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cathasatail
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Hi everyone,

I just thought I might make this post for those will be starting Biomed at Birmingham in September. I'm currently studying Biomed and will be entering into my final year in September.

If anyone has any questions about the course, or the university, or freshers week, etc, then I'll be more than happy to answer them!

If you'll be joining us this year then we've created a facebook page that you might consider joining:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/699186340505609/

Best wishes,
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epicnm
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I’m not entering this year, but is the course laboratory-based or many lectures at Birmingham?
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cathasatail
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(Original post by epicnm)
I’m not entering this year, but is the course laboratory-based or many lectures at Birmingham?
Hi!
So the course contains a mix of both lectures (and small group teaching sessions- where you tend to see a great deal of detailed discussion between students and staff, based around the concepts introduced in lectures), anatomy sessions and laboratory practicals. The balance between these elements tends to be the same between year 1 and 2, but in year 3 the lectures tend to be carried out in smaller groups (purely due to the range of module options available) and the number of laboratory hours increases significantly.

The one thing I would say about Birmingham, is that the course is definitely research-led; by that I mean that lecturers will often teach us about the research that they (and others) are actively carrying out, and this is counted as course content and can thus be used during written examinations. I personally love this as it provides not only some really interesting research that punctuates the concepts introduced in lectures, and if you find something really interesting then you can contact the lecturer and ask to spend a few weeks working in their research group!

I hope that helps!
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Loreto2018
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(Original post by cathasatail)
Hi everyone,

I just thought I might make this post for those will be starting Biomed at Birmingham in September. I'm currently studying Biomed and will be entering into my final year in September.

If anyone has any questions about the course, or the university, or freshers week, etc, then I'll be more than happy to answer them!

If you'll be joining us this year then we've created a facebook page that you might consider joining:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/699186340505609/

Best wishes,
What particular career paths could you take with this degree? And does it matter that I am studying this course at a low ranked uni? Could it possibly affect my application in a competitive job market? Thanks.
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epicnm
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(Original post by cathasatail)
Hi!
So the course contains a mix of both lectures (and small group teaching sessions- where you tend to see a great deal of detailed discussion between students and staff, based around the concepts introduced in lectures), anatomy sessions and laboratory practicals. The balance between these elements tends to be the same between year 1 and 2, but in year 3 the lectures tend to be carried out in smaller groups (purely due to the range of module options available) and the number of laboratory hours increases significantly.

The one thing I would say about Birmingham, is that the course is definitely research-led; by that I mean that lecturers will often teach us about the research that they (and others) are actively carrying out, and this is counted as course content and can thus be used during written examinations. I personally love this as it provides not only some really interesting research that punctuates the concepts introduced in lectures, and if you find something really interesting then you can contact the lecturer and ask to spend a few weeks working in their research group!

I hope that helps!
Thanks, it definitely did! What option modules are available to choose from? Thanks again
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cathasatail
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(Original post by epicnm)
Thanks, it definitely did! What option modules are available to choose from? Thanks again
Hi,
So for first and second year the modules are common for all students (except for a module in second year which involves a great deal of research around one of many topics (which you choose)- the end result is a literature review on your chosen niche from that topic).

However, for third year the modules available are numerous (there are no prescribed modules, all of the teaching during the first and second semester is selected by the individual student) and vary significantly from each other. Examples include: cardiovascular science, liver biology, stem cells, experimental immunology, DNA damage pathways, neurotrauma, hypoxia, reproductive medicine, neuropharmacology, etc (there are quite a few more in addition to those listed).
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cathasatail
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(Original post by Loreto2018)
What particular career paths could you take with this degree? And does it matter that I am studying this course at a low ranked uni? Could it possibly affect my application in a competitive job market? Thanks.
Hi,
There are a wide variety of career options available for a Biomed graduate. These include (but are by no means limited to) research, working in the pharmaceutical industry, NHS biomedical scientist*, Army/RAF/Royal Navy biomedical scientist, science writer, science communicator, teacher, laboratory technician, even graduate-entry jobs in completely unrelated fields (in finance, for example). Often graduates tend to go onto further study or training (whether that be graduate-entry medicine, or nursing, paramedic, or into other healthcare professions).

*You might have noticed that I've starred "NHS biomedical scientist", this is because you may be required to undertake top-up modules to get IBMS accreditation (which is required for such a role in the NHS).

