Ultimate tips for 2nd-year students

This is the post every 2nd-year student has been asking me for.

Congratulations on making it to 2nd-year. It is a big accomplishment for all of us studying medicine in Gdansk.

Now that Anatomy is over for good the number of mental breakdowns will decrease significantly. Besides, the professors will not slaughter you whenever you answer them wrong during class.

As you already know the monsters to watch out for are Biochemistry and Physiology. Failing one of these will get you in deep trouble. So help yourself by making these subjects your priority.

Biochemistry – 15 ECTS

Attend the first lectures and decide whether or not they are useful to you. Good hints regarding the exams are given during lectures. Therefore, attending them gives you an advantage. Had it not been for some juicy clues I would not have attended any of them. 

Prepare for the lectures and the labs for as long as you can. You will get much more out of them. 

Do yourself a favour and memorise all the amino acids. Sooner or later you will be asked to draw a peptide bond. Unless you want to lose 2-3 easy points, follow my advice and memorise them all. Group them into different categories and you will see that they are not that difficult to commit to memory.

Before digging into the details of a pathway try to get the bigger picture. Othwerise you will easily feel completely lost. Ask the following questions. What do we need this pathway for? Where in the body does it take place? When is it active and/or inactive? 

Memorise all the important pathways and at least every rate-limiting step reaction with structures, cofactors, activators and inhibitors. Taking an exam without knowing them by heart is a recipe for disaster. 

When you study carbohydrates please do not ignore the fructose and lactose pathways. 

Detail is key in Biochemistry. The more you can the better. In exams, anything is fair game. 

Physiology – 14 ECTS

Attend the first lecture of the year. It is a unique experience.

The lectures will be given by 3 different teachers. I attended all the lectures with Dr Jacek Kaczmarek since his style is my favourite. He is everything a professor needs to be to a student. Give it a try with all different teachers and see how it works for you. Lectures are not mandatory so if you feel that is a complete waste of your time just enjoy bed a little longer on Mondays.

There is a lot of memorising to do in physiology. However, understanding is key. Focus on understanding from day one. 

Read the book chapters regarding the weekly topic you are going through. Preferably before the weekly seminar/lab. The book is easy to read and it will break down the most difficult topics into digestible chunks for you. Going through the same topic during the seminar/lab will only reinforce the material. Whenever you start your revision for PAT (colloquium) you will realise that all you need to do is to take care of a few important details.

Try to score as high as you can in your weekly tests, the so-called OLA’s. At the end of the year, your average PAT scores will be calculated. Then, the OLA’s average (all the weekly tests you have taken throughout the year) will be added to your average PAT score. Your final score might grant you extra points. These extra points will be added to your final exam score. In summary, doing well throughout the year will actually lower the passing grade. So instead of 60%, you might only need 55% to pass the final exam. It is a golden opportunity. Take advantage of it and study consistently.

Fun fact = I know a student who was granted one extra point. Guess how much he scored in the final exam. Yes. You are right. Exactly 59%. Adding that one extra point increased his score by 1%. Final grade = 60% = Passed. 

Focus on the lecture presentations when studying for colloquia or the final exam. They contain all the small details the professors want you to know. The book is a good complement as it contains good pictures, tables, summaries and some really good explanations. 

In case you struggle with time during exams, I advise you to answer all the direct MCQ’s first and leave the statement questions to the end. I used that strategy and it worked out very well for me. The statements are sometimes so difficult to answer that you will waste precious time needed for the rest of the exam.

Microbiology with Parasitology – 6 ECTS

Welcome to the worst department of this university. Do some meditation before classes because you will be challenged by strong negative emotions.

You will be tested in the weekly topic at the beginning of every lab. The bad news is that there is no good way to prepare for these small tests. The department recommends a book but does not follow its structure. So you will most likely have to google things, watch youtube videos, or reading some random book pages in order to find what you are looking for. The good news is that the small tests tend to be easy. A total of 5 questions. Answering a minimum of 3 correctly will grant you one extra point. In the Spring semester, you can get a maximum of 2 points in case you answer at least 4 of the questions correctly. At the end of the year, all extra points collected will be added to the average of your colloquia scores. 

