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The Transition from A-Levels to Medical School... Watch

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    Current med students -

    Was your first year overwhelmingly difficult (both knowledge and workload wise) in comparison to A levels, or was it OK?

    What was the most challenging thing about starting medical school (for example, the dissections, or workload or whatever)?

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    (Original post by ECHF)
    Current med students -

    Was your first year overwhelmingly difficult (both knowledge and workload wise) in comparison to A levels, or was it OK?

    What was the most challenging thing about starting medical school (for example, the dissections, or workload or whatever)?

    Can only speak from my experience, but yes it was difficult workload wise, but not knowledge wise.

    The most challenging thing for me was having to sacrifice my free time to do work, including working over weekends. I would never work over weekends during A-levels unless I had an exam that next week. I hated being able to go out less than fellow students on other courses. Also not having everything you need to know in one nice, condensed textbook was a bugger.

    Dissection for me was fine, it's just one of those things most get used to
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    The workload is heavier than A-level, but I wouldn't say it's too bad (early days though). Obviously you have more choice about what to do with your time and perhaps have to be more self motivated.

    For me, the biggest surprise is the amount of rote learning that has to be done. The module i'm doing at the moment is pretty much just a memory test.
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    Content isn't hard, just there is just a massive volume to learn.

    If you did biology it's a bit like biology but with about 5x more information/hour in a given lecture (compared to your bio classes).

    And you'll have to revise everything for your summer exams. Which may come as a shock compared to modular A-levels.

    My advice: just work reasonably hard during term. But don't guilt trip yourself all the time when you don't keep up with your schedule, because it's counter-productive :p: And you'll (probably) fall behind your schedule quite a lot.

    Dissection/prosection isn't particularly emotional or nauseous (for me anyway). They're not really like living people or like dead, kind of a freaky third type "preserved". You'll probably find you're crap at prosection and can't work out what anything is, but you'll get better at that. Also.. everyone always gets disturbingly hungry in the prosectorium.

    Second year has been much more work-intensive for me than first year. But that's probably just because I have become more neurotic and work-obsessed :p:

    Your experience will probably vary massively depending on the medschool.

    You may become neurotic and work-obsessed...
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    So far it hasn't been too bad, but I've got myself into a routine about what I do workwise outside of lectures/PBL

    Knowledge - yes there is a lot, but we have modular exams and then end of year exams, so you're constantly having to recall the information - hopefully it will stick!

    And yes, having to go to loads of books is quite annoying, I'm not going to lie.

    I guess the most difficult was finding your feet, and adjusting to the way of teaching/learning. I do PBL and it's pretty easy for people to think "oh so and so has done the work for that topic, s'all good" and that's not the case. I spend a lot of time going through it all, re-wording it and making sure I understand it.

    However, it is more enjoyable than A levels, as it's specifically what I want to study, rather than what I need to study to get to where I want to go. And yes, you don't go out as much as other subjects, but you make up for it when you do :p:

    I haven't really experience dissection yet, as that all starts next term (along with the post mortems at the hospital, which should be cool) so I can't really comment on that
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    most first years are a step down in difficulty from A lvl, and theres less to learn (bearing in mind that you only need to pass, not get three A grades..so you dont need to learn everything in 1st year med school, even though the syllabus might seem much larger than A lvl, the amount you need to learn is less than for getting 3-4 A grade A levels).

    there are a few universities that seem to love making their first year difficult or seem difficult - best avoid them.

    2nd year is the bigger transition, becos you build on what you know and have a bigger content to learn on top of what you alrady are assumed to know from year 1.

    3rd year is a bigger transition still, but hey the biggest one is the one after year 5, when you kill your first patients. hey theres no bigger step!
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    (Original post by ECHF)
    Current med students -

    Was your first year overwhelmingly difficult (both knowledge and workload wise) in comparison to A levels, or was it OK?

    What was the most challenging thing about starting medical school (for example, the dissections, or workload or whatever)?

    I just finished my first term today. So far: the workload's been heavier, it's been a bit tricky converting from short answer/MCQ A levels to 50% essay exams (although some people are doing a lot worse at this) and anatomy is just dull, but it's still good. The hardest thing about dissection is remembering to get up in time for breakfast on dissection days so I don't start feeling faint after 2 hours of standing. I think a big shock for me is going to be the workload over this holiday. I have 5 essays to write, plus 20 essay plans, and then we have mock exams as soon as we get back.

    The knowledge isn't that tricky (although after a term of anatomy I can see why some places like you to have a foreign language), but there are plenty of parts that you need to concentrate on, but that's not too bad as almost all of it is interesting.
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    The sheer volume is a bit scary, but in the words of one of my lecturers: To pass this exam you have to be 40% better than a monkey picking answers at random.

    The weirdest/most noticeable part of the transition has been, to me, the amount of time you spend in conversation with a member of the teaching staff. If you're on a lecture heavy course then, while you will still do small group work where you have to interact more with the faculty, you will pretty much be left alone to get on with it. Yesterday morning I realised that it had been nearly a week since I spoke to a teacher.
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    I've had a rough first term. Its really different, difficult to cope with if you dont have a strong positive work ethic. Get in with a good crowd who know what you're going through and will help you. Having a good time is a must. Dont be afraid to let your hair down when prudent to do so, working till you burn out is probably the thing im most guilty of here. Then entering a downward spiral of popping bottles in clubs and getting kicked out on your ass for sniffing mcat in the loos. Safe to say i've experienced highs and lows in this course, pun definitely not intended.