I couldn't answer your last 2 questions with any definite certainty, I'm guessing from the way you've asked the question that you're not studying Biomed at Birmingham? It's going to depend on who you're applying to. In an ideal world, then no it won't and shouldn't affect your application- only the degree classification should. However, there are companies out there that are targeting redbrick/Russel group/etc university graduates- but I can't imagine they are numerous at all. An employer will likely hire a 1st over a 2:2, irrespective of which university the applicant went to!
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Loreto2018
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(Original post by cathasatail)
Hi,
There are a wide variety of career options available for a Biomed graduate. These include (but are by no means limited to) research, working in the pharmaceutical industry, NHS biomedical scientist*, Army/RAF/Royal Navy biomedical scientist, science writer, science communicator, teacher, laboratory technician, even graduate-entry jobs in completely unrelated fields (in finance, for example). Often graduates tend to go onto further study or training (whether that be graduate-entry medicine, or nursing, paramedic, or into other healthcare professions).

*You might have noticed that I've starred "NHS biomedical scientist", this is because you may be required to undertake top-up modules to get IBMS accreditation (which is required for such a role in the NHS).

I couldn't answer your last 2 questions with any definite certainty, I'm guessing from the way you've asked the question that you're not studying Biomed at Birmingham? It's going to depend on who you're applying to. In an ideal world, then no it won't and shouldn't affect your application- only the degree classification should. However, there are companies out there that are targeting redbrick/Russel group/etc university graduates- but I can't imagine they are numerous at all. An employer will likely hire a 1st over a 2:2, irrespective of which university the applicant went to!
Thank you very much, that was really useful information!
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Sew5734
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I’m starting this course in September. What computer software should I get?
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artful_lounger
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I'd note to work as a biomedical scientist (in the NHS or otherwise, the title is protected) you not only need to have an IBMS accredited course, you also need to be registered with the HCPC which requires the completion of a portfolio of work. This is normally done by students on healthcare sciences (life sciences) courses in their placements.

BMS students on IBMS accredited courses that don't include placements can apply to do them, but they're extremely competitive (I'm not sure if non-accredited course students can apply for them). Otherwise you would need to find a MLA job in the NHS and try to complete the portfolio while working in that job (which would probably need the support of your workplace), which could take quite a while.
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_ellen.doyle
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Hi, i am starting at Birmingham in September and was wondering if there was a set reading list or any books you could recommend having a glace over to prepare me for first year? With the current situation I have a lot of spare time and not much to do, it would be good to get a head of my studies to give me more time to socialise and meet new people without feeling guilty about not doing enough work.
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cathasatail
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(Original post by _ellen.doyle)
Hi, i am starting at Birmingham in September and was wondering if there was a set reading list or any books you could recommend having a glace over to prepare me for first year? With the current situation I have a lot of spare time and not much to do, it would be good to get a head of my studies to give me more time to socialise and meet new people without feeling guilty about not doing enough work.
Hi,

Great question!
When I first started, the uni bookshop (John Smith's) did a "Biomedical Science bundle" with some of the major textbooks that were on the reading list at the time. These included: Rang & Dale's pharmacology, Wheater's functional histology, Bear's Neuroscience: exploring the brain, Albert's Molecular biology of the cell, etc. When I say textbooks, they contain almost everything that you could possibly want to know on their individual subject (in other words: rather large and rather heavy!).

I'm someone who prefers physical copies of books. However I found that, apart from the odd glance to check a detail that I was going to put in an essay or presentation, I referred to them very little and their main use now is now on a book case that makes me seem far more intellectual than I actually am!

The lectures themselves start with a building-block approach- starting at the fundamentals (synthesis/transcription/translation of DNA/RNA) and steadily expanding on that. Even if you didn't do a Biology A-level or didn't do any pre-reading then I still think that you'd have no problem picking it up quite quickly. If you want to do any pre-reading, then re-familiarising yourself with A-level biology (skip the plants!) wouldn't be a bad idea.

Returning to books, these are the ones that I'd recommend.
1 -First one is Wheater's functional histology. You'll have some anatomy sessions in first and second year, and Wheater's is a literal god-send when it comes to identifying unfamiliar histology slides and learning about the structure of (for example) the skin or heart. This is the book that I used the most throughout the first 2 years.
2 -Second one is Netter's anatomy colouring book. I know.. a colouring book.. But hear me out, in the neuroscience anatomy sessions in 1st/2nd year this will come in handy for identifying structures of the brain, skull and the cranial nerves. This will also come in use for remembering some of the structures of the skin, GI tract, cardiovascular system, etc.
3 -Third one would be Medical Physiology (by Boron and Boulpaep) (can be found very cheaply if you do some scouting around, I think I paid about £15 for mine). This one is great for learning about the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

However, all of these are available in physical form in the medical school library, and are all online/downloadable as PDF's as well- for free!

