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Life as a pre-medical student: Exams

vicky hargest medical pre-medical studentPre-medical student Vicky Hargest shares her experiences. This time the exam season has begun and Vicky uses all kinds of revision tips and tricks to prepare, but will they do any good? Read on to find out.

I believe that exams fall under the category of “pleasure/pain”. You may think I sound a little crazy, but there is something ultimately satisfying about taking exams. With any type of learning or career progression you will always have to prove yourself and studying pre-med is no different.

Christmas vs. revision

Having worked hard since September, the crunch time came when we were all sent off on four weeks ‘study leave’ (formally known as Christmas holidays!) with our exam timetable, lots of books and four very full folders. I made my way to my parent’s house for some home comforts; my car full of presents, study tools and good intentions.

Despite the festivities I managed to write up the majority of my study notes during that time so that I would be fully prepared for the big slog when I returned back to Sheffield just before New Year. I even managed to do some disguised revision on Christmas day courtesy of the medical books that Santa delivered.

A full day’s work

On coming back to Sheffield, I really put my study skills into practice. I woke up at 8am each morning and sat myself at my table with all the relevant books, study notes and phone at hand.

I worked solidly until lunchtime during which I watched Scrubs and tried to relax. I then went back to the books until dinner time. Some days I would finish here, but mostly I would continue after a couple of hours break as I was eager to fully understand all that I had been taught.

Benefits of group revision

Although working independently has its advantages, it is also important to be able to clear up any misunderstandings and gain confidence from your peers. For this reason I spent the majority of the week before the exams with one of my course mates.

In the mornings we would go over our own revision notes on a particular subject (chemistry, biology, physics or medical biology) and then in the afternoon we would get together to discuss any weaknesses and sit past papers.

We both had different strengths so definitely complimented each other. During that week we also visited the tutors to discuss some problem areas and they were more than happy to help.

Exams draw near

As the exams approached I was feeing much more confident than I had just two weeks previously. There is no denying that there were still small gaps in my knowledge, but when I considered what little I knew about these subjects just four months ago it certainly gave me a boost.

During exam week I took four written exams as well as practical exams for both chemistry and physics. The adrenaline (or epinephrine as it is now known in the field) was flowing before starting the exams and I was eager to put all my knowledge down on paper. Pretty much everything we had been taught was covered in the exams so it was definitely worth covering the whole syllabus.

The results!

We didn’t have to wait too long for our results and I am pleased to say that I passed them all and even surprised myself with my physics grade! Despite the ‘pain’ of revising for many hours, the ‘pleasure’ of realising I am now one step closer to becoming a doctor made it all worth while.

If I were to share any advice it would be to: prepare good revision notes well before the exams, spider diagrams and post-it notes are a must! Do independent revision and plenty of it, making sure you take regular breaks. Get one good study buddy, preferably someone who is motivated and has different strengths and finally do as many past papers as you can get your hands on.

About Vicky

Vicky Hargest is a medical student at the University of Sheffield. Although she has an arts degree (health studies) she has taken the pre-med route (six year course) in order to learn foundation sciences.

She is the first in her family to enter higher education - proving that medicine is for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Having worked in medical education for the last six years she is now seeing things from the other side of the fence.

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