Waikato Hospital as seen over lake Rotoroa

The Waikato Part 1 Course is provided by a variety of in-house and visiting lecturers.

Jeffrey Hoskins

Jeff Hoskins portrait

Jeff is the convenor of the Waikato part one course, as well as a Primary Examiner. He is a specialist anaesthetist and neuro-anaesthetist who came to this course as a participant early on in this century. He trained here in Waikato as well as in Australia before a neurosurgical anaesthesia fellowship in Canada. He has a special interest in simulation based training and in education of anaesthetists.

Jeff is responsible for much of the course planning and behind-the-scenes arrangements and will also be lecturing and examining on the course.


Aidan O’Donnell

aidan odonnell  portrait

Aidan is our main showrunner. Originally from the UK, he has called New Zealand home for the last eight years. Aidan is the Assistant Editor of the Oxford Handbook of Anaesthesia, and the author of Anaesthesia: A Very Short Introduction, and has a special interest in obstetric anaesthesia.

James Clark

james clark

James qualified as an ANZCA fellow in 2014, and has worked as a consultant anaesthetist at Waikato Hospital since. His interests include regional and obstetric anaesthesia, and he is the local primary exam long-course co-ordinator. He is also a Primary Examiner. His other interests include running, cycling, and home woodworking. You will see Aidan and James for much of the day-to-day running of the course.

Peter Kam

peter kam portrait

Peter is the Nuffield Professor of Anaesthetics at Sydney University, chairman and head of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Department of Anaesthetics, and the author of the well-known textbook Principles of Physiology for the Anaesthetist. Peter is a Part 1 examiner of many years’ experience, and an academic with an international reputation. Peter delivers a considerable amount of content in Week 1 of our course, and is an enthusiastic participant in our practice viva sessions. Without doubt Peter is one of the great strengths of this course.

Other Contributors

Our department has two other Part 1 examiners who participate in the course: Gary Hopgood and Alan Crowther. Our own Prof Jamie Sleigh is a former Part 1 examiner. The other content is delivered by a combination of in-house specialists and senior registrars, and invited speakers from other departments around New Zealand.

Feedback from previous candidates:

I’m extremely grateful for the Waikato course, and for you and the other course contributors for your teaching, feedback and exposure to so many practice vivas and SAQs. It made such a difference in our exam preparation, and definitely upped the ante in terms of knowledge and motivation.

happy part one exam candidates

This could be you!

Your course was invaluable and probably the single most important resource in me passing this exam.

It was a real boost for me at that time, the practice vivas and course material were fantastic.

Your course had prepared me well for the exam.

Passed! Thank you for the course– invaluable.

Thank you so much for your help and amazing teaching at the course. I really think the preparation we received from you played a huge part in our performance. Couldn’t have done it without you!

Thanks again for all your hard work that you put into the course, I can’t believe how much I managed to learn in those two weeks and even the night before the viva I was still consulting the notes from the course.  The viva practice, while horrific at the time, was absolutely invaluable. Please pass on my thanks. The course is definitely the reason I passed.

I am writing to say thank you for organising the course, and to ask you to pass one my gratitude to all the course teachers and organisers. I am very pleased to inform you that I have succeeded in passing the primary, as have all the candidates from the Hamilton course that sat the exam with me on Monday – in fact, we had a mini reunion in Melbourne after the result!

It was a superb course in getting us on the right track towards our goal of passing the Primary Exam. This course is definitely a “flagship” that the Waikato Anaesthetic Department can be very proud of.

I have been trying to work out how to express my gratitude for all of your and the course team’s hard work, but all I can really say is thank you.  There was a good group of us from the course out in Melbourne last Wednesday night celebrating.

The Hamilton course is just a fantastic couple of weeks.  Every day, every session, I came away having solidified knowledge I had, adding to it, and identifying gaps for further studying – just what a prep course should do.  The daily viva sessions, I won’t lie, were pretty stressful but by the end of the course I was desensitized.  I’m sure this made a huge difference in the real viva.

Getting Here:

Hamilton is in the central North Island, and is easily reached by car from anywhere in the North Island. It is about 2 hours’ drive south of Auckland. The bus station is in the city centre and is only about 10 minutes away from the hospital by car, though the hospital is well-served by local bus routes.

