Exam Technique: Graph Drawing


The vivas are still a way off, but I will mention this now so you can think about how you will draw the graphs as you learn the material.

If you were studying maths you would be expected to know the formula, draw the graph, and describe it in prose. Lucky for you you’re studying for the anaesthetic primary and you only need two of these components.

Many candidates start by labelling and scaling the axes. Thirty seconds later, they still haven’t got drawn the curve, which means they haven’t gained any marks.

You should start with the most important part, which is the graph itself. Try to get in the habit of describing what you are drawing out loud. For example, “A log dose response curve has a sigmoidal shape, starting at zero, with a maximum of 100% effect for a full agonist”. This means if your graph is a slightly funny shape, the examiner will know what you meant.

The examiner will want to discuss the curve, so draw your curve in the middle of the graph. This will give you room to show what will happen when the curve changes.

Spend an extra second or two making sure the curve is accurate. If it starts at zero, draw it as such. This could easily save you a minute explaining that 20% of your patients are not actually unrousably unconscious on arrival at theatre reception.

If they don’t stop you, then go on to label the axes. Put in values for the important points only, and then start describing the factors affecting the curve.

Ideally you will speak while you are drawing your graph, but if this doesn’t work for you don’t worry – just draw the graph and then explain it.


Feel free to make suggestions as to what LOs you would like questions on next week.

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