1st-year final exams

I am finally writing about the final exams (as promised).

Medical biology went way better than I expected. 50 multiple choice questions and 75 minutes. A fair exam in my opinion. As opposed to some other subjects paying attention during these seminars actually, pays off in the end.

There are a total of 6 seminars. You are given a short quiz at the beginning of each one of them. Answering correctly gives you 1 point that adds to your final score. So in the best case scenario, you go to the final exam with 6 points already in the pocket. It is not a big deal but it might save you. Note: the extra points can only benefit you in the first attempt. If you need to retake the exam these points will not be added to your final score anymore.

At MUG you are usually given a total of 3 chances to pass an exam. So failing the first exam means that you have 2 resits. Except for medical chemistry and medical biology. In these 2 subjects, we had only 1 resit in case of failure. Why? Nobody knows. 

 

Histology

For the final exam in histology, the 1st-year is divided into big groups. Some of the groups took the exam on the 12th of June while the rest of us took it on the 13th.

There are a total of 15 microscopes. You are given 1 minute per microscope and you must write down the name of the tissue you are looking at and the detail that is pointed. 2 of the 15 slides required no detail. Only the general structure. You need to answer correctly 8 out of 15 slides (60%). If you fail you will not be allowed to take the theory exam. Then your next shot will be in September.

I took the exam on the 13th of June at 15:00. We were all put into a corridor and 2 of us were allowed into 2 different examination rooms every other minute. I was one of the last students going in. Going in first is not really my cup of tea. All I remember is breathing deeply before my first microscope. There were 2-3 slides that I was unsure about. The rest of them were pretty clear to me.

The results are posted 30 minutes after the last student has finished the exam. I got a 5!

I went straight home and studied as much as my brain allowed me to. I tend to not push myself to the extreme the day before an important exam. I went to bed early and got up around 7:30 the next day to review the topics I felt insecure about. The hours went by and around 14:30 I ‘pushed’ the STOP button. No more. The theoretical exam was scheduled for 16:00 and studying until the very last minute makes me nervous. So I dropped all the books, made sure that I had several pens (including a corrector pen) in my bag and left home.

We were given 150 minutes for 100 multiple choice questions (1 out of 5 possible answers is correct). The passing grade is 60 correct answers. The results would be published a week after.

In my opinion, this was a very tough exam. Firstly the majority of the questions were from topics covered between October and December. We were barely tested in oral cavity, GI tract, female and male reproductive systems, endocrine system, among other important topics studied after January. Secondly, the questions were very detailed. I remember stumbling upon a couple of questions and thinking to myself ‘Oh boy… I have never read this!’. That happens seldom to me. Most of the time I make educated guesses but on that exam, there were some shots in the dark.

Every student gets an extra paper full of pictures with arrows pointing at various structures. Many questions refer to these pictures in order to test our knowledge. The fact that you must to look for a certain picture and carefully analyse all the different arrows/structures takes so much time all together that 2.5 hours feels tight. 3 hours would be more of a fair game.

After the exam, I went out for dinner with a friend of mine. While we were eating she received a call informing her that the results of the histology exam were out. I could not believe it. After 2 hours the results of the final exam were out! Everyone was so confused since they told us the results would be out a week later. However, there was no mistake. Good or bad the results were out. My grade was a 3 (66 correct answers).

At first, I was upset about it. All the hours I put into histology… I worked really hard throughout the entire year and my colloquia scores were consistently high. Finishing histology with a 4 was my ultimate goal. Yes, I do enjoy getting good grades. That 3 felt somehow like a defeat to me. It definitely does not show how much effort I put into the subject.

Nonetheless, I have already made peace with it. Passing histology means that I have the knowledge required to move on. A grade is as important as I want it to be.

Had the exam been more balanced I would have rocked it!

Final grade: 3.5. Don’t ask me how it is calculated. I have no clue. Another particular thing about histology: only people who fail the exam can see it. The same applies to the colloquia.

The day after the final histology exam I didn’t study at all. I needed a day off in order to be able to push through one last time before July.

 

Anatomy

The anatomy department managed to actually surprise me twice in June. Starting with 3rd colloquium the results were not posted online on the Monday after the exam (as usual). Instead, we go to know our grades during the next lab – meaning no privacy at all. The practical results were handed to us by our group leader. After checking for any possible errors every member of my group went to the lab room where we usually have classes. There my lab teacher put down a sheet of paper containing a table with our results. So everyone got the news at the same time.

It is sort of an awkward moment. Some people smile, some cry, some seem to be paralysed. We needed a minimum of 118 points out of 295 – 40% – to be allowed to take the final exam. Those who didn’t make it were invited to leave earlier and come back next year. Reality tends to be a bit brutal around here.