The hospital is about 20 minutes’ drive away from Hamilton Airport.

Getting Around:

The main teaching room will be on Level 4 of the Waiora Building. The nearest entrance to the building is the ED entrance on Pembroke St. Viva rooms are nearby. Next door is the Anaesthetic Department, where tea, coffee and meals will be served at break times.


student sleeping

Candidates should book and arrange their own accommodation before arriving for the course.

There are several motels within easy walking distance of the hospital campus. We recommend the Argent Motor Lodge in Lorne St, which backs onto the hospital campus (Square 22-N on the campus map). Not only is the Argent the closest accommodation, but they usually give us a block booking for the course. If you attempt to book online, their website will tell you they are full. Instead you should This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., stating that you are coming to the course. We have always had good reports about the quality of accommodation and catering at the Argent.

Across the road is the Abbey Travel Lodge. Slightly further away (but still within convenient walking distance) are the Colonial City Motel, the Ventura Inn, the Aspen Manor Motel, Ashwood Manor, or the Tudor Motor Lodge.

Candidates from Australia, who are self-funded, may choose to rely on alternative types of accommodation. This year we had candidates who reported successful use of AirBnB.


Parking is available in two multi-storey carpark buildings on the hospital campus. However, it costs $7.50 per day. We recommend that, if possible, you park off-campus and walk here.


We will provide lunch each day, as well as tea, coffee and nibbles at tea-break time. If you have particular dietary requirements, please let us know.

Real Coffee:

The nearest real coffee shop is Momento in Pembroke Street, which is about 5 minutes’ walk away from the course venue (Square 14-D on the campus map). It opens at 7am each weekday morning. There are also a couple of coffee outlets within the main hospital building itself. The Anaesthetic Dept has a high-tech coffee machine which will be available to course attendees.

Wifi Connectivity:

Most areas of the hospital (including the Library and the Anaesthetic Department) are provided with free public Wifi, which may be used at any time throughout the course.

Course Dinner:

The Course Dinner will be held in Hamilton city centre in the evening of Tuesday of Week 2. The cost of the dinner is included in the course fee. Attendance is encouraged, but not compulsory. The course organisers will attend, together with many of the lecturers and examiners.

I spend a lot of my time thinking about the Primary FANZCA exam, and how best to prepare trainees to pass it. I have collected some of my thoughts together into short articles, which I published in the Latest News stream, but they have been gradually buried by new material on the top. I therefore thought I would collect them here, into a series of reflections on the exam; on exams in general; and on exam performance.

I am hopeful that these reflections will be useful to all candidates at any stage of exam preparation, and not just the ones coming to our course. Please feel free to open a dialogue with me about any of this at any time.



What are Exams actually for?

I came across this podcast from the BBC here. Presented by academic Professor Mary Beard, the 30-minute podcast addresses several aspects of examinations. Just be glad that you don’t live in 7th-century China, where state examinations were so gruelling that occasionally candidates died during them.

Beard tackles the question of what exams are actually for. Although she concentrates on school and university examinations, many of her points seem directly relevant to our exam. She talks about a theme which I have often reflected upon: why is the Part 1 FANZCA exam so difficult? Surely it tests knowledge which is rarely called-upon in clinical practice? She talks about examinations having some of the attributes of a game (another frequent theme of mine). She talks about candidates sometimes being more focussed on technique than content (something we talk about a lot), and sometimes being focussed so exclusively on passing the exam that they refuse to learn or consider adjacent material which is not going to be tested.

So if our exam isn’t just a test of knowledge, what else could it be testing? What else does success in the exam reveal about you? (Caroline Whymark discusses this in her book too; see further down this page).

I don’t have clear answers to these questions; feel free to add your own. However, I do think success reveals these things:

(1) Determination. The exam requires such enormous investments of time, effort, and in some cases, money, that it is an index of your ability to marshal all your personal resources to the pursuit of one single goal. Not only does this show that you have grit, but also that you have commitment to anaesthesia as a career, or indeed to any objective you set your mind to.

