2nd Year Exams

quiet-trying-to-get-into-3rd-yearIt’s been ages but for good reason – 2nd year was pretty tough and if I’m honest, much more stressful than the 1st year.

Added pressure came from our first ever OSCEs scheduled just before the written exams. Apparently, the key to success was to get into the lab and practice procedures and practice and practice some more. So we did. Again and again we took medical histories from each other using actual patient scenarios, timing ourselves and giving each other feedback. We watched each other repeatedly talk to and inject a rubber arm. We measured each others’ blood pressures countless times and sutured bits of foam together until we thought we could do it in our sleep. With all this practice, I was quietly confident about the OSCEs.

In the actual exam, we moved between “stations”  that consisted of a screened off cubicle inside of which was an examiner squeezed in with a “patient” and an empty chair for candidates. Knee touching cosiness. Sometimes, there was just an examiner with a mannequin or a rubber arm. Sometimes there was nobody, just a bone or a microscope or a set of photos to keep an answer sheet company. When a bell rang we moved to the next station.

Despite the practice, I still made many silly mistakes, such as: forgetting patients’ names straight after they’d told me – at which point they soon become sirs and madams. I also failed to anticipate a very large patient with very big (and hairy) arms with which I had to try to get a blood pressure, thinking the cuff was big enough but hearing the velcro undoing itself, ripping open with every squeeze of the sphyg. I’m sure the patient was chosen by the school due to their pulse – or lack of it.

Afterwards I replayed things I should/shouldn’t have said and done but it was too late. Written exams were just around the corner and needed attention.

So exams came and went. I told myself I didn’t care about the mark, I’d be grateful just to pass. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Failing one exam would mean summer revision preparing for a re-sit but would at least be recoverable. Resitting two exams was still manageable although stressful but three or more fails didn’t bear thinking about.

Even classmates who normally shrug exams off with confidence were worried that they might have failed at least one. Perhaps there was more to lose – at least that’s how I felt.

Friends and family all thought I was worrying too much. “Oh, you’ll be fine” they said “You always say you might have failed and yet you always do well” but they didn’t seem to understand –  these might really be the exams I fail and they thought it was a case of me crying wolf again.

When the results were released my eyes couldn’t scan the row on the page quickly enough. Ignoring the scores, I just concentrated on whether each column said pass or fail: “Pass” “Pass” “Pass” “Pass”…. each time I reached the next column the intensity grew – until I’d got to the end where the words read:

“Proceed to 3rd year”

Medical School Exams / How to Learn & Remember?

We’ve only been in medical school for just over a month and already we’ve had our first exam. I was a bit worried about it – (a healthy kind of worry I have to add, as I’d never get anything done otherwise) which is the reason for my absence here. Anyway we  received the results online via our candidate numbers and by gosh – I passed! Phew – another cup of tea now please.

I scored in the top 35% percentile of the year group. I suppose it’s not bad but many scored close to 100% so if you think you were clever before coming to med school then think again! I know that becoming a good doctor is not only about passing exams which is a kind of consolation.

Which one(s) shall I overload my backpack with today?

Only half way through the first term and my lever arch file is full, as is my bookshelf. If I ever need to return them to the library all at once I’d need a truck.

Currently looking at ways to learn the mammoth amount of material before the next set of exams. Some of my classmates are using computer based flashcards and I’m impressed by what they know and remember especially in anatomy – so I’m going to give it a try. Wish me luck!


Just one of the halls used for GAMSAT September 2010, taken just after the exam. An ocean of tables, an ocean of the competition

The September 2011 GAMSAT exam was yesterday. Poor buggers.

I’m glad I didn’t have to go and sit that again.

I sat the GAMSAT twice in 2010, the second time I’d already received offers from med schools but it was too late to get a refund so I thought ‘WTH I’ll do it for fun.” In retrospect I was probably mentally imbalanced.

The first time, I sat the Irish GAMSAT which is held in March each year and is still valid for UCAS applications for two years at UK medical schools also. [Swansea no longer accept Irish GAMSAT so better to confirm with the schools. Edited 22Jan13] . Venues are Dublin, Cork, Limerick but for an extra fee you can take the test in London, Melbourne, Singapore and Washington.

With the September GAMSAT, results go out in late November online by which time you’ll already have submitted your UCAS application (med school UK applicants) and used up your four precious choices of medical school. Sitting the Irish GAMSAT in March means firstly you’ll know your score before selecting the schools and secondly you can use it as a dry run for a second attempt in September – if needed. It’s not the cheapest strategy but if you want to get into med school – well I guess you’ll do anything.

It’s a great opportunity to talk to fellow applicants too. Graduate and matures are in the minority when applying to med school and it can become a reclusive experience so it was quite reassuring to chat to other grads and oldies in the queue and during breaks.

Last September, GAMSAT was held at the vast halls of the Royal Horticultural Society, London – in addition to several other venues. Seeing the massive queue of fellow applicants each clutching bottles of water, pencils and a calculator plus all those desks and chairs inside stretching away into the distance substantiates how many other people exist, besides you, who want to get into med/dental school – I remember thinking: “Can everybody stop applying to medical school please, you’re making it really hard to get in”

Many medical schools use the ‘UK Clinical Aptitude Test’ (UKCAT). The results are given to you right after the test so you can therefore gear your application to a particular medical school which emphasizes a strong UKCAT – (or not).