Thoughts on educational technology, psychology & enterprise

Dr. James Gupta representing revision app Synap at Northern Stars 2017

Synap Wins ‘Northern Stars’ Award!


A great evening for Synap last night as we won the Northern Stars regional heat in front of a packed out audience of over 170 people in Leeds. Over 100 companies applied for the competitive award, with 10 companies competing with a strict time limit of 3 minutes followed by intense questioning from expert judges.

The 10 startups pitching at Northern Stars Leeds

There were some great pitches from a range of Leeds-based startups including Tutora, Kwizzbit and Hark, highlighting the growing pace of tech development within the north of England. As Ed Prior, one of the judges from GP Bullhound, mentioned last night, if the North was a country by itself, it would be the 5th biggest user of tech within Europe.

Synap will now compete against 20 companies at the Northern Stars grand final in November, with the winners representing the North of England at TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin.


Samantha Deakin, one of the judges from Campus Capital, was impressed with how far Synap have come within the last year alone. Both co-owners of Synap, James and Omair, have managed to capture 20% of the UK medical market whilst juggling with their own exams in the final year of medical school. Now fully qualified doctors, James and Omair are currently focusing full-time on Synap to help the next generation of medical students and doctors pass their exams.

Last night’s win is a great way to kick off the new academic year, and hopefully represents the first of many awards to come! As a company, we have continued to grow through securing content from leading experts and top tier educational publishers, Oxford University Press, acquiring over 3,000 multiple-choice questions from 7 of the world-renowned Clinical Handbooks.

A big thank you to TechNorth for organising the event, and we’d encourage you to check out the other startups who presented too!

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5 Top Tips to Improve Your Productivity!

Whether you’re in work or at school, we all want to improve our productivity. I’ve been running Synap for 3 3 years now, and during that time I’ve also been a medical student – it’s been a lot of work, and it’s a process that’s forced me to learn a few things about time management and productivity.

Work Wise Week takes place next week (14-20 May) and QuickBooks, best known for their invoicing software tools, is looking to share productivity tips to help you save time and decrease your stress. So, in no particular order – here are my ‘Top 5 Tips’ for improving your productivity!

Manage your energy, not your time

People love to talk about ‘time management’ – but the resource we really need to manage is energy. It’s true that you only have a limited amount of time in the day to get things done, but you usually have an even more limited supply of energy – or willpower.

We’re not machines, and the amount of work we can actually get done is more than just a function of how much time we put into it. Our productivity is significantly affected by a range of variables that might broadly be defined as the ‘qualitative state’ of our mind at the time. As an example, I used to write code for hours and hours on end, often until 3 or 4am. I still do from time to time, but what I realised after a few years was that usually, at a certain point I’m mentally exhausted, and in need of a break, some sleep and some food. I’m still ‘working’, and definitely making progress, but it’s taking me far longer to achieve than it would if I called it a day, got a decent night’s sleep, and came back to it in the morning.

The difference between working for an hour when you’re mentally ready for it, versus when you’re out of energy is huge. Whilst it’s always tempting, especially if you’re working on something you enjoy, to burn the candle at both ends, the reality is that we can only sustain it for so long, and in the long term you’ll benefit from having a system in place to recognise when you’r running out of energy.


Have a Set Time to Stop Working

Obviously, for various reasons, this isn’t always doable. Sometimes you’ve got to work late, or even overnight, to hit a deadline or to fix a critical error – that’s life. But, generally speaking – imposing constraints such as a ‘stop work’ time each day can really improve the way you work. When you know you have a limit, you start working to it. One of the problems I first faced when I became self employed and working out of my apartment rather than in an office was that, I had absolutely no constraints. I could be at 3pm in the afternoon and I’d be easily distracted because I knew I could make up the ‘work’ time later – often at 11pm or later.

In a more formal working environment, this wouldn’t have happened because I had designated ‘work’ time during office hours, which works as a kind of constraint on what you can do and when.

The freedom of having no constraints is great at first, but it’s a double edged sword and one of the main reasons for failure in a self-employed or freelance kind of environment. By putting rules on yourself such as “I’m not going to reply to any emails after 7pm” or “I’m not going to use any electronics after 11pm” – you start to create rules and a more structured existence for yourself. I think this is especially important for people who are self employed because, you probably love the work you do, and it’s very hard to pull yourself away from it – in the long term, that’s a recipe for disaster in terms of your relationships and hobbies.

Don’t Let Small Things Pile Up

We all know there are two categories of work, there’s the things you really enjoy doing and are excited to work on, and there’s the other stuff you just have to do. Naturally, we all prefer working on the things we enjoy doing – often the larger projects that feel more creative and intellectually challenging. This can often come at the expense of smaller bits of work – the routine things you just have to do, but don’t offer much in the way of personal development.