(2) The “right” way to think, especially under pressure. Successful anaesthetists have a particular pattern of thinking, of approaching a problem (any problem). Of course, this isn’t the only way to approach a problem. But anaesthetists seem to have a very structured way to think, and this almost becomes a language of its own. Being able to use that language (in spoken and in written form) tells the examiner that your thought patterns run parallel to those of other anaesthetists.

Here’s an example. You develop a flat tyre. It’s dark, it’s raining, and you are an hour’s drive from home. The kids and your partner are in the car. If you are an anaesthetist, you might find yourself approaching the scenario like this (I know I would!):

Call for help (summon the breakdown service)
Assess the priorities (ensure safety of the team, change the wheel, get home)
Communicate the problem with the team (“OK, guys, here’s what we need to do”).
Ensure safety (Get the kids out of the car onto the verge, far from stray drivers; deploy hazard lights and/or signs; wear bright clothing)
Work with partner to arrange equipment (spare wheel, jack, spanner, torch)
Apply jack to car body…

flat tyre2

Exams: make you feel like this

OK, you get the idea. But that approach (prioritise; break down a complex task into manageable chunks; address problems one at a time; communication; leadership; effective teamwork) is at the core of anaesthetic behaviour. Anaesthetists prosper who can work like that, think like that, and communicate like that. And this is tested in the exam, with very short time-periods in vivas and SAQs, where you must organise your whirlwind of thoughts, under considerable pressure, into sensible categories, and provide clear answers.

(3) A vast amount of knowledge. Nobody in their daily practice thinks about the pKa of fentanyl when they are giving it to the patient. But having those underpinnings, that vast body of detailed knowledge about physiology and pharmacology and anatomy, means that the information is in there. And who knows when it might become useful?

I often draw the parallel with racing drivers. Their job is to drive the car, as fast as possible. But that the best ones also understand the fuel composition, the engine compression ratios, the torque curve, the tyre compounds, the oil pressure, the aerodynamics, in considerable detail. Why? Because knowing these things helps them to get the very best performance out of the car, in all conditions, even (perhaps) ones which the engineers did not anticipate. Michael Schumacher came second in the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix, in a car which was stuck in 5th gear for most of the race, and I am sure that he already knew everything there was to know about that gearbox.

Spending some time thinking about what the exam is actually testing is helpful, because if you think that the exam is just about studying, you will founder.


Added Value

So here’s a question. How much value does our course add, to you, the candidate? It’s a question I dwell on quite a lot, because I want everyone to pass the exam.

It’s clear that, even without the course, some of you (x) would pass the exam. It’s clear that most of those who attend the course (y) do pass the exam. So what does this course add? What is the value of y-x?

I can find out one part of the answer, and I have been, for the last four years. That is, how many people who attended our course, actually passed the exam at the next attempt? (And I will ask you in turn to let us know your results). But I cannot say how many of them would have passed anyway. The answer is that, from our course, we scored 59 passes out of 78 attempts; a figure of 75.6%.


Us plus you: more than 2?

A reasonable surrogate to the figure of x would be: considering that sitting of the Part 1 exam as a whole, how many people pass it overall? What I want to know is: how many candidates attempted the exam? How many passed the written (and how many failed)? And how many passed the vivas?

ANZCA started to publish these figures in 2016. This might be partly because I wrote and asked them to. The Royal College of Anaesthetists publishes a beautiful table of exactly these results, and states it is “committed to ensuring that the FRCA exam statistics in the form of exam pass and fail rates are placed in the public domain as soon after the ‘release of result date’ as possible.” I pointed this out to ANZCA in my letter.

Over the last four years, our course has had 78 candidates attempt the exam. Those who withdrew were not counted. We scored 59 passes overall, a creditable 75.6% pass rate.

For the last 4 sittings of the exam (the only ones I have figures for), 773 candidates attempted the exam, and 468 passed, for a pass rate of 60.5%,

The crude figures, y-x, would suggest that our course adds roughly 15% to your overall chance of passing. This is a significant number. I can’t give you the figures for any earlier years, since the College didn’t publish the figures before 2016.

