I’d love to say I’ve spent all of my easter break revising super efficiently for my exams, but sadly this is not the case. I’ve spent way too much time ‘relaxing’ and was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in Paris. The second year of my course, medicine, is rumoured to be the hardest year of them all. Not necessarily because the content is particularly tricky, but because of the timing. Second year so far has been a whirlwind, and now we’ve got three summative exams in the space of five days in early May.
This blog post was never going to be me telling you how to revise for your exams in medical school- I’m simply not qualified to give advice on studying, (especially advice I can’t even stick to) as it truly is very subjective and depends on your own learning style and what works best for you.
As you know, Imperial gives all of us medical students an iPad which we use to get a whole range of resources. This includes eBooks for modules, we complete our sign offs for hospital placements on it and even have revision tools on it. However, this was the first time I have completed an actual end-of-year summative exam on the iPad and it was really interesting.
So the exam was the Pathology exam (5th year exam) on Monday which covered Microbiology, Immunology, Haematology, Histopathology, Chemical Pathology and Ethics & Law. It was 175 questions with 50 of them being very short answer questions (vsa).
It really is that time of year again…the stress levels are rising and 5th year exams are approaching. We have about 6 weeks left until our first exam and although that sounds a while away still, there is a lot to cover. On top of this, we are still attending our hospital attachments daily.
I wanted to share with you a few resources that I am using to help me through this revision period this year, hopefully it can help anyone else revising for clinical exams and not sure where to start!
Brainscape: Imperial Medicine students past and present have made flashcards on this amazing app that is a great revision tool.
However much you might try to think you make the best use of your time, I’m sure that there’s always some time during the day when you sit there not quite getting on with your work but pretending that you are. As a particularly keen procrastinator, especially when I find the work difficult, here are some of the ways I’ve managed to get through tough revision periods avoiding procrastination.
Make a timetable with not more than 45 to 90 mins revision sessions at a time. Don’t just write down what subject or module you will be studying, include key details of what particular topic, or which past paper you will do in this time.
…makes Jack a dull boy, or so they say.
What about exams though? Where do exams fit into that adage?
My first week this term was taken up with exams – my first for a few decades, so I was feeling a little rusty. However, I’m running far too far ahead of myself: before we get to the exams, who remembers revision?
I embarked upon my revision programme eagerly enough, drawing up a schedule for revising ten topics, spread over ten days or so, with slots for trial questions from past-papers, other periods dedicated to recap and summarising, and even timed mock-exams to complete entire past-papers under pseudo-exam conditions.
I have absolutely loved this year so far. I have been doing a BSc in Global Health here at Imperial- so essentially taking a compulsory “year out” of medicine to learn in depth about a topic that interests you. My module 1 focused on Global Infectious Diseases, Module 2 focused on Global Non- infectious diseases and now I am doing Module 3 which is essentially everything else (health systems, technology..)! The whole degree is very student led, with a lot of our teaching time being interactive. We have debates on global mental health issues, have discussions about the history of sex workers and their health, and then we also learn how to critically appraise and analyse the global health learnings and research.
We just completed 3 out of our 4 second year exams (last one is end of June). Pushing through to get to the end required so much stamina. Don’t get me wrong, I have done exams before and have been used to the stress of exams however these exams were something different to what I had experienced before. It was just so much volume, SO MUCH VOLUME.
To summarise what we needed to revise over easter once lectures had finished:
No more lectures! Indeed we have finished teaching for first year and I think it’s fair to say that at the end of the year most people are questioning their choice for studying medicine in the first place. Yes, it is so interesting and fun…but exams are…well…soon.
I have seen an awful number of people having breakdowns in the library, and spoken to a lot of friends who are getting so anxious they may even be heading towards having an abnormal ecg…(omg I am so funny). So, here are a few types of revising first year medics we have come across this term…
1) The ones that “don’t” revise
They don’t revise!…well…not during the day anyway.
We all have unreasonable expectations about how much we will be able to revise during the day. We wake up with a “LET’S DO THIS” attitude that seems to dwindle before you have even made it down for breakfast.
A few years ago my dad gave me some ‘advice’ before exam revision began.
“There are 24 hours in a day. Take away 8 hours for sleep that leaves you with 16 hours. Minus time for eating your 3 meals and you are down to 14 hours. Maybe minus an hour for general faffing around and toilet breaks and you are left with a solid 13 hours to revise.”
I had nothing to respond to this and I am sure one day I may be able to fulfil this 13 hour day I dream of being able to conquer.