The best way to study for colloquia is an interesting debate. Everyone studies differently. Some students use books, some watch sketchy micro over and over, some others use lectures and the lab papers. Sketchy micro did not really work for me. It was fun to watch the videos once but that was about it. I used lectures, lab papers and the recommended book (especially when we studied bacteria). 

Watch out for spelling mistakes. Fail to answer the open questions 100% correctly in exams and you will be given zero points. 

Parasitology labs will be hosted in Gdynia. There will be a total of 5 labs during the Winter semester. The colloquium date is usually up for negotiation with the department. Your colloquium score in Parasitology, together with the extra points from the weekly tests will be added to your final microbiology score. A minimum of 60% in both microbiology and parasitology is required to take the final exam in June. 

You will be tested on the weekly topics right from the start. So prepare for the very first lab. In the end, every point counts!

Watching sketchy micro actually helped me a lot here. In addition, use the lecture materials. Those two sources of information are enough to score high.

Those bugs are a bit freaky. Life will not be the same after you study parasitology. Believe me.

Getting exemption in Microbiology with Parasitology is definitely a sweet treat for those of you who are into sugar. However, do not kill yourself in order to achieve it. The final exam is usually not that much big of a deal when you have been working consistently.

Basic Immunology – 3 ECTS

This was the most painful first lecture I have ever had in my life. I did not last more than 40 minutes there. Hopefully, someone else will take over and the lectures will be interesting this year.

Even if you do not have time to study immunology on a weekly basis, pay attention and take notes during the seminar. 

Take the colloquium seriously and study hardcore 2-3 weeks before it unless you have studied immunology consistently during the semester.

The test tends to be difficult and very detailed. You are warned.

Introduction to Emergency Medicine – 2 ECTS

I wish this subject was part of the 1st-year curriculum. 

Nevertheless, it is a fun course. Enjoy it!

Psychology in Medicine – 2 ECTS

Participate as much as you can in class. Be reasonable and give others a chance to shine as well. 

Excellent class performance is rewarded with exemption from the final exam. And let me tell you, it is totally worth to go for it. Usually, the final exam is in January and skipping it will buy you some extra time to study Biochemistry. 

In case you need to take the final exam the lecture/seminar materials will be your study guides.

Basic Polish 2 – 2 ECTS

You know my opinion about Polish from previous posts. I love languages.

This year you will learn medical Polish so that you can speak it in the hospital. A lot of new vocabulary will be taught. Body parts, diseases, etc.

If you are aiming for exemption I advise you to put some time into it because you need to score high during the semester. I usually dedicated up to 90 minutes of pure memorisation the day before a test. 

Working towards exemption is totally worth. 

In case you need to take the final exam do not stress too much about it. It is totally doable. 

Introduction to Dentistry – 1 ECTS

You will probably have to stand through the pain of attending these lectures. Presence will be checked so help yourself and show up. 

Studying the lecture materials is enough to pass with bright colours. 

This is a minor subject. Give it the treatment it deserves. There are more important things to study for.

Medical Ethics – 1 ECTS

Nothing to worry about. 

Introduction to Internal Medicine – 2 ECTS

A really cool course. Fun, fun, fun. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

As a bonus, the professors tend to be really good at this particular subject.

Introduction to Pedriatics – 2 ECTS

Going around the hospital and checking on babies is one of the highlights of this course. 

The entire course lasts 5 weeks and it ends with an oral exam. Follow the instructions that you will be given at the beginning of the course and you will be good.

Public Health – 2 ECTS

The quality of the seminars varies from week to week. Some of them were quite interesting and interactive. Presence is checked so you must attend them.

There is a PDF summary of all the things you must know. Read it 1-2 days before the final exam and you will do fine. 


My best advice is given to you.  

Good luck with your studies and remember to enjoy the ride.

Medical school is a big part of what we come here to do but it is far from being all our lives are about. 

Happy New Year!

Weekly goals

Premed as a foreigner in Norway

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