These figures come from the Examiners’ Reports, which is available for free on the College website. I highly commend these reports to you. One of the interesting things is that, of people who attend the Vivas, the great majority pass the whole exam.


Marginal Gains

climbing a mountain

I came across this article on the OUP Blog, which I think is very pertinent. Entitled Exam preparation: More than just studying? the article discusses several aspects of exam preparation, and compares passing the exam to sporting success. The author, Caroline Whymark, points out that success requires “prioritisation, motivation, focus, support, time management, and importantly, life management”. And she is trying to sell you her book, Preparing to Pass the FRCA, which is very good. A lot of it is pertinent to this exam as well. The first part of the book concentrates on preparation for the exam, and it would be useful for just about any major postgraduate examination.

The second half of Whymark’s book describes in detail the techniques she recommends for approaching the FRCA exam. The FANZCA exams are similar enough that some of Whymark’s material is valuable. Unfortunately, the specific details of the two exams are different enough that her specific advice isn’t pertinent to us. Overall, though, it’s a good read, is reasonably short, and contains much which is wise, sensible and useful.

This touches on another of the themes I had been meaning to bring into these posts, which is the theme of marginal gains. I came across this theme when watching this video, with Tim Harford, one of my favourite writers and broadcasters. Harford discusses the success of the UK Olympic Cycling Team, and a man called Matt Parker, whose job it is to create tiny improvements in all aspects of a cycling team’s performance.

The lesson we can take from Parker and Harford (and also Whymark) is that every single little improvement in your performance helps, from the way you sleep, to the way you eat, to the way you write, to the way you speak, to the way you dress.

The video is fun and entertaining, but the bit I am recommending is only the first 4-5 minutes or so. Watch it, and take a good look at all those little marginal gains you can give yourself.


Code Breaking and Exam Preparation

In Bletchley Park during the Second World War, the codebreakers were able to crack the German Enigma cypher. The Enigma machine was a mechanical coding machine of enormous complexity, which required the application of considerable intellectual force to crack. The Bletchley codebreakers used cribs to help them crack the code. Cribs are the “rules of the game”– they were the physical and mechanical limitations of the machine, together with the habits of the German High Command in sending specific patterns of coded text. The Bletchley codebreakers were able to exploit those rules to their own ends, wedging open those tiny cracks in the Enigma edifice to get a foothold.

enigma machine

Harder than the FANZCA: Enigma machine

This exam has cribs too, though they might not appear obvious. Cribs are the rules and mechanisms of the exam. They apply equally to every candidate– therefore using cribs to your advantage is not cheating.

One obvious example is multiple-choice questions. The scoring system will award you one point for a correct answer, and zero for a wrong answer. So far, so good. However, it will also award you zero for missing a question completely. Therefore it is in your interests to answer every question, even if you don’t know the right answer. (Where negative marking is in use, different cribs apply!).

Another crib is that the College itself shows you what the exam will be like. It gives examiners’ reports going back over several years, which not only tell you the written questions which were asked, but then (in detail) how they should be answered.

This information is pure gold. You might think that this material (since it isn’t syllabus material as such) should just be skimmed through. Instead it should be read and re-read, very closely. You will, when you read it, get a flavour for the sorts of questions which may be asked. You will get a feel for the sorts of answers which will work (and more importantly, what sorts of stuff to leave out of your answer). It also tells you important things to not do (e.g. to not write your answer across a double page).

You should also browse the resources available to candidates, which are already available, for free, right under your nose at the ANZCA Networks website. There is a lot of material there to support you in your attempt on the exam: how to pace yourself, how to study effectively, how to manage stress. There are example viva videos, including a “perfect” viva, followed by some “disaster” vivas where common pitfalls are demonstrated. OK, so the dialogue is a bit wooden, but the scenarios strike me as being very real, and they have clearly been scripted by real examiners, and filmed in the actual examination room.

I cannot recommend this material to you highly enough. The College has put it there for your benefit. It’s free. Use it. It’s all linked to from the College webpage here.


Good Handwriting

This may seem like a very tangential topic, but I’ve been chewing it over and I thought I would write something here.