I have a huge tendency to do exactly this, but I know that if I let the small things pile up, they weigh on my mind pretty heavily, to the point where it actually stops me from being able to concentrate on anything else. Try not to let that happen – have a set time each day to catch up with the daily ‘admin’ stuff, and perhaps a half day or a day each week to really get through them, so then you can focus the rest of your time on the other stuff, without feeling guilty about it.

End on a Cliffhanger

When you finish working for the day, try to finish at an interesting point, one that makes you want to come back to it. The natural tendency might be to stop working when you’re frustrated or bored with a task, but the problem with that is that it makes it more difficult to motivate yourself to come back to it the next day. If, on the other hand, you finish at a point that’s a bit of a cliffhangr, you’re going to be more excited to come back to it, and therefore more easily motivated.

Have Outside Interests

It’s so easy to get completely wrapped up in a project, and to put your relationships, hobbies or other goals to the side. There are of course times where this has to happen temporarily – to meet a deadline for example – but for the most part, you don’t want to be so consumed with work – which represents one pillar of your life – that you neglect all the others. Not only will this be catastrophic for you generally as a person, but even in a work-context, it will make you less motivated, less creative and less effective at your job.

Try to keep up with relationships and hobbies. Read a bit of a book each evening, make plans with people. All of these things will feedback into your work performance too – either creatively, by letting you test or discover new ideas, or just in terms of performance by making you better rested and less stressed over time.


I hope you found this helpful! Many of the points are obvious, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to apply and stick to. Remember that making even one small change in your life can be a very challenging task, and failing is part of the cycle – don’t be dismayed, just get ‘back on the horse’ and try again!


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MRCP MCQs now available on Synap

MCQs for Medical Board Exams (MRCP MCQs, FRCA, MRCS & more) now available on Synap!

If you’re a junior doctor preparing for board exams such as the MRCA, MRCS or FRCA, then we’ve got some good news for you! In conjunction with our content partners at Oxford University Press, we’re pleased to announce that today we’re releasing over 10,000 premium MCQs for medical board exams – all written and peer-reviewed by experts at OUP.

As you’d expect, subscribing to any of these packages also brings the full benefits of Synap’s cutting edge revision platform such as Spaced Repetition, detailed and personalised feedback, the ability to compare results with your friends – and of course our brand new mobile app!

The full list of courses available is shown below:

Each question has been peer reviewed by experts in the field and designed to match the board curriculum. Questions also come with detailed feedback for each answer, so you can understand and learn from your mistakes.

MRCP, MRCS & FRCA MCQs available on the Synap Store

To top it all off, we’re offering a 20% discount on ALL products for January – simply use the promo code NEWYEAR when checking out!

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Synap 1000 Customers

Celebrating 1,000 Customers!

Today marks a significant milestone for all of us here at Synap – after lots and lots of hard work, we’ve reached our first 1,000 paying users, just three months after launching our partnership with Oxford University Press that saw some of their most popular revision materials for medical students being offered on the Synap Store.

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Advice for the Situational Judgement Test (SJT)

Your academic performance in medical school is worth less than your performance in this one aptitude test alone. Yet, many of your colleagues will say, “you can’t prepare for it”. Sure, it’s not like you can memorise facts in bulks and apply them clinically like in medical exams, but don’t throw in the towel just yet.There are two main methods to prepare for the SJT; practice questions and day courses. The latter can set you back anywhere between £60 to £100 for a day.


Practice questions come in two forms: a practice test endorsed by the Foundation Programme, or third-party practice questions from various publishers. Due to the somewhat subjective nature of this test, the Foundation Programme cannot endorse third-party practice content, however, the logic behind each question and its answers must stand up to a lot of scrutiny. The tradeoff of using third-party questions is that you get a lot more practice, and a lot more explanations for the reasoning behind each answer. But its not easy to decide which third-party content is trustworthy, unless of course, that third-party happens to be the Oxford University Press (OUP).

Whilst there are other third-party publishers that have valuable practice material for the SJTs, I’ve chosen to use OUP’s book for this checklist as it can be used directly from Synap, allowing you to easily keep track of progress and make sure you haven’t missed significant areas of competencies. In the interest of simplicity, I’ve ordered my practice plan into a few steps:

1) Getting your feet wet

If you’ve decided to start preparing for the Situational Judgement Test five minutes ago, and this is the first thing you’ve come across, I recommend that you get your feet wet and practice 5-10 questions straight away, just to get an idea of what to expect. Heck, here you go – take these 10 sample questions and come back here with some well needed insight. You’ll notice two types of questions: ranked items and multiple-choice answers (best 3 out of X). The crucial distinction between the two is that for ranked questions, only the first answer has to be correct, the rest can be varying degrees of incorrect. However, in questions where you have to select the best 3, all 3 must be correct, and all the remaining must be incorrect to varying amounts. For this step, I discourage using the official practice paper from the Foundation Programme – with only 70 practice questions at your disposal, it’s wiser to save them towards the end of your preparation as a marker of your efforts.

