the other answers, try the ‘cover test’. i.e cover up the answers while you read the question and work out what you think the answer is then see if it is there, rather than working backwards. Take a bit of time to make sure you have read the question properly – it is easy to misread things and there were certainly some questions which were slightly ambiguous.
My approach to revision was to find as many questions as possible and keep doing those, supplementing with a bit of reading. Ask people in your department if they have any kicking around – even if they are in the old format, they will still be useful. If there is a group of you, you could design questions for each other which helps relieve the revision tedium a bit. Compared to the old exam, there seemed to be a little less of the ‘which rat species carries which virus type question’, they tended to be a bit more clinical.
I tried to cover a breadth of things, looking at the curriculum but I banked on certain things being less likely to come up as they are more heavily tested in part 2 e.g a lot of the stuff in the health technical memoranda. Consider that the exam questions have to be set some time in advance so a guideline published just before the exam is not going to come up.