I listened to this episode from one of my favourite podcasts, Freakonomics Radio. Incidentally, I highly recommend subscribing to the podcast, as well as reading the books, but save this until after the exam!

In it, the presenters (correctly) mention that handwriting is a dying art. Large areas of the US are no longer teaching children cursive script, but only printing, since (basically) the keyboard is all they need these days.

Can this really be so? That handwriting has become obsolete? We don’t need to be able to write by hand any more?


I still have all my old notes from the Part 1. This is the alveolar gas equation.

As a writer myself, I abhor the idea that handwriting is dying. Of course, I use keyboards all the time, but I still write in pen and ink every single day. I think that the almost universal teaching of reading and writing to everyone (rather than just an educated elite) is one of the pinnacles of human achievement.

But over the last few years, the number of people taking notes on their laptop on our course is rising. (And when I visited my friend, a professor in Canada, more than half of his students were making notes on their laptop or tablet rather than on paper).

But why should you care? Right now, all you care about is passing the exam. So let me put it to you this way.

(1) The SAQ exam is still a written exam. That means you need to be able to express your thoughts by writing them down by hand (and drawing diagrams, which is a different skill, which we also attempt to address on our course). Whether you like it or not; whether it’s right or wrong, the exam will not change between now and the time you sit it. That means you need to be good at writing, and that SAQ is a marathon for even the best writers.

(2) There is some evidence that people who write neatly do better in exams than people who don’t. This was expressed in the Freakonomics podcast. Of course, it isn’t because those people are smarter, but because they write neatly, they are perceived as better than those who can’t. There may also be a component of their writing being easier to read, which makes it easier to mark their scripts. I can certainly attest to this from personal experience.

(3) There is some evidence that people who take notes by hand learn the material more effectively than those who type it in. Again the podcast mentions why this is (in some detail). In brief, because you can’t write so quickly, you process what you write rather than just transcribing what the speaker says. If you process it, it sticks more and is easier to learn.

(4) Handwriting is a learned motor skill. You might say: “But my writing has always been terrible”. And you might be right. Nonetheless, while it may not be possible to make it perfect, practising it will definitely make it better. Marginal gains matter.

(5) Being able to make legible clinical notes by hand is a core skill for medical practitioners. We don’t yet have paperless hospitals. They may yet come. But while we still have paper and pens, you will still need to write neatly in the notes. And if it comes to court, and the court (or worse, you) can’t read what you’ve written, the temperature of the water you are in will rise sharply. Trust me; I have been in court.

So, overall, I recommend to you in the strongest of terms that you become used to writing things down by hand. There is evidence that it helps you learn. There is evidence that neatness improves your chance of a good mark. And there is evidence that many doctors’ handwriting is basically dreadful.

After the exam you can burn your paper notes (though I advise that you don’t!) or scan them all into your laptop. You can cast away your pens and get back to your voice-recognition dictation software. But for the next few months, get those pens out, and get scribbling!

This page answers some of your frequently-asked questions.

Just about everything you reasonably want to know can already be found on this website, but there are other questions which crop up from time to time.

Q: You only offer 20 places. Why not increase this number so that more people can attend?

This is a fair question, and one we have looked at from time to time. Where a course is just a series of lectures, you can increase the number of attendees without much trouble. However, our course is highly interactive, and we try to give each candidate the benefit of focussed examination practice. The more candidates we have, the more this dilutes the value that everyone receives. We have tried running the course with 22, and it’s a real squeeze.

(1) Viva practice. We take our 20 candidates and split them into 4 groups of 5 for viva practice. Each group gets a 90-minute session per day with two “examiners”. That takes 4 examiners per day out of our roster. In addition, squeezing in an extra candidate makes the amount of viva time per candidate drop sharply.

(2) Short answers. Each day we expect the candidates to do four SAQs in exam conditions. That means 80 answer scripts need to be marked each day. We do this marking in addition to running the course, organising lectures, ensuring vivas run to time, and so on. Adding more candidates means adding more scripts to that very large pile. But if that sounds like a lot of marking, it really isn’t, compared to…

(3) The SAQ practice. We run a full mock SAQ exam in Week 1. This generates 15 scripts per candidate, making about 300 scripts in all. The full stack is several cm high. We have an examiners’ meeting over beer and curry on the night after the exam, and we mark them all. That’s an almighty marathon of work for us to do, in our spare time, for no payment except a bit of curry.

