“The downsides of a microbiology syllabus….”

This may be of interest to those who are undertaking microbiology exams in the near future…


Syllabuses can be useful. They outline what is expected and required of the student in a standardised and organised fashion. They allow students to structure their learning and allocate time to each topic.

However there are downsides to syllabuses….

Once the syllabus has been learnt there is no real motivation to learn outwith the topics included in the syllabus. Thus it can serve to restrict learning as opposed to encourage it. This is particularly true if the examination/assessment must be based on the syllabus.

The same restrictions can affect the examiners also. If compelled to set the examination based strictly on the syllabus then it does not encourage the examiner to set original and searching exam questions.

In summary I believe that syllabuses, while serving some sort of purpose, should be fairly brief and non-specific in nature. It should also be made clear that the examiner reserves the right to set questions that are outwith the subjects contained in the syllabus.

I think the best way to prepare for exams is to put yourself inside the head of the examiner. Ask yourself: “What areas could I not get away with knowing nothing about. What other areas would the examiner expect me to know at least something about? What is new/topical in my particular area of study.”

Syllabuses are here to stay, but my advice is to cover what is on there, but then continue your learning on topics that interest or excite you, whether they are on the syllabus or not. This might not help you for this particular exam , but will be beneficial in the long run…..


p.s. I have added a short powerpoint on syphilis serology to the website.

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