Wednesday, 27 February 2013


January seems like ages ago, but in reality only two months ago I was frantically cramming for the exams which would test our knowledge of everything which had been covered in term 1. The basic sciences would be tested in the written papers and the clinical skills we had learned would be examined in six OSCE stations. We were meant to be getting the results at the end of January, but there had been a few errors in the marking of my paper (something I've been assured won't happen in the summative exam in the summer), so I only got my results fully confirmed yesterday. Quick recap: eight questions in total across two papers (each question worth 20 marks), you need to pass 5 to pass overall:

Paper 1: Passed 3 questions, failed 1.

Paper 2: Passed 3 questions, failed 1.

Total: 6/8 - pass

I was pretty happy with this score, as it shows that I'm currently working to a reasonable standard and am largely keeping up with the rest of the year group. I was right in my post-exam assessment in that I'd done very well in the medical sociology and biochemistry/endocrinology questions. One surprising thing was that I'd managed to pass the neuroscience question on paper 1, the one I was certain I'd failed. So far, so good.

However, looking back over my answers, I do think that there are definitely some very specific areas I need to work on. Anatomy is the big one, I lost a lot of marks by not knowing specific anatomical details. In part, this was because during term 1 I was still working like a biomed: barely using the lecture slides, mostly going off and finding out random details from textbooks etc. In actual fact, I should have predominantly stuck to the lecture slides and learning objectives, because that's what the exam questions seem to be heavily based on: this is something I'm trying to do this term! I'm also allocating more of my time to anatomy learning: I don't particularly enjoy it, but I can't avoid it so I might as well try and get good at it.

I'm also trying to keep on top of things more this term so that when the Easter holidays begin, I can get down to revision as soon as possible, instead of spending the first few weeks catching up with the previous term's lectures (something which happened in December). This is very important since the summer exams in a few months time are not formative, and I really, really do not want to fail them and have to go through the stress of a resit. I hate the phrase "hit the ground running" as it sounds very management-y and corporate to me, but I guess that's what I'm looking for here.

But overall I feel that 6/8 was a fair mark: it tells me that if I carry on working hard, hopefully I'll be able to pass in the summer, but that I'm definitely not supposed to get complacent in the meantime and rest on my laurels. As such, it's given me an incentive to try and work harder and more effectively this term.

So onto the practical exams, six OSCE stations, needed four to pass overall:

Medline: Fail
Blood pressure and BMI: Pass
Taking a history: Fail
CPR: Pass
General examination: Pass
Abdominal examination: Pass

Total: 4/6 - pass

A few weeks after the OSCE we were informed that there had been some discrepancies in the marking of the taking a history station on a particular day: I was one of the students affected by this. The med school have said that if this was a summative OSCE, that station would have been removed from the results. My personal feeling is that I probably did do well enough to pass this station, but I guess I won't ever know for certain. The doctors who have observed me taking a history during clinical skills sessions and on the wards have never told me that my history taking is substandard and neither did the OSCE examiner's feedback on the day indicate that. It's a slightly annoying result to have, but it's all formative at the end of the day so it doesn't really make a difference. Medline was a deserved fail, so I was neither surprised nor upset to get that result.

So that's it then. Overall I'm quite happy with these results, though there's definite room for improvement. And considering the summer exams are more difficult than the January ones, I'm trying to improve as fast as I can. It's going to be a very nerve-wracking couple of months!


  1. Congratulations on your results! It was annoying that the med school took so long to process your paper. I failed Medline on my OSCEs too!

    Anatomy is one of my weak areas too and something that I have to work on. It's really hard to be motivated to work on it though when it's so boring!

  2. Look at the summer past papers before you start learning anatomy. I wouldn't recommend spending too long on it, you'll be tested on the clinical stuff. Tailor your revision according to the past papers. In an idea world, you'd want to know your anatomy well but if its not really going to be examined in the summer, don't waste your time.

  3. So, how did you revise for your biomed exams? I am a first year biomed,and the workload is piling. Did you not have lecture notes to revise from? ( Do you even remember?!)

  4. Congratulations!!! Your OSCEs are much better than my 22 stations OSCE!! Don't understand how you have a Medline station though...

    Keep up the hard work ;D

  5. @Purple Student Doc: Yeah I know what you mean, luckily I've got some flashcards and a book which is helping to explain everything without overloading me with tonnes of theory so hopefully I'll be able to get through it without too much trouble.

    @Anonymous 1: Sound advice, thanks, yeah I'm trying to focus on the clinical application of what we're learning as well as the anatomical theory because as you've identified, that's what the exam questions tend to be like.

    @Anonymous 2: When I was doing my BSc we were told that if we only went by what was on the lecture slides, we'd get a 2:2. To get the higher marks you needed to do extra reading from textbooks, journal articles etc. So I would make lots of in-depth notes from the recommended reading list and revise from there. That's not really the case for pre-clinical medicine though since the focus is more on passing the exams rather than attaining a particular grade (especially since medicine isn't an honours degree i.e. there are no 2:1s, 1sts etc). So overloading yourself with tonnes of extra information from textbooks won't really be of much use.

    @areyousure: Thanks! I think a 22 station OSCE would have been too much on top of everything else :P And I don't understand either, it was annoying as hell.