MD Course

Curriculum | Mahara e-Portfolio | Progress Testing | TBL


The course changes implemented in 2017 means a number of new learning concepts to get your head around. The following are some tips from the MD 2020 cohort following our experiences with these changes. We want you to be as successful as possible, so embrace the change with a positive attitude and ensure you also try some of your own strategies (as these worked for us but they may not work for you as an individual). The MD cohort is like a family, so if you have any questions or need any help make sure you come to find us J



Mahara is a portfolio for you to reflect on the MD course learning objectives. The MD course has eight learning objectives; scholarship, learning, leadership, knowledge, society, skills, professionalism and communication. This is your evidence that you are building a professional identity and learning from your experiences throughout your degree, so make this a priority as it is an integral part of your overall assessment. You will meet with your learning coach 2-3 times per year over the four years to discuss your interactions with Mahara and how you are progressing throughout the year. To help you with this, the 2020 cohort has put some together some tips for you from their experiences:

  • Interact with your Mahara regularly (and by regularly, we mean weekly– ensure you make this a priority, just like LOs).

  • Make lists or another form of reminder about the posts that you need to do, you are nearly always strapped for time and it is easy to forget about what posts you want to make.

  • Have a positive attitude in regards to Mahara – reflection is critical in self-development and developing your learning strategies!

  • “Close the loop” is a statement that you will hear regularly. Basically this statement means that if you set a goal and construct strategies to achieve these, reflect on these and let your learning coach know what worked or what you will change. Don’t leave your learning coach hanging – they genuinely care about your progress through medical school and want to know how you are developing as a self-regulated learner.

  • Discuss the expectations they have for Mahara E-Portfolio within the first meeting and utilise their feedback effectively.

  • Everyone posts in Mahara differently – you can use dot points or paragraphs, you might like to reflect on a specific event or multiple events that fall under similar learning objectives. Regardless, a strategy that could help with each of these is to reflect on; what happened, what went well, what could be improved and goals (including strategies to achieve these). It is also helpful to reflect on previous strategies and whether these helped or not to close the loop. For example, you may identify that in an iRAT you got questions wrong as you were rushing and so next week you are going to aim to read slower. Your evidence for this strategy being successful may be that your mark increased or that overall you felt calmer whilst doing the test. It may sound simple but it’s the little things that help you generate sustainable learning strategies for the future.


Team Based Learning (TBL)

Medicine is a team-based career, whether it be with other medical professionals, nurses, allied health or your patients and their family, you will always be interacting with others in a team based environment. TBL is the perfect preparation for us to develop the skills we need for our future, you will only get out, what you put in. Make the effort to get comfortable with your peers, and the various groups you are placed in. This includes be respectful and professional; treat others how you would like to be treated and always be on time. This is a post-graduate degree meaning that everyone has different backgrounds; take the time to listen and learn.

Take the time to meet up with your group; a few coffee catch-ups to break the ice won’t go astray (hello Up-Co discounts). It is not compulsory to meet as a group but no one says that you can’t – in fact we are sure it warms Karen’s heart when she receives an email to book rooms for groups (and we highly recommend you take advantage of this).

What is TBL?

1.    iRAT (Individual R Assessment Testing)

·   Based on the week’s content, you will first sit a multiple choice test called an iRAT that covers the weekly learning objectives, you then sit the exact same test but this time as a group.

2.    tRAT (Team R Assessment Testing)

·    The tRAT is your chance to discuss why you selected your answers and any differences that arise in your group. Use this as an opportunity to learn from your peers – we cannot stress how valuable the tRAT is (your peers are the BEST learning resource).

3.    Clarification

·      Still have questions that require clarification following the tRAT? Never fear, you will then have a clarification session run by your lovely academic who will address any further queries you may have and discuss the questions that caused most groups some issues. There is an opportunity for you to challenge questions and the academics are happy to take this on board but remember to be respectful and professional.

4.    Application

·   Now time to apply all the knowledge you have worked to gain throughout the week in (you guessed it) the application session. This is a session run by a clinician who specialises in the area that you have addressed this week and you and your group will work through questions together in a game show style setting (you will know what we mean once you have your first session). If the catch-box survives for next year, remember to not throw it more than three rows and please for Karen’s sake (and Darwin’s) wait for a microphone!!!!

Most importantly failing an iRAT does not define you – how you learn from this and addressing the gaps in your knowledge is what is important (also a great #Mahara post).

How do you prepare for TBL?

Each week you will have learning objectives which address the content for the week and these are usually what you will be tested on during the iRAT. It is important to remember that everyone prepares for TBL differently, studying the learning objectives is not a competition, help each other throughout the week in preparation. The most important thing about TBL is that everyone leaves on a Friday with a smile on their face and new knowledge (that you as a team have helped them develop, usually under the influence of coffee).



What is it, why is it and why do we have it?

We all had these questions as well when we first started, so this our attempt to try and make sense of Progress Testing. Progress test is a way to test our knowledge longitudinally, and ensure that instead of rote learning we retain our knowledge. What that means is that four times a year, everyone in the degree from first to fourth year sit the same multiple-choice exam. Each exam is different but is made up of questions that address the knowledge required as a graduate doctor. Don’t be alarmed; you aren’t expected to be able to answer all the questions! What you are expected to do is answer the questions you can, and as the year progresses answer questions from the blocks you have done. So, try and approach each progress test as an opportunity to see how much you have learnt, and use it to test yourself in how well you know the content so far.

As you can probably tell it’s not a typical test, so it’s not marked in a conventional manner. Instead of a standard pass or fail, there are three categories: Satisfactory, Doubtful and Unsatisfactory. Daunting, we know. Instead of a benchmark of questions answered correctly, everyone is placed on a bell curve, and everyone is compared against the average of your cohort. This means that there will always be a group of people that are Doubtful and Unsatisfactory, so before and after Progress Test, be there for one another, and provide support and reassurance. One of the benefits of progress tests is that you get given a comprehensive analysis of the questions you answered, what you got right and what you got wrong. This is a great way to monitor your own learning and remediate what you need.

Some things to keep in mind for progress test:

-     No one’s expecting you to answer all 150 questions on the third day of Medical school or by the end of first year! Remember it’s a test pitched at graduate level doctors. But what you can do is use the first progress test as a personal benchmark and an opportunity to assess how you are improving from there onwards.

-      A Unsatisfactory or Doubtful is not the end of the world, nor does it define you! Instead view it as a learning and Mahara opportunity, and try and identify areas of improvement. Plus as long as you demonstrate on Mahara how you are learning, studying and progressing it’s nothing to worry about.

-     It’s a wonderful way to see the common diseases and conditions you’ll be exposed to and what you will be learning over the four years!

-     It’s not a test you can cram for! So instead stay on top your weeks iRAT content, and keep revising. There are also multiple online resources and progress test like questions you can find online, so use it!

-     Remember to analyse and integrate your previous PT results.

-     Work with each other and make study groups!

-     Find what works for you and do it!

-     Keep looking forward one PT result does not define you.

-     There’s always a friendly MD2 willing to sit down with a coffee and answer any questions.