As for reading in third year... You won't use textbooks. In third year, all of the reading that you'll be doing will be from primary literature/literature reviews- textbooks will be out of date within weeks of publication!

As for workload/socialising, I'm not the best person to talk to about that because I commuted for the 3 years, so I was at a disadvantage anyway. But for the first half of 1st year the workload isn't too bad so there'll be plenty of time to dedicate to societies/extracurricular/social stuff. 2nd year was rather more intense, although they've cut the contact hours for 2nd year now, so your experience will be different to mine. Even then, I didn't find much difficulty in planning time for extracurricular activities.
I had imposter syndrome for the first year and a bit of uni (probably due to my nature), but try to have the mindset of "this is my degree, not anyone else's" and the guilt I used to feel about taking breaks away from uni work evaporated instantly. As long as you get the work done and keep on top of deadlines then you should have no problem at all!


I hope my ramblings helped a little. Any more questions, then I'm always happy to answer them!

Best wishes,
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indecisiveel2
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Hi just wanted to know how assessments work for this course. Are they all essay based? How often are they? How are the questions like/ how is the assessment structured? What kind of coursework is there? How is it assessed?

Also- do you have 9-5 everyday? Is the work- life balance okay? Is there good student support at the uni? (Be honest please )

Accommodation wise: is it safe? Do a lot of people get robbed? Which accommodation is the best in terms of facilities and closeness to uni- which is the most talked about in a positive light basically?

Sorry a lot of questions haha
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cathasatail
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(Original post by indecisiveel2)
Hi just wanted to know how assessments work for this course. Are they all essay based? How often are they? How are the questions like/ how is the assessment structured? What kind of coursework is there? How is it assessed?

Also- do you have 9-5 everyday? Is the work- life balance okay? Is there good student support at the uni? (Be honest please )

Accommodation wise: is it safe? Do a lot of people get robbed? Which accommodation is the best in terms of facilities and closeness to uni- which is the most talked about in a positive light basically?

Sorry a lot of questions haha
Hi!

Ha, don't apologise about the questions, I'm always more than happy to help whenever I can

I'm going to caveat everything I say with a "this will likely change as almost all universities pivot to more online-based lectures/tutorials in the short term future". So my answers below are what you might normally expect to happen in the absence of a global pandemic Also, since I finished, they've introduced a "New Academic Teaching Year" to switch from 3 semesters to 2, and have 2 main examination periods instead of 1.

Assessment-wise (ICA's), it varies between years. There are a whole variety; some essays, some individual presentations, some group presentations, some lab reports, some data interpretation/analysis, some poster presentations, etc (ie: quite a variety!). You'll tend to get 2 ICA's per module (different types each time, so one might be an essay and the other a presentation), and it used to be that you'd expect around 4-5 ICA's between October and January, for example. 2nd year tended to have more ICA's in semester 2, but that's probably changed.
I'm not prepared to go into the specifics about the content of the ICA's, but I think the key thing to take away is: don't worry. Everyone starts at the same point and usually there isn't a problem getting the hang of it. I noticed that they've really been improving the marking and feedback as I went through the course, and everything is (as you'd expect) moderated.

I commuted so my work-life balance wasn't great at times, but biomed tends to be seen as one of the more intense courses (and I'd argue, rightfully so). It's not 9-5 every day, and you will have plenty of time in-between lectures (although you'll quickly learn to use this to catch up with notes/work on coursework). In 3rd year with the dissertation the work-life balance does change quite a bit as you're attached (for most people) to a research lab and will be working on your experiments. For that, you can expect to be there all day monday-friday often from 9-5 (or even a bit beyond), but it's actually a lot of fun and many people's highlight of the course. Also, student support is excellent. The med school has its own welfare and careers team separate from main campus so the waiting times are far less. They're wonderful people and have been very helpful to myself and many of my friends over the years.

I can't speak for accommodation with any great authority, but I hear Pritchatts Park is quite nice (and incredibly close to the med school!). Uni accommodation tends to be very safe. You'll hear reports from private-rented accommodation in Selly Oak/Harborne of people being broken into, but it's not bad for a city area and with such a large student population, the chances are incredibly low but social media tends to amplify the small number of people that it does happen to. Moral of the story: you'll be absolutely fine!

