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Life as a medical student: End of first year

vicky hargest medical pre-medical student“My first year at medical school has gone in a flash and yet I feel I have acquired so much knowledge,” says Vicky Hargest, medical student.

Over the past year I have been taught about the cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems through dissection, lectures, physiology workshops, clinical skills, ILAs (Integrated Learning Activities), statistics and much more. I have also been guided in the art of reflection, communication and history taking. Now that the year is over it is time to prove to the medical school what I have learnt and sit their exams.


Despite the exams being scheduled for the end of May I decided to started my revision during the Easter break in March. I was not alone as it seemed the rest of my year group had the same idea. The health sciences library was packed and I found many of my peers in the dissection rooms revising anatomy. This is definitely a course that students take seriously.

I spent weeks pulling together revision notes and attending extra revision lectures hosted by the medical society. However, it was not until timetabled lectures finished and all coursework had been submitted that I could seriously concentrate on my revision. In the end I worked for around ten hours each day, making sure I took lots of breaks and varied my studying from watching dissection DVDs and learning my notes, to practicing surface anatomy and history taking with friends.


The exams were held over three days with one exam each day. The first exam was an MEQ (modified essay question) written paper with questions requiring from one to ten mark answers. This proved to be the most difficult exam although the one which most resembled A-level style papers.

The second exam was a multi-station exercise which resembled an OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination). We were given just four minutes to answer three questions before the bell sounded and we had to move to the next station. The 60 stations displayed histology slides, human prosections, diagnostic images, clinical questions, statistics, and also included an eight minute station to present a patient history.

The benefits of good preparation

I really enjoyed this exam as it involved quick thinking; however it was frustrating being unable to go back and re-read questions. The final exam was an EMQ (extended matching questions) which was a multi-choice exam. Although the answer to the question is on the page, with 10 possible answers you really do need to know you stuff or at least be able to eliminate the most unlikely answers.

Although the exams required lots of hard work I really enjoyed revising this fascinating subject. With next year’s exams incorporating 20% of this year’s syllabus I’m pleased I made good notes.

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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