(4) Department resources. Our department is quite large, but nevertheless, the Part 1 Course places considerable demand on our roster. Often several trainees attend the course, depleting the trainee pool. Each day, there are two coordinators (often James and me), plus the lecturers, plus 4 viva examiners, plus someone giving small group teaching. That could be 8 SMOs depleted from the SMO roster. As a department, we recognise the value of the course to anaesthetic education and training, which is why we wear that demand. But running extra viva practice (say), or adding more places to the course, just isn’t possible.

So hopefully you can see why it isn’t feasible to just expand the course.

Q: Why don’t you run the course twice a year?

See above. The drain on our departmental resources is considerable, and it also involves the course organisers in an enormous amount of work in our own time. Once a year is all we can manage, but there are other courses out there to help you through the other sitting of the exam.

Q: If I send you emails in advance, can I get in ahead of the crowd and ensure my place on the course?

No. The course is already very over-subscribed, with more than two applicants per place. We think that the fairest method is to cast the net as wide as possible, accept as many applications as possible, and then to randomly select from this pool of applicants. (We expressly give priority to Midland NZ trainees).

We have previously considered (and indeed applied) other selection methods, and we look critically at this method every year to see if it’s still workable. No selection method is perfect; whichever way we do it, some people will get in, and others won’t. The best we can hope for is fairness and transparency, which we think we achieve.

Q: I applied for the course but I didn’t get a place. This is my last chance to pass the exam. Is there any way you can squeeze me in somehow?

No. I am always very sorry for those people who get turned away, but our resources are finite, and there is nothing we can do. You will get a place on our waiting list, and if you are near the top, you are still in with a chance of a place, since each year 1 or 2 candidates with a place withdraw from the course before it starts. The best I can suggest is that you apply to another course, or use the resources of your own department to prepare for the exam. Caroline Whymark’s book offers very sensible advice and tips.

One final thing, though. Our course doesn’t get you through the exam. We can motivate you and polish you, but what gets you through the exam is your own effort.

2019 Course:

The 2019 Course will take place from 24th June 2019 to 5th July 2019. Applications will open in January 2019.



2018 Course Timetable:

As an example of content, here is the 2018 Course timetable:

2108 Week 1 Timetable

2018 Week 2 Timetable

Crucial Dates for the Primary FANZCA Examination 2018:

Closing date for 2018 exam: 5th June 2018.

Written section: 25th August 2018.

Viva section: 8th-10th October 2018.


Alternative Courses:

map of australia and new zealand

There are several other Part 1 Courses around Australia and New Zealand. Brief information is below, but for detailed information, including availability of places, we recommend that you contact the course organisers directly. If you find this information is out-of-date, please let me know so that I can update the details.

Brisbane: The Brisbane course runs annually in June, about six weeks out from the date of the written component of the exam. It is a 2-week course, and has 35 places. The typical day is 4 x 2-hour sessions, but the course includes a full SAQ and MCQ examination, with feedback sessions with the markers. When the dates are announced, they will be published on the ANZCA QLD website. Alternatively you can get more information by contacting the course organiser, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., phone +61 7 34861233.

Adelaide: The Intensive Care Unit in Adelaide organises a Primary Science Course aimed at primary CICM and ANZCA trainees. The course is run in August, and is a 5-day course with a maximum of 24 places. The course is delivered in an interactive tutorial style. Details about the course can be found here, and the course organiser is Mark Finnis.

