How to pass the FFICM

A Blog by Dr MJ Slabbert ()for OXICM
no mean feet
Passing the FFICM: no mean feet
The only source of knowledge is experience. – Albert Einstein

…. well, lets just say – Einstein didn’t have a smartphone, Wi-Fi or the internet.

Being an “old school” trainee, I am a BIG supporter of this statement by Einstein. There truly is no substitute for experience.  Good and bad experiences – you can learn something from each type.  However we now live in an “IT” era where information is available at your fingertips.  Mobile technology has brought libraries, journals, studies, research, training videos, discussions and blogs with ease to the ward round.  This has changed the way we acquire knowledge, learn, change practice, share information, debate and prepare for exams.

Preparing for a different fellowship exam a few years ago I had 21 textbooks scattered all over my bedroom floor.  Then last year for the FFICM I had my laptop and the internet – with only a hand full of textbooks in sight.

So, for this, my first blog, I thought I’d share some strategies as well as online and electronic sources of “knowledge” and blogs that I found useful when I prepared for my FFICM exam a year ago – which I passed by the way!

In time, we are hoping to add the Oxford Deanery Intensive Care Medicine blog to this list of invaluable online resources.

Here goes…


It is still holds true that nothing beats experience.  I relied heavily on the experience I gained working in an excellent Intensive Care Unit to pass my exam.  My logic was that if they taught me the correct things and gave me the opportunity to gain the appropriate amount of experience, then supplementing this with a bit of reading should help me easily pass the exam.  And it did.  It is super important to get experience in a unit where there is a culture of teaching, learning, questioning, training and researching.  Seek out these opportunities.  Think big!  There are opportunities to do interdeanery secondments or go oversees and get a breath of experience and work with some incredible teachers.  This is the best way to acquire knowledge; at the coal face.

Printed resources

Ah, there are few things as comforting as a good book – even if it is a textbook.

There are numerous books covering the aspects of the FICM curriculum.  To date, as far as I am aware there is no one comprehensive textbook purely for this exam.  I used a few textbooks in my exam preparation.  These complemented each other.  A few of them are mentioned here and are available to purchase (google them).  The list below is not comprehensive and I have no conflict of interests to declare.

Textbook: MCQ

Multiple Choice Questions in Intensive Care Medicine Steve Benington, Peter Nightingale, Maire Shelly

– Written for the EDIC part 1 exam, but useful in MCQ practice for the FFICM

FRCA: MCQs for the Final FRCA: Saunders Self Assessment Series, 1e (FRCA Study Guides) Karen Henderson

-Strictly not an ICM textbook, but has lots of ICM relevant MCQs

Anaesthesia and Intensive Care A to Z: An Encyclopaedia of Principles and Practice Steven M Yentis

– A good book to for quick access facts. Useful in MCQs

Textbook: General reference

Oxford Desk Reference: Critical Care Carl Waldmann

-Quite comprehensive for its size. Good to get a general overview of most ICM topics

Oh’s Intensive Care Manual, 6e Andrew Bersten

– Just have it and read it – start early.

Oxford Handbook of Critical Care (Oxford Medical Handbooks) Mervyn Singer

– A small textbook and a bit of a taster but by itself not comprehensive enough for exam preparation

Critical Care Secrets, 5e Polly E Parsons

– One of my favourite textbooks, purely because of how it is written in question/answer format.  A really nice textbook to practice for likely viva questions.

Online resources

– The European Society of Intensive Care Medicine Patient-Centred Acute Care training resource is fantastic and available to all ESICM members.  It is also possible to get group / institutional access.  These training modules are very comprehensive and it takes quite a bit of time to go through each one.  They are regularly updated.  At the end of each module there is a number of MCQs relating to the topic.  There are good practice questions for the exam.

– This was one of my two main sources of knowledge while doing my Advanced (Step 2) ICM training and studying for the FFICM.  Although an Australian ICM site, it is jam packed with resources.  The website has recently added a specific FICM resource to the site.  The only downside is to have access to this fantastic resource you will need to become a member (or convince your institution to get institutional membership).

– Excellent resource for keeping up to date with the latest research.

– Another Australian website, but excellent clinical resources for the Australian intensive care medicine exam. Also has some interesting podcasts

– For balance, a Kiwi site. Also full of exam resources from their side of the globe.

– with Jean-Louis Vincent, Erasme University Hospital as the author this is a must read reference to stay in touch with the latest trends and reviews.


– Essential online medical resources and reviews. Useful links for medical education, clinical medicine and health related online search.

– Useful snippets of the latest research and controversies in critical care.


These are some of the apps on my smart phone that I used (a lot) for quick revision and to debate things with colleagues (young and old) on ward rounds.

ICU Trials

– An excellent app with summaries of all the landmark studies. Great for debating decisions on ward rounds.

ICU Pearls

ICU Notes

Critical Care

FOAMEd and twitter

 FOAMEd = Free Open Access Medical Education

This is the future of medical educations. There is no stopping this flood of information, discussion and knowledge sharing. It is international, real time and educational. Inspired by clinicians across the world and free.

By following #FOAMed on twitter you have access to a fountain of information for all things critical care.

If you are not on twitter yet, don’t get left behind in this knowledge revolution!

Well, that’s it for this blog. Hopefully (if I get asked back) the next blog will be based around a case and an educational topic.

Till then…


2 thoughts on “How to pass the FFICM

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