Moving to Sweden as a doctor: Medical license exam

Once you have learnt Swedish upto around SFI-D (between B1 and B2 levels, if you are following CEFR), I would suggest that you start going through the past years’ questions of the theory part of the medical license exam (kunskapsprov för läkare utanför EU). You can find the past questions here. It is likely that you don’t understand many terms, but you might be able to understand something at least. Medical vocabulary in Swedish is quite similar to that of English, so if you have understanding of Swedish grammar, learning medical terminology in Swedish would not take so much time.

To start with, you can translate the past questions to English in order to understand how tough it is. You can upload the pdf document to Google translate to get an English translation. My experience was that the theory exam in Sweden was easier than the post-graduate admission exam (NEET) in India. It is also less intensive in terms of having to memorize concepts. The medical license exam in Sweden focuses more on the basic concepts and practical applications of fundamental principles. This means that a good number of questions are case discussions, where you are asked to choose the most correct option about the diagnosis or management of a particular patient. Most often, the cases have typical signs and symptoms. Sometimes, the question only gives you hints about the patient’s symptoms, and ask you to choose a suitable treatment. In that case, it is upto you to work out the diagnosis first, consider the situation (if you are in primary care or tertiary care) given in the question and choose a diagnosis that is most appropriate for the situation. For example, the question might be about managing a patient who came with hemiparesis and slurred speech in primary care. First, you need to work out the diagnosis as stroke. Then, you need to consider that you are in primary care, and it is therefore not possible to manage the case in your hospital. The right answer would be to send the patient in an ambulance to the tertiary care hospital immediately. On the other hand, if the questions says that you are in a tertiary care, the option of doing thrombolysis might be the correct answer. In order to confuse you, both the options will be given to you. The key to cracking the exam is to visualize the situation in your mind, and then choose the option that sounds the most reasonable for you. Apply your common sense generously.

The theory exam consists of approximately 180 questions divided into three parts : a general part, a clinical part and interpreting a research article. The weightage of subjects can be found in this document. You can see in the document that medicine is the most important subject with 10% of the questions devoted to it. You will need to study pre-clinical subjects as well. I studied First Aid for the USMLE (Step 1) book for the pre-clinical part. This book is very condensed, so whenever I could not understand some concepts, I would look up my old textbooks to read elaborately about that topic. To some extent, Kaplan lecture notes for microbiology and pathology also helped, but I did not read them completely due to lack of time.

For the clinical part, I studied PLABABLE, the mobile app for preparing for the medical license exam in UK. As I was working full time while preparing for the exam, it was good to have the study material in mobile app format for me to study while I am traveling to work. I took longer to read Swedish text than English text, so PLABABLE was good for me since it was in English. In that way, I could grasp the concepts fast. I also subscribed to Hypocampus, but it had detailed descriptions for every disease, so I could not read much of it. There are differences in the ways by which diseases are managed in India and Sweden. In order to be mindful of these differences, I looked up the website internetmedicin to know the current Swedish guidelines. There is also a book and a mobile app called Läkemedelsboken that you can refer for the latest management protocols for common diseases in Sweden. These two resources are huge, so use them only as references. I also discovered two books from the library : Akut medicin and Akut kirurgi. These two books have condensed descriptions of commonly seen cases in Sweden. I used these two books for learning Swedish terms as well as for quick reference. There are similar ‘Akut’ books for orthopedics, radiology, psychiatry etc., but since these subjects were not as important for the exam as medicine and surgery, I did not read them. Sometimes, it was tiresome for me to study during the evening after a full day’s work, in which case I watched Osmosis videos passively while lying on the sofa.

I did not need to study for the research article part of the exam because my day job as a researcher helped me there. The most important parts of the research article are its aim and results (including tables). Make it a practice to read the questions first, and then read the relevant parts of the research article to find out the answer. If you instead read the article in full first, it is likely that you will not have sufficient time for answering the questions.

I think that the key to cracking the exam is to work out as many previously asked questions as possible. There is a lot of material out to study, and you can’t memorize all of them. You will need to prioritize some topics over the other, and you need to be familiar with past questions in order to know which topics are important. The previously asked questions do not repeat, but some subject areas are more frequently asked than others, so make a note of that by solving past question papers. All past questions can be found here. If you have time, solve past TULE and AT questions too. MCQs from Lund University are also in the same pattern as kunskapsprov, so practice them too. Whenever I solved past question papers, I looked up the concepts that I did not know and noted them in a notebook. I made it a practice to revise the contents of the notebook every three days or so.

Some people who were successful in the exam have watched videos on UmUplay (available on your moodle), participated in study-circles (find out if there is a study circle in your city) and attended the completion program for doctors educated outside of EU. I have not done any of these, and I studied alone. I studied only for two months or so, that too while working full time as a PhD candidate. But I had the habit of reading medical textbooks, popular science books and watching medicine related videos. Although I did this for fun, this habit helped me to keep my knowledge updated. Therefore, I did not need to study much for the exam. But even then, my first reaction after the exam day was that I would definitely fail. Fortunately for me, I passed the exam at the first attempt in May 2019. My score was 65.2%.