^ Hope that helps!
Best wishes,
Last edited by cathasatail; 1 week ago
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indecisiveel2
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(Original post by cathasatail)
Hi!

Ha, don't apologise about the questions, I'm always more than happy to help whenever I can

I'm going to caveat everything I say with a "this will likely change as almost all universities pivot to more online-based lectures/tutorials in the short term future". So my answers below are what you might normally expect to happen in the absence of a global pandemic Also, since I finished, they've introduced a "New Academic Teaching Year" to switch from 3 semesters to 2, and have 2 main examination periods instead of 1.

Assessment-wise (ICA's), it varies between years. There are a whole variety; some essays, some individual presentations, some group presentations, some lab reports, some data interpretation/analysis, some poster presentations, etc (ie: quite a variety!). You'll tend to get 2 ICA's per module (different types each time, so one might be an essay and the other a presentation), and it used to be that you'd expect around 4-5 ICA's between October and January, for example. 2nd year tended to have more ICA's in semester 2, but that's probably changed.
I'm not prepared to go into the specifics about the content of the ICA's, but I think the key thing to take away is: don't worry. Everyone starts at the same point and usually there isn't a problem getting the hang of it. I noticed that they've really been improving the marking and feedback as I went through the course, and everything is (as you'd expect) moderated.

I commuted so my work-life balance wasn't great at times, but biomed tends to be seen as one of the more intense courses (and I'd argue, rightfully so). It's not 9-5 every day, and you will have plenty of time in-between lectures (although you'll quickly learn to use this to catch up with notes/work on coursework). In 3rd year with the dissertation the work-life balance does change quite a bit as you're attached (for most people) to a research lab and will be working on your experiments. For that, you can expect to be there all day monday-friday often from 9-5 (or even a bit beyond), but it's actually a lot of fun and many people's highlight of the course. Also, student support is excellent. The med school has its own welfare and careers team separate from main campus so the waiting times are far less. They're wonderful people and have been very helpful to myself and many of my friends over the years.

I can't speak for accommodation with any great authority, but I hear Pritchatts Park is quite nice (and incredibly close to the med school!). Uni accommodation tends to be very safe. You'll hear reports from private-rented accommodation in Selly Oak/Harborne of people being broken into, but it's not bad for a city area and with such a large student population, the chances are incredibly low but social media tends to amplify the small number of people that it does happen to. Moral of the story: you'll be absolutely fine!

^ Hope that helps!
Best wishes,
Hi!

Thanks for your reply it was very helpful.

I know you’re very early on in your degree, but just wanted to ask how’s the careers network at the uni? Are you planning on doing a placement year? Does the uni have connections to the industry? And like is it advertised what kind of industries offer placements to biomed students? Just trying to work out what my options for the future are.
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cathasatail
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(Original post by indecisiveel2)
Hi!

Thanks for your reply it was very helpful.

I know you’re very early on in your degree, but just wanted to ask how’s the careers network at the uni? Are you planning on doing a placement year? Does the uni have connections to the industry? And like is it advertised what kind of industries offer placements to biomed students? Just trying to work out what my options for the future are.
Hi,
No problem at all

Well actually I just graduated this summer! Careers network are fab. As I mentioned previously, CN have their own med school team and you can usually book 1-1 appointments at rather short notice (with the bonus of not having to trot down to main campus, it's all in the med school). They do 1-1 sessions, group events, talks on work experience/ applying to certain courses or industries/ CV/PS writing/ applying for funding etc, mentoring programmes... - you name it, they probably do it or can do it.

Although I haven't explored the industry side of things much personally, the uni and the course does have quite a good relationship with industry. For example, in year 2 there was an option to do a business related module and in year 3 you can do a business-related dissertation if you want. For each of those you get to work with an industry representative, and it's not unheard of for people to be headhunted from there. Industry folks also do talks on internships/positions they have available, and if you want to you can do a placement year. I didn't do a placement year; instead I did voluntary research lab work and a paid teaching role over the summer, as well as a bit of overseas voluntary work.

Getting lab experience is relatively straightforward, if you find a niche that you like, then just email the appropriate lab/s and just ask if you can spend a few weeks (or in my case, months) with them. Most people tend to spend their summer after 2nd year in labs or at an internship, this is completely optional however. Careers network do offer funding for summer projects, and there are multiple internal awards as well (not to mention awards from places like the Wellcome Trust/Physiological Society).

