Surviving Medical School Exams
Getting into medical school is the equivalent of winning a golden ticket to many – all the hard work organising work shadowing and volunteering, and gaining straight A*s at A Level finally paid off. The summer before I started medical school, I spent endless hours imagining how much fun I would have going to parties, playing sports and meeting interesting new people from all corners of the world.
The reality is that starting medical school means that you not only have to navigate your way through the murky waters of making your own dinner, doing your own laundry and living in the same building with hundreds of people with different sleep patterns, but you also have the added pressure of being expected to learn from 9a.m. to 5p.m. everyday whilst your friends moan about 10 a.m. starts. Come exam time, having to digest and regurgitate hundreds of pages of lecture notes drives many people into going underground – all semblance of a work-life balance disappears.
Having survived 4 years of medical school (relatively) unscathed, I have found that several things help me to stay afloat during the horror that is the pre-exam period:
- Be consistent – This is the oldest trick in the book but it is there for a reason – it works! Just doing an hour of work everyday, be it tidying up your notes, or reading ahead for the next day’s lectures will mean that you have something to fall back upon and build up when the Easter exam panic kicks in.
- Take your mock exams seriously – Many medical schools hold mock exams in January or February but students often fail to make any actual use of them. At least skim through the material that will be tested, that way the mock exam will help you highlight the areas of the curriculum that you didn’t think were core material but actually are.
- Ask questions – Medical school is a huge leap from Sixth Form; huge amounts of new material are covered daily and it is easy to start falling behind when you don’t understand a particular topic. If you would rather not ask a question in front of the 300 other students in your year, make an effort to speak to the lecturer at the end of the lesson or at least drop them an e-mail. Not only does this show that you are actively engaging with the course, but you will also get reliable answers without having to dig through the hundreds of pages of your Kumar and Clark.
- Make time for fun – Despite the fact that many students think that once you’ve factored in revision, there isn’t enough time in a day to eat, wash and sleep, it is important to schedule in some down time. A quick run or meal with friends will allow you to vent your frustrations, clear your mind and refocus on your goals. Burning out is the last thing you want to do when you’ve spent the last 2 months in your room holed up with your books.
- Enjoy the process – I have to admit that I still struggle with this. Medical school is meant to be the highlight of our young lives – you’ve been selected as one of the brightest, most well rounded people of your age and are surrounded by people like you. You have access to facilities you would never have outside of university, and all of your friends live within the same corridor (or walking distance!). You’re finally studying the subject you’ve wanted to study your entire life, and the subject material is dead interesting! Enjoy the process, aim to be the best that you can be and you will finish medical school knowing that you’ve had the ultimate university experience!