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Data Interpretation in Paediatrics. F Finlay. (Pp 142, £16.95, paperback.) Blackwell Science, 1998. ISBN 0 632 05044 6 .
The written paper of the MRCPCH part II examination (member of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health) consists of three sections: case histories or “grey cases”, visual material, and data interpretation.
The current market boasts a multitude of excellent reference atlases and examination orientated picture books that between them offer a staggering array of clinical photographs. Conversely, there are only several challenging books of case histories and, as yet, even fewer texts for data interpretation.
Although practice promises to make perfect, this is perhaps a more realistic target to attain in the analysis of data questions than in answering the case history section, which does tend to retain a murky quality peculiar to itself. This book will certainly aid one in developing a critical approach to data problems, and the importance of achieving confidence and maximum scores in this section cannot be overemphasised in an examination which, so often, is lamentably unpredictable.
The questions in this book cover a broad spectrum of topics and manage to include problems referring to recently implemented investigative techniques in medicine as well as to conventional “bedside tests”, of which few junior doctors these days have actual clinical experience. In recent years there has been a growing representation of neonatology questions in the examination as well as the increasing employment of figurative data in the form of EEGs and ECGs, and the complex numerical data of cardiac catheter measurements and pulmonary function tests. These trends are adequately reflected by the choice of questions in this book. Subjects such as epidemiology and genetics, which are all too frequent stumbling blocks, are addressed in a comprehensive manner.
The overall standard of questions is comparable to that faced in the actual part II examination and the answers are succinct with appropriate references to the standard paediatric textbooks. Thankfully, it avoids making the common error committed by many textbooks for postgraduate qualifications, which aspire to be so difficult and esoteric that one loses all faith in one’s ability ever to pass the examination.
Furthermore, Data interpretation fits snugly into a jacket pocket, making it a handy companion on train journeys or for quiet moments on call when revision beckons.
Having recently sat, and fortunately passed, the MRCPCH part II examination I would thoroughly recommend this book to potential candidates. It is one of the few question books that I had the time and the heart to reread just before the examination in that critical period when one needs to revise material in the shortest possible time while simultaneously suppressing an ever growing sense of panic.
Finally, I believe that this is a useful text even for those who have left the spectre of postgraduate examinations far behind. I am sure that a surprising number of new facts may be gleaned from perusing these pages and, after all, the process of self education by no means ends with membership.