    Hope my openness contributes in some way.
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    some context, if you were to preparing to get 4 A grades at A lvl, then without any lectures or study support you'd need to prepare for six months of hard study.


    to barely pass med exam at my school in first year, without going to lectures/study supoport, you need about a 6 or 7 weeks of study before each exam set (winter and summer), so thats about 12-14 weeks in total.
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    (Original post by Gizmo!)
    most first years are a step down in difficulty from A lvl, and theres less to learn (bearing in mind that you only need to pass, not get three A grades..so you dont need to learn everything in 1st year med school, even though the syllabus might seem much larger than A lvl, the amount you need to learn is less than for getting 3-4 A grade A levels).
    Completely disagree with this. The A level exams are spaced out and you have time to revise in between, and can forget content previously learnt. However in my first year you have to learn 5 modules per semester and be examined in them all at the same time in one paper, plus each semester is summative so basically you can never forget anything in any module. So I think the amount you need to learn is so much more than A levels, because you can't afford to just have it in your short-term memory.

    Also there are no past papers, so you can't learn from those unlike at A-level
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    From what I've heard, the actual volume of work is increased, but the spread of knowledge to take in is less.

    I.e, learning 3-4 A Levels could be challenging if those A Levels weren't related/ only had loose connections, i.e Maths and Biology, whereas learning Maths (Mechanics) and Physics is more like doing 1 and a half subjects instead of 2.

    So if you're better at focusing on one area of knowledge, the work load will actually seem less, but if you were good at keeping knowledge separate between subjects, it will seem like more.

    I'm not saying that there aren't bits of Medicine that come across as completely polar, i.e, GI vs History of Medicine, but it's less varied than A Level.

    Essentially, it's going to be hard graft either way. It's up to you to decide if you work better by yourself or being directed.
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    (Original post by Onychophagia)
    The module i'm doing at the moment is pretty much just a memory test.
    Indeeed!
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    (Original post by Lu-x)
    Completely disagree with this. The A level exams are spaced out and you have time to revise in between, and can forget content previously learnt. However in my first year you have to learn 5 modules per semester and be examined in them all at the same time in one paper, plus each semester is summative so basically you can never forget anything in any module. So I think the amount you need to learn is so much more than A levels, because you can't afford to just have it in your short-term memory.

    Also there are no past papers, so you can't learn from those unlike at A-level
    yes i was sweeping in my statement, and i must amend my view to include some universities. some med schools do tax you more than A lvls, as you quite rightly said. i think i did say some med schools do work you harder in 1st year, but i'd like to poin out that i mean several me schools must be like that.

    However here at my uni, reputed to be hardcore, its def less than A lvls to simply get the 40% to pass the exams. Definitely and without a shadow of a doubt.

    its also worth me pointing out that A lvls these last years are a lot easier than they used to be, so that adds to my margin of error in my judgement.
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    for me i've found that therre is a large amount of work, but then i think this varies between med schools, my mate at another med school seems to have hardly any work to do. i find the lectures start off really straightforward, then suddenly get a lot more complicated, but it isn't too bad.
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    (Original post by Gizmo!)
    40% to pass the exams.
    Whaaat? What med school is this? :eek:

    (Original post by Gizmo!)
    its also worth me pointing out that A lvls these last years are a lot easier than they used to be, so that adds to my margin of error in my judgement.
    How do you know that? Have you sat A levels multiple times or what?
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    (Original post by Gizmo!)
    yes i was sweeping in my statement, and i must amend my view to include some universities. some med schools do tax you more than A lvls, as you quite rightly said. i think i did say some med schools do work you harder in 1st year, but i'd like to poin out that i mean several me schools must be like that.

    However here at my uni, reputed to be hardcore, its def less than A lvls to simply get the 40% to pass the exams. Definitely and without a shadow of a doubt.

    its also worth me pointing out that A lvls these last years are a lot easier than they used to be, so that adds to my margin of error in my judgement.
    can you please spell 'levels' properly.

    And for your information, the pass mark isn't always 40%, at Bristol the passmark is 50% and in first year we were examined on the entire of the first and second term material in one week - 6 exams, followed by third term and another two modules and final exam.

    I averaged out just under 60% all in all. I got over 90% in several A level papers.

    Second year is easier
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    (Original post by rainbowbex)
    can you please spell 'levels' properly.

    And for your information, the pass mark isn't always 40%, at Bristol the passmark is 50% and in first year we were examined on the entire of the first and second term material in one week - 6 exams, followed by third term and another two modules and final exam.

    I averaged out just under 60% all in all. I got over 90% in several A level papers.

    Second year is easier
    Oh right, just chill, I was more than happy until I read your post :/
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    (Original post by Lu-x)
    Whaaat? What med school is this? :eek:



    How do you know that? Have you sat A levels multiple times or what?
    You must be going mental for the End of Phase 1 exams .

    And here's me getting stressed over ESA1.

    (any tips, btw ?)
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    (Original post by Hippysnake)
    You must be going mental for the End of Phase 1 exams .

    And here's me getting stressed over ESA1.

    (any tips, btw ?)
    Lol, I'd be ok if I knew when my OSCE is. We have our written paper on wed/thurs the 5th/6th jan, then OSCEs start on the fri. It's so unfair if you're on the fri and don't get the weekend to practice examinations. Also they won't tell us when our OSCE is until 1 week before the exam. So annoying!

    With regards to ESA1, just know everything inside out. Particularly HADPOP, apparently lots of that came up last year. Obvious but read the questions properly and make sure you are answering it properly, people often fail because of poor exam technique. Also do you about the way they mark it? You have to get 6 or 7 out of 10 marks on each question to pass that whole question. Then you have to pass a certain number of questions to get a satisfactory/excellent, the boundaries of which are subject to slight change I think.
 
 
 
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