Nobody likes exams. Unfortunately they are a sad eventuality of every medic student’s life. When you start life as a fresh-faced medic, you’ll be well versed in official, external exams and the nerves that come with them. I remember practicing every past paper ever for my A level subjects, learning how examiners wanted us to answers specific questions. Medical school is completely different. Read the following 5 top tips to help you avoid the exam blues.
1. Remember UKCAT!
The format of the exams is not at all like A level. It’s actually more similar to that of the UKCAT, involving nasty Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs). Many medical students have this preconceived idea that MCQs are easy because they give you the answer. Newsflash – they’re not! A lot of people don’t take into account that the right answer is well hidden among the other “almost right” answers. It’s very difficult to distinguish between them, especially when you didn’t prepare as much as you should have. So, be prepared for the exam format, and practice beforehand!
2. Learn from your mistakes
This week, my fellow students and I sat our first formative (mock) test. I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it…not.
It was difficult, but it is a medical exam so I was never expecting it to be easy. It could’ve been far worse. Mock exams are designed to show your areas of weakness and where your knowledge is lacking. Mock exams may not be pleasurable but they are a chance to “safely” fail and help you improve for the real thing. I was quite nervous for the mock purely because I like doing well – what medical student doesn’t? However, the limited time frame to revise meant that there was a large volume of work to cover in a very short period of time. Having said that, keeping up to date with my lectures and practicals really helped. Those who had not being doing work along the way found it really difficult (or rather near on impossible) to learn all the material the weekend before the formative exam.
3. Don’t stress
The main thing you notice around exam time is how everyone handles stress very differently. Personally, I’m good at staying calm and trying to learn as much as I can in as many areas as I can. I only get really nervous and stressed if I haven’t been able to prepare properly. Others stress and stress and stress. This becomes unnerving when so many other people are panicking around you, discussing topics you’ve not revised as thoroughly as you would’ve liked. The important thing with any exam is to learn what works for you and avoid people/things that make you nervous. With the mock, there was obviously an air of comfort in the fact that no matter how badly we performed, it would not affect our progression on the course. It was more of an incentive to do more work for most, or carry on working at the level they were already at.
4. Stay on top of your work
We are yet to find out how we’ve all performed, which is a topic of high debate, but mocks should always be treated as a great chance to become familiarised with the format and time restraints of the exam, rather than a punishment. If there is one thing to take away from the formative exam, it’s that having a broad grasp (and by broad, I mean Medicine standard broad, which is actually fairly in-depth) of everything is much better than knowing one topic in a great amount of detail. Also, if you’re having trouble coping with the work or stress that comes with being a medical student, there is support at the school specifically designed to help you. Sometimes it’s best to just swallow your pride.
5. Obligatory medical student party time!
After the weekend of revision and stress over the assessment, it was essential for all of us to unwind and have fun. So, in true medical student spirit, many of us went out to celebrate surviving our first assessment. I’ve mentioned this before, but having fun and socialising with friends is so important for all university students, in particular those doing medicine. Whether your stress relief is playing sport, music or going out, it’s vital to do something to unwind. Remember to have a break, as otherwise it will only lead to you burning out and performing badly in the real exam.
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