2) Understanding the SJT

The SJT is designed to see how you, after graduation, will deal with difficult, but common, situations on the wards. The questions ask you to place yourself in the shoes of a doctor with a perfect moral compass and a working understanding of medical ethics, law and hospital processes. The last of this includes the knowledge of how to sensibly escalate a situation. This is discussed in great detail over the first 8 chapters in OUP’s SJT assessment package, which you can read directly from Synap. You should also take this opportunity to familiarise yourself with the test instructions and scoring system.

3) Developing your ground knowledge

Don’t fall into the trap that the SJT is purely scored upon aptitude; there are plenty of questions that base their reasoning behind the GMC’s Good Medical Practice. There are four domains in this guidance:

You can get through the above four domains is roughly 1-1.5 hours depending on how fast you read, and how much of it you already understand. After that, you can put it in practice by running through these interactive cases, provided by the GMC:

4) Practice, practice, practice

Using your choice of third-party practice questions, go through the 5 areas of competencies tested in the SJT:

  • Commitment to professionalism
  • Coping with pressure
  • Effective communication
  • Patient focus
  • Working effectively as part of a team

SJT question chapters

If you’re using Synap, always select ‘practice’ mode for the SJT quizzes (apart from chapter 14) as shown below – this allows you to get instant feedback after each question which is essential as you want to compare and contrast your reasoning with what’s provided. Waiting until the end of a practice test to see your feedback will mean that you forget much of why you selected each answer. On top of this, you can skip questions and end a session at any point with ‘practice’ mode.

SJT Practice Mode vs Test Mode

Considering how many questions there are to get through, you will find yourself losing focus after only 20-30 minutes of practice. Not only that, you may end up going through the various chapters randomly to keep things interesting. That is why we provide a handy progress chart on Synap so you can see how much you have covered from each area, and and how well you have performed in it.

SJT Progress


5) Test yourself

You should aim to do this roughly a week before your exam date (early December or early January). Start by taking the ‘Test’ quiz on OUP’s SJT book through Synap (Chapter 14, 60 questions) – do this in one go and set yourself a maximum of 120 minutes maximum. Aim to complete this in one sitting to mimic exam conditions. If you’re not happy with your scores, you can either review step 3 or consider booking onto a practice course. Otherwise, take yourself over to the Foundation Programme practice test (70 questions), timed for 140 minutes, and see if you’re in good standing for the real thing.


Good luck! I, too, will be taking this very test in January 2017.

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5 Ways to Manage and Control Your Time in College

5 Ways to Manage and Control Your Time in College

With plenty of things to do in so little time, college students are faced with challenges related to managing their time efficiently. Lack of time management has been found to impact the performance of college students, according to Raplh Heibutzki of Demand Media.

“Faced with so many competing demands on their time, many students simply give up and let the situation take its course. Without intervention from a professor or parent, a student is unlikely to succeed,” Heibutzki wrote in his post.

So, how can you manage their time efficiently ?

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Hooked on Ventilation by Stacey Mcwee

Hooked on Ventilation by Stacey Mcwee

This August marked two years since I lay in the operating theatre of a hospital whilst surgeons removed my appendix. Earlier on that day I was sent home from work with what I thought was a stomach bug, however within a few hours I was vomiting, shivering, feeling cold, clammy and in severe pain…. I had no idea what was to come, my suspected appendicitis was in fact a life-threatening condition called sepsis.

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10 Signs you’re not ready to be a final year student.


  1. Its your last freshers week. Which means you’ll be stuck in a sea of freshers who look like infants to you. You never looked that young at 18, right?


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Synap Store offers premium MCQs with Oxford University Press

Announcing the Synap Store, with MCQs from Oxford University Press!

Today we are proud to announce the latest addition to Synap, the world’s most powerful educational website. The Synap Store is a brand new area of the site, that connects students and teachers with professionally written Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) tests from top education publishers.

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Microsoft Hub

The Tech Game; Is the Microsoft Hub winning in the classroom ?


The Tech Game; Is the Microsoft Hub winning in the classroom ?

Microsoft Surface Hub as a Teaching and Learning Tool – First Impressions

Classroom technology isn’t good. In spite of the fact that you have a room full of students to educate, you’re probably fighting the technology as much as you are using it. Projectors refusing to detect inputs, PCs deciding it’s time for an update right in the middle of a class or just frustration at poorly configured digital whiteboards and visualizers that make you miss the days of chalk and dust allergies.

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