If you’re going to study Medicine at the University of Manchester, check out this medical student guide so you know what to expect.

Tahmeena started studying at Manchester in 2017. She’s currently intercalating in Healthcare Ethics and Law and will hopefully resume her Medical studies in the coming September. In this guide, she shares an insight into what it’s like to start Medicine at the University of Manchester, including how students are taught and examined, as well as tips for settling in. You can get more advice from Tahmeena on her own blog ‘Diary of a Medic’, or head to Instagram to follow her on her Med School journey.

Teaching And Independent Study At Manchester

The Medicine course at Manchester consists of several core components: PBL, lectures, anatomy, communications skills and more. The programme has been designed so that these strands of the course all complement each other. In any given week of the first year, you can expect to have two PBL sessions, six or seven lectures, one communication skills session and one anatomy session. You’ll also have histology and evidence-based Medicine sessions at less regular intervals during the semester.

Since the Manchester programme is a PBL course, it does have a fair deal of independent study. This is quite different from school and sixth form so it can take a while to get used to!

Essentially how it works is that on the Monday of each week, you will meet your PBL group (which consists of about 10 people) and analyse a mock patient case. You’ll then extract some learning points (what we call the ‘learning agenda’) from the case. Each group member is then expected to go away and independently research all the items on the agenda during the week. In order to supplement the PBL cases, the Medical School delivers about six lectures a week that cover most of the key components of the learning agenda. On the Friday, you then reconvene with your group and share what you have learnt.

Anatomy is another strand of the course that requires a lot of independent study – and I wasn’t anticipating that! You’re expected to study the week’s anatomy topic yourself using textbooks, online resources, videos and more, before attending the practical sessions in the Dissection Room.

The Medical School does provide an online workbook each week, but this is more to self-assess your knowledge and identify which specific areas you need to read about rather than providing the material that you should study. I found the TeachMeAnatomy website was a lifesaver!


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A Steep Learning Curve

In all honesty, I did find the learning curve quite steep at first. It wasn’t so much the difficulty of the content itself, but rather the volume of content that you’re expected to learn when you start Medicine. On top of that, anatomy is like a whole different language at the start.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel…whilst the few weeks might be tough, it does get so much better. You quickly realise that you can’t possibly know everything there is to know about Medicine, and that’s perfectly fine.

At Manchester, they always tell us that there are things that you “need to know” and things that are “nice to know”. There’s no way you’ll be able to learn all the “nice to knows” but as long as you’ve got the “need to knows” covered, you’re all good.

It’s also good to realise that, before you know it, all of these weird anatomical terms will become second nature to you. You’ll probably even start using them in your day-to-day life, to the annoyance of your non-medical friends and family.

It’s also helpful to remind yourself that your peers are in the same position as you. The chances are, if you’re finding something tough, so is the person sat next to you. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you’re struggling and similarly, if you see someone else struggling, do offer them a helping hand.

I can’t speak for other Medical Schools, but the Medical Student community at Manchester is very friendly and everyone generally supports one another.

What To Expect In Your First Semester

Since it’s now been almost four years since I was in my first semester of Medical School, I think the best way for me to answer this question is to insert an extract from a blogpost that I wrote for my own blog, back when I had just finished my first semester:


I’m going to be honest here, at the start of the semester, I found the sudden workload quite overwhelming – PBL was taking up the best part of my week, there were so many terms to learn in anatomy, I didn’t know what I was doing in communication skills sessions and I found lectures so confusing…and on top of all that, I was trying to attend as many society events as possible and was newly living away from home, so balancing everything was a bit of a struggle. I remember on the first few days, my eating schedule was all over the place, and I would end up starving because I hadn’t found the time to eat my meals

As you can see, I found it all a bit overwhelming at the start, which I think is quite natural for anyone starting university, regardless of what course they’re studying. But thankfully, with time, you do develop a routine for yourself and become better at organising your time. For example, I learnt that dedicating two days of the week to PBL , instead of spreading it out across the week, worked better for me as it meant that I had the time to focus on other things like anatomy for the rest of the week.


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When To Expect Exams

In the pre-clinical years at Manchester, you’ll sit the multiple-choice Semester Test at the end of each semester. Your first semester will be all about the human life cycle, so you can expect to be tested on that. But don’t be fooled into thinking you can wing the multi-choice; you still have to know the content well as the answer options can be quite similar.

You’ll also sit something called the progress test, which is taken by every Med Student in every year. This may sound bizarre, and quite daunting at first, but it’s actually nothing to worry about, especially in the first two years. The progress test is basically just a nice way of tracking your improvement as you progress through your five years at medical school. As far as I remember, the cohort average is about 17% in the first year, and this gradually increases by the time you sit your finals.

You’ll also sit your first OSCEs towards the end of your first year. They’re probably the most different to any other exam you’ve sat in your life. Unlike some other Medical Schools, your first-year OSCEs are summative, which means that you need to pass them to move on to the second year. This is good practice for later years when OSCEs are the main form of exams you’ll have – and on top of that, the examiners will know that this is your first ever OSCE so hopefully won’t be too harsh!

Settling In At Manchester

There’s a whole host of societies that you can join at Manchester. Aside from the general uni-wide societies, The MedSoc (which is one of the largest societies on Campus) has loads of smaller medical societies under it (e.g O&G Society, GastroSoc, PyschSoc, Medics Netball and so much more).

In addition, Manchester as a city itself is so vibrant and busy. There are so many good food spots close to the University too – make sure you explore Wilmslow Road for a wide variety of food options! If you’re fancying a sit-down experience, try out Toro’s or Manjaros; or if you want to grab a quick take-away lunch, try out GoFalafel!

Tips for settling in at Manchester:

  • Attend society events. These are a great way of networking and meeting new people. You can always attend the freshers’ events that different societies hold to see whether it’s for you. I remember I tried out things like fencing in my first year, and though I didn’t carry on, it was fun to experience something new. In hindsight, I wish I had attended more events during freshers’ week!
  • Make friends with older year students; they’ve been in your position and are an invaluable resource. I remember meeting a second-year Medic at one of the Islamic Society events that I attended during the first year. She was so lovely and shared some helpful resources and was able to answer any questions that I had.
  • Explore the city. It’s good to get a feel of the city, especially if you’re living out. Also, if you’re anything like me and geography isn’t your strong point, it might be worth having a walk through campus and identifying which buildings your classes are in prior to starting so that you’re not frantically trying to find your way around on the first day!
  • Remember to keep in touch with your family. If you’re living away from home for the first time, it can often be quite isolating in the period where you’re still settling in and starting to making friends at uni. Keeping in touch with your family and non-uni friends during this time will certainly help.

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