Melbourne: The Victoria course is held in Melbourne, and runs twice per year, usually in May and November. It is a 2-week course, and the number of places is variable. It is a comprehensive course designed to review the syllabus and provide candidates with information to help them prepare for written and oral examinations. More details of the course can be found here, or contact the course coordinator, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Melbourne, Monash Medical Centre: The Monash department of anaesthesia runs an annual course in July each year. It is an intensive 5-day course with places for 20 applicants. The aim of the course is to improve exam technique, and the format is predominantly small-group viva practice/tutorials and SAQ practice. A practice SAQ and MCQ exam is conducted. For more information contact the course coordinator This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sydney: The New South Wales course is held in the Royal Prince Albert Hospital, Sydney, and runs twice a year, in May and October. It is a 2-week course which offers a mixture of curriculum content and examination practice, for 50-60 candidates. The course convener is Prof Peter Kam, and the course coordinator is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Christchurch: The Christchurch course is an intensive 6-day course held in January for 25 applicants. The course focusses on exam technique rather than syllabus content. The course conveners are Drs Nicholas Abbott and Christian Brett, and the course administrator is Nekesa Stevenson.


This website is the main source of information about the Waikato Part 1 Course, for candidates and staff alike. Please check this website regularly for updates.

But if you have a specific question, contact us:

doctor on computer

Email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


+64 (7) 839 8718 and ask to speak to Karen Cassaidy, the anaesthetic secretary.


Dr. Aidan O’Donnell,
Waikato Hospital, Dept of Anaesthesia,
Private Bag 3200,
Pembroke St.
Hamilton, 3240.

Useful Links:

Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists

ANZCA Guide to Effective Study for Trainees

ACECC Guide to Personal Welfare During Training and Examinations

Kerry Brandis’ Anaesthesia Revision Website

Anaesthesia UK- a website to help prepare for the FRCA examination

Waikato Anaesthesia Department Homepage

Waikato Anaesthetic Department Journal Club

Aidan O’Donnell’s website

Introduction and Overview:

The Waikato Hospital Part 1 FANZCA Course is an annual, two-week course designed to help prepare candidates to pass the Primary FANZCA examination. The course consists of a mixture of lectures, practical demonstrations, interactive group sessions and tutorials. Interspersed with this are frequent simulated examinations, both written and oral. The course assumes that you already know the main syllabus points: we have a strong focus on exam technique and practice which requires a good working knowledge already.

The 2019 Course will take place from 24th June 2019 to 5th July 2019. Applications will open in January. Please see “Latest News” for further information, and please check this website frequently for updates and changes.

If you are attending the course, please read this website thoroughly. All the information you need is here, but each year we have candidates who stumble because they have missed some of it.

Course Format:

student girl

The course is designed to give candidates the very best chance of passing the Primary FANZCA examination. Some of the course comprises syllabus content, although the syllabus is huge, and we cannot expect to cover it all. We do, however, attempt to concentrate on what we think are the most important areas; areas which are generally poorly tackled in the exam, or generally poorly understood by the candidates.

In addition, a great deal of our content is geared toward practice for the actual examination. This content focusses on developing good examination technique, and in simulating the actual examination: written, MCQ and viva components. Candidates will normally have daily viva practice and daily short-answer question (SAQ) practice (which we will mark and return).

We strive to make the standard of our practice examinations match the actual standard of the exam itself. The course is intensive and the standard is high. We attempt to provide all candidates with detailed feedback on their performance in the course as a means of focussing their effort for the actual examination.

We expect all candidates to attend all parts of the course.


Who is eligible?

The course is open to anaesthetic trainees from New Zealand, Australia or Asia who intend to attempt the Primary FANZCA examination in the near future. The course has 20 places.

We will only accept applicants who are registered to attempt the exam at the next sitting (August 2019). We believe our course is very good at getting people “up to speed” in time for the exam, but we recognise that the momentum drops off after a while.

We usually have many more applicants than places, so we usually give priority to people who haven’t been on other courses, and we would not usually allow you to attend this course more than once.



The course will be held in the Teaching Room of Level 4 of the Waiora Building. This is a large, dedicated room which is available to us for the duration of the course, which is equipped with computer projection facilities. Each candidate can occupy their own desk space for the duration of the course. The adjacent Anaesthetic Department has toilets, a small kitchen, and a social hub area, as well as study space and a small library.

We will provide lunch each day, as well as nibbles at break times.