The specimens brought to the lab that day were the same ones we practised on during the first 3 months of school. It was time to review for those of us who made it through. During the last 2 labs of the year, you are pretty much on your own. The professors are there to clarify a few things if you have trouble but you cannot rely on them 100%. I teamed up with 2 members of my group and together we went through the most important topics.

Final grade formula = 30% average of colloquia + 30% final practical exam + 40% final theoretical exam.

I started my anatomy review with the vertebral column and upper and lower limb. For about 2 days I read on my own.

The next 5 days would be spent with a friend of mine who uses pretty much the same study techniques I do. We both need to read things out loud and repeat them until we memorise them. Once we have decided on the topics we want to cover we read the book, lecture presentations, and complement the information with pictures from the atlas. We rarely write a word down. Instead, we just talk, talk and quiz each other at the end of each major topic.

Here is what we reviewed together:

  • Sunday, June 18th: thorax (mediastinum, heart, lungs and topography).
  • Monday, June 19th: abdomen.
  • Tuesday, June 20th: pelvis.
  • Wednesday, June 21st: nervous system, back and lower limb.
  • Thursday, June 22nd: neck and head.
  • Friday, 23rd: neuroscience.

 

On top of such heavy sessions, we managed to squeeze 2-3 hours of studying for the practical exam. My brain was water at the end of each these days. They were intense. The good thing is that we both have studied consistently since the very start. Reviewing is so much easier if you have actually studied the topics before.

Not all the topics were covered very well, obviously. The day has 24 hours and I refused to be sleep deprived. In order to perform my brain needs to be sharp.

The last 3 days before the exam were spent at home reviewing by myself and preparing for the practical exam. Making time to prepare this part of the exam was a challenge for me because I find it difficult to prepare without a specimen in front of me.

I tried to read as much theory as my consciousness allowed me to. The last day before the practical exam I woke up at 7:30 and studied theory until 14:00. After that, I went all in for practice.

Similarly to histology, we were divided into big groups. My exam was on June 27th at 10:15. The lab doors didn’t open until 10:45. As usual 2 students enter the examination room every 1.5 minutes (105 seconds). One takes the left side and the other takes the right. There are a total of 25 pins – 2 pins per station – and everything is in anatomical position.

I was one of the last students taking the exam. Waiting for my turn is such a nerve racking situation. My heart pounds like crazy, my stomach becomes heavy and I get a false urge to go to the toilet every minute. Finally, I was called and got to pick the side. Right, it was. The door opened and closed 3-4 times before I was inside the examination room. The students before me went in and I had 1.5 minutes to wait for my turn. Those 105 seconds seem to take forever once you stand in front of the door. I looked at the girl on my left side and said ‘Let’s do this. Good luck!‘. She smiled and wished me luck in return. The door slid and I rushed in. Once in there you block everything else out. All that matters are the structures and their respective names.

The moment I was done with that exam I felt relieved. All the weight on my shoulders felt minutes before disappeared. My stomach was light again. Ooooooooooh.

After the exam me, Matilde and one of her group mates went to a bar. We needed to relax and wait for the results. Failing it means ‘game over‘. Next shot: September. We are only allowed to write the theoretical exam once we have passed the practical part.

The results were posted as we were having lunch. Luckily we all passed it but for the second time around the anatomy department caught me by surprise: you do not get to know your results. All you see is ‘passed‘ or ‘failed‘. Why is this such a big deal? Because this exam has an impact of 30% on your grade. Thus, the higher you score in practical the lower you need to score in theory. However, due to the circumstances, we never know for sure how much we need to score in theory. Besides, once you pass this exam there will be no chance to retake it in order to improve your grade. Conclusion: if you make it you better make it good.

We were expected at school the next day at 8:00. The exam started at 8:30. A total of 80 open questions (only short answers required) and 2 hours was the time limit.

Honestly, the final exam was fair. There was definitely a good mix of questions. The challenge is to be able to answer most of them correctly.

When the exam was over everyone went outside. It was a sunny day. Under the blue sky people were smiling, hugging, kissing, wishing each other a good summer, saying goodbye. Exam period was over and the summer was finally ours to enjoy.

I went home to crash on my bed and sleep all I wanted. But I couldn’t. I was restless despite the lack of energy. I stayed in bed looking at the walls for a good while.

Later that day the results were posted online. My heart missed a beat when I read the announcement. It is so stressful to log in into your profile and check the grade. Baaaaah! I tapped on the phone, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and… 3. Weeeeeeeee! So cool! A beautiful 3 like I heard once.

I killed the monster (anatomy) and with it my first year of medical school! Unbelievable! So intense and yet it went by so fast.

Looking forward to seeing the new faces coming to Gdansk in September.

Have a great summer!

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