Related posts in this series:

  1. Moving to Sweden as a doctor: Learning Swedish
  2. Moving to Sweden as a doctor: PhD admission

Moving to Sweden as a doctor: PhD admission

I have been receiving several phone calls and messages from doctors who want to move to Sweden. Most of them made the choice because their spouse is already in Sweden, while some others want to move to Sweden in search of good career opportunities, possibility to do research and quality lifestyle. When I started getting two or three queries every week or so, I decided that I write this blog post. If you have been directed to this blog post by me, please read it completely and ask me only follow-up questions. Thank you for understanding.

How and why did I move to Sweden?

I decided to move to Sweden for my then fiancé, who is now my life partner. While we met in 2015, I was doing my house-surgeoncy (internship) in India. My partner was doing his PhD in Sweden at that time. Besides this reason, I knew that post-graduate studies in India would mean 24*7 hardwork, stress, working in resource poor settings and zero fun. I was interested in volunteering for Wikipedia, painting and reading books in general. I knew that I will have to give up all these things I love in order to make my career as a specialist doctor in India.

I was interested in research, but I was good at clinical practice too. I didn’t have any past experience in research, but I had done my mandatory research project for MBBS with enthusiasm. I had assisted Wikipedians and post-graduates to do research. Opportunities for research were sparse in India, and most of them came without any funding or mentorship. While we were discussing career, my partner pointed out that I could try doing research in Sweden. I started gathering information about this possibility, and found that my MBBS from India is considered equivalent to a master’s degree (not specialist degree) in Sweden, because it offers a syllabus similar to the MD program in Sweden. Please note that MD is the basic medical degree in Sweden, equivalent to MBBS in India. When you specialize in a subspeciality in Sweden, you don’t get any extra degree, but you will be called as a specialist doctor in that subspeciality. For example, when you finish medical school in Sweden, you get an MD degree. Suppose you specialize in general medicine later on, your degree becomes MD (General Medicine).

I figured out that PhD admission in Sweden requires 4.5 years of university education in the relevant subject. Some PhD positions had specific requirements such as that the student should know fluent Swedish, that the student should have relevant experience in animal research and so forth. The application can be made free of cost, but please be aware that most PhD positions are highly competitive. The link to the application portal of Gothenburg University can be found here. It is not uncommon that as many as 200 applicants apply for one position. Fortunately for me, there were only around 30 applicants who applied for the PhD position that I later got selected for. Many applicants are likely to have a specialist degree in the subject area, so you have to show in your CV and letter of motivation that you have some unique skills that is useful for that particular PhD project. If you want to see what a CV and letter of motivation (LOM) looks like, please leave a comment in the comment box below with your e-mail ID and I shall send my CV and LOM to you.

It is the Professor’s discretion to choose the person they think is the most suitable for the PhD position. You are more likely to get a position if you know academic English, have published research papers in the past, worked as a research assistant or have any other relevant experience related to the research project. Make sure to write about these in your CV or letter of motivation. Knowing Swedish language is a plus, especially if you are applying for PhDs in clinical sciences. In clinical sciences, you will often need to communicate with patients for data collection, which is why Swedish is usually an important requirement for clinical PhDs. In my case, Swedish was not mandatory because a good part of data collection had already been done. Professors usually take one to two months after the application deadline to find the right candidate. Most PhD vacancies are sent out around January (after Christmas) and September (after summer vacation), but you can always find a few vacancies on the Gothenburg University’s job portal regardless of the time of the year.

I had two rounds of interviews over Skype. In the first interview, I was asked about general things in life, my interests, my future plans, my experiences as a doctor, my reasons for choosing an academic career and so forth. It felt more like a friendly discussion than like an interview. I was asked to read through the thesis of a past student before I appeared for the second round of the interview. I read through the thesis and found it interesting, although many terms and concepts were new to me. I looked up as many unknown concepts as I could. The second round interview was more focused on my knowledge related to medicine and research, although I can’t remember being asked any tough questions. A week after the interview, I was informed that I got the job.

After the successful interview, I was asked to send my original certificates to the University for verification. My partner was returning to Sweden from India at that time, so I sent the certificates with him. It took around a month for them to complete the verification process and I was informed about the PhD admission officially from the University. I had applied for a spouse visa to move to Sweden at that time, so I switched it to PhD visa. I did this so that my visa application would be processed faster, because the waiting time for the PhD visa was shorter than the spouse visa. You can check the present waiting times for all visa categories here.

I applied in November 2015, got interviewed in early February 2016 and got accepted for the position in late February 2016. My certificates got verified in March 2016. I then waited for two more months to get my PhD visa, and started working as a PhD student from June 2016.