Teaching Content:


We strive to provide candidates with all of the teaching content in the course. Each candidate will be given a USB chip on the course, which we will update with the contents of all the lectures as the course proceeds. In addition, course content will be updated daily from a Dropbox. This should free up candidates from the need to write down every single fact, and concentrate only on the important detail. As a bonus, the USB chip includes all of the previous year’s lecture content. Some lecturers prefer to deliver paper handouts.

We provide each candidate with a lever-arch file, a pad of A4 paper, and a pen.



The format of the examination evolves year by year. Our course is constantly changing to meet the needs of candidates and we collect detailed feedback on every single component of the course to ensure that the standard is always high.

If you have a problem during the course, speak to one of the course organisers and we will do our best to sort it out. The feedback we have received about the course has been very favourable.


How to Prepare for the Course:

While we hope that all of our candidates will be successful in the exam itself, this course cannot pass the exam for you. There is no shortcut for studying the syllabus and working hard for several months before the exam itself. Therefore we cannot recommend highly enough that you have already studied all the major areas of the syllabus before you attend the course.

I can hardly believe that the vivas are upon us already!

Good luck to all our candidates! We wish you every success, and we hope you will let us know your results in due course.


Thanks to everyone for their contributions to the Part 1 Course this year. It was another extremely successful course. Thanks to all the lecturers and examiners who gave their time and expertise to help the course to run. Thanks to Karen for her amazing organisation behind the scenes. And thanks, of course, to the wider department, for minding the shop to let the rest of us run the course. We appreciate it greatly.

And to you, the candidates, we wish every success in the exam ahead. We will be thinking about you. Please let us know how you get on in due course!

Aidan, James and Jeff.

Here is the finalised version of the Course timetable. It might look like a confusing morass of coloured boxes to you. We think so too. However, we will help you make some sense of it when we meet you on Day 1.

Red boxes are lecture content. Blue boxes are viva practice or small-group teaching. Yellow is break time (MT is Morning Tea and AT is Afternoon Tea).

Week 1 Timetable

Week 2 Timetable

There are a little over three weeks to go until the start of the course. I’ve been in touch with you all by email. By now you should have your accommodation sorted, and your travel plans finalised. You should also be well on the way to digesting the main topics of the exam syllabus.

At this end, things are going well. Catering is sorted. Venue is sorted. The timetable is nearly finished and I will upload a finished version soon to this website.

If there are any small changes to anything, I will announce them here first. Please use this website as a means of keeping up to date with all the latest information about the course.


I’ve just been running my computer randomisation program to allocate the course numbers.


There were a few surprises this year.

First is that we had a whopping 57 applicants, which is a huge jump up for us. Last year we had only 35 applicants. This is an all-time record.

Second is that we had a lot of candidates from the Midland NZ region: 11 in all. This is many more than I expected.

This means that the numerical odds of getting a place on this year’s course, for non Midland applicants, is very low. I make it 9/46, or 19.6%, a little under 1 in 5.


I realise this will come as a disappointment for many of you, and I am very sorry to turn so many of you away from the course. I realise that the exam really matters to you, and this course offers you a good chance at improving your chances of passing.

The high application numbers obviously imply that our course has a strong reputation, which in turn implies that we are doing something right.

In the interests of transparency, I include the screen dumps of my randomisation program. There are similar screen dumps further back in this thread. The important thing from your point of view is that I have no idea who those candidate numbers belong to. I don’t know your names. I don’t know your locations. Karen the secretary has a spreadsheet of applicants and has given me only the numbers of the local applicants so that I can exclude them from the randomisation.


Tomorrow (or thereabouts) Karen will be contacting you. Those of you up to number 20 will be offered a place. Candidates 21, 22 and 23 have still got a chance of a cancellation before the course begins. Realistically, those of you with a lower place than number 23 have very little chance of getting in (though last year we did have one very late withdrawal and one lucky person was still available to fill the place).

If you do get offered a place, we will expect you to show us proof that you have registered to sit the exam in August. We will also be asking for money. If you are offered a place, then find you cannot use it, please let us know as soon as possible so that we can offer it to another candidate.

One last thing in closing. This course doesn’t pass the exam for you. What passes the exam is your own effort and graft. Even if you didn’t get a place, there is still time to get your nose to the grindstone and get some serious work in.