The industry placements available are advertised internally quite thoroughly by careers network, although as I alluded to earlier I haven't spent a great deal of time looking in that area.

Just talking about my year, I personally know friends who are about to start MSc and PhD courses or medicine, or are doing PGCE courses to become teachers, have started work as healthcare assistants, some have moved to finance already, some are in medical device sales, or clinical trials, or research assistants, some are studying nursing, some are working for pharma companies, etc. I could go on and on, but it's safe to say that careers network are very supportive.

Best wishes,
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rp1289
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Hi,Can I just ask if uni of Birmingham is heavily lab based? and for your dissertation will you be able to choose between a lab research project or a literature project- as I'm not really into the lab side of it.
And also will there be time to have a social life and go out, as I would like to get the uni experience, heard it has a good night life! Will there be lots of 9am starts and late finishes, some days off?

sorry for lots of questions,
thank you!
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cathasatail
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(Original post by rp1289)
Hi,Can I just ask if uni of Birmingham is heavily lab based? and for your dissertation will you be able to choose between a lab research project or a literature project- as I'm not really into the lab side of it.
And also will there be time to have a social life and go out, as I would like to get the uni experience, heard it has a good night life! Will there be lots of 9am starts and late finishes, some days off?

sorry for lots of questions,
thank you!
Hi!

In 1st and 2nd year it's not hugely lab based but there are plenty of teaching lab sessions scattered around. For the 3rd year taught module you tend to get more lab sessions (at least once a week and often more depending on the module you choose). For the dissertation, as I say the majority choose lab-based projects where you spend a great deal of time in the labs. However there are plenty of non-lab projects available! For example, there are systematic review projects, business projects, education projects and bioinformatic projects. Each of them is incredibly varied and the number of individual projects run into the hundreds, so chances are you'll find something (or will be able to come up with something) close to your heart

I'm not really the best person to talk to about social lives- I much prefer the quiet company of friends, rather than clubs. There's often plenty of time to socialise/do whatever you want. In fact, Wednesday afternoons are kept free across the university for that very reason (for people to do sports or socialise, etc). As you might expect, time gets a little tight near the exam periods and during your dissertation, but rest assured even I (having to commute for the best of part of 2 hours total every day) have had plenty of time to have a social life!

You'll occasionally get the day off now and then, you'll be able to see far in advance when on your timetable. There are a few 9am starts/6pm finishes in 1st and 2nd year but nothing too taxing! As I mentioned earlier, people in lab-based dissertations can find themselves starting a little earlier or finishing a little later, but only because they're working on their experiment (no-one's forced to).

Don't apologise, I'm more than happy to try to answer as many questions as I can!

Best wishes,
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rp1289
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Hi,
Thank you so much this has really helped me! I'm so relieved you can choose a non-lab research project as this was something I didn't want to do.
About the work load, is there always quite a lot of coursework to complete- like is it always pending/needs to be finished when you feel like you have completed everything (sorry if this doesn't make any sense) Does the coursework get too much or is it okay even with the balance of normal revision?

Thank you! really appreciated
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cathasatail
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(Original post by rp1289)
Hi,
Thank you so much this has really helped me! I'm so relieved you can choose a non-lab research project as this was something I didn't want to do.
About the work load, is there always quite a lot of coursework to complete- like is it always pending/needs to be finished when you feel like you have completed everything (sorry if this doesn't make any sense) Does the coursework get too much or is it okay even with the balance of normal revision?

Thank you! really appreciated
Hi,

I'm glad to have been of some reassurance the dissertation really is the jewel in the crown of biomed and it's often the highlight of many people's time on the course.

When I was in year 1 and year 2, yes, to put it simply. It always felt like there was (because there often was) a piece of coursework bubbling away in the background. However, they have been trimming down on that slightly since I was there, in response to student feedback. But honestly as long as you manage your time well you should have no problems at all. If anything it teaches you to develop good time management/prioritisation, which is invaluable for the dissertation.
It can get too much if you leave everything to the last minute, and as with any team you'll ever work with, if someone working with you for a group presentation (for example) isn't pulling their weight then things can get quite frustrating if you don't deal with effectively- but this is a rarity and you're going to encounter it wherever you go (and indeed throughout life). You also need to think about how you take notes and how you will revise. I used to hand-write notes --> type them up --> condense them --> make mini revision booklets. It worked but took a long time to do. Hence why I switched to digital notes for 3rd year, which definitely made things more manageable as I was saving a fair amount of time!

HTH,
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