Medical student exams with Oxford University Press and the MDU

A 30% score improvements for students following Synap's system recommendations

  • Company
    Medical Defence Union
  • Sector
    Medical Education
  • Location
    United Kingdom
  • Size
    60% of UK medical students
  • Website

A 30% score improvements for students following Synap’s system recommendations

The MDU (Medical Defence Union) is the UK’s leading medical defence organisation. The MDU wanted an online platform that they could offer to new and existing members to use to study for their exams. As Synap is well established with members of the medical community it was the perfect opportunity to partner and provide medical students and doctors with a study platform filled with content from Oxford University Press.

Developing the Synap platform

Synap was started by two doctors while they were in medical school as a way to help them study in a more engaging and effective way. As Synap started to be used by thousands of users every day the platform developed, features were added and improved upon based on user feedback. Today 1 in 4 UK medical students use Synap to help them learn and we’ve had over 100 million responses on the platform.

Proving the system works

Every student has the same problem: Learning a lot of information in a very short amount of time. The problem is most obvious for medical students who not only need to learn information for an exam but who need to be able to recall this information in the long term. For example remembering bone names, disorders, medications and so on. Synap is designed to promote learning that lasts by using Spaced Learning algorithms to increase long term retention. 

While a user is using the system our Spaced Learning algorithms are working in the background to see what they are doing well and what they need to work on. With this data, the system will generate study recommendations in a form of a quiz that typically takes about 5 minutes a day. This sort of learning is based on the principles of Spaced Repetition which is basically the ‘little and often’ approach to learning

Synap has been involved in a study with Brighton and Sussex Medical School who wanted to see how the students engaged with the system and if they liked it. They found that students strongly supported extending the system as gained valuable insights into how and when the students study.

spaced repetition learning improvement

From our own analysis of users, we have found that there is a score improvement of about 15% for anyone who uses the system fairly regularly. Which is expected because if you practice anything you’ll get better at it. The interesting part is that for users who follow our systems recommendations benefit from a 30% score increase and for students that’s the difference between a C grade and an A grade.

Becoming close partners with the MDU

We have worked closely with the MDU to help set up and promote their Synap platform. We have helped them create marketing materials, presentations and attended events to talk to students and doctors.

Creating an easy sign-up process

Using custom groups students and doctors can sign up through the MDUs website and have their Synap accounts are generated automatically to reduce friction. Once on the platform users are taken through some quick guides and then they can start practising questions and content. 

The MDU medical student bundle

Personalised learning

Users benefit from Spaced Learning and are able to access the platform through iOS and Android apps, which means they can learn on the go. Our question flagging system lets us moderate questions and means that users know they are getting high quality tested questions that are up to date and accurate.

Multiple question formats

One really important exam for medics is the Situational Judgement Test (SJT) where a scenario is giving and the best responses must be ordered. We made sure the system supported this format as well as standard multiple choice and extended matching questions. 


  • Through an independent study into a Synap pilot for year 1 medical students in Brighton and Sussex Medical Mchool, students strongly supported extending the System
  • Devloped alongside user feedback an easy to use system that people use because they want to not because they have to.
  • Partnership with an orgnaisation that represents 60% of UK medics and provide exclusive Oxford University Press content

“Synap is helping my students to reinforce their knowledge of complex medical information. I know more about how my students, on average use the excellent system. This is helping us to move forward with both educational best practise and educational research publications”

- Dr Harry Witchel (PhD), Discipline Leader in Physiology, Brighton and Sussex Medical School

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