re-siting first year because of a failed SSU and student finance support

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Alanyy300
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hey I wanted to put this out there and see if anyone is a similar situation as I am.

I go to Exeter university and was my first year there last year. all was going well and I had passed all of my medical knowledge exams, OSCEs, professional judgement was good but I had failed one of my two summative SSUs by ONE mark (SSUs probably named differently at each university is a scientific report based on a particular subject).

the university gave me another chance to improve on my essay and resubmit it again. however the university changed the examiner/marker for the resubmitted version which I thought was unfair to the marking process because its purely subjective.

I ended up failing again and now they want me to resit the WHOLE year because of one failed SSU. are SSUs all held to the same academic weight in other universities? ive spoken to alot of other med students and SSUs seem to be the most hated segment of the entire course mainly because marking it is subjective and its under debate on whether writing a good scientific report = creating a good quality doctor. do any med students on this website also think the same about SSUs? for years, there has been complaints about SSUs to student representatives and the university remains adamant on keeping the same academic weight they hold.

im appealing this, but approving appeals is apparently really hard so its highly likely that ill have to resit the entire year for this one mistake which is kind of a waste especially since all other aspects of the course were in good shape.

I don't really know what to do now and im unsure if student finance will fund my re-sit year as ive heard they don't do that.

ill literally take any advice at this point so anything is appreciated!
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junior.doctor
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Sorry to hear of your situation. If this is the first degree that you’ve had student finance for, then they will fund your full degree plus one additional year. So your funding shouldn’t be a problem if you need to repeat the year.

Whilst having a new examiner for the repeat assignment might seem unfair, in some ways at least it means that a separate independent person has assessed it, which hopefully adds some objectivity. Was there a clear mark scheme and brief for your assignment, and do you feel you got adequate feedback to help you improve and understand where you’d gone wrong the first time?

You are correct that appeals can be difficult and generally require you to be able to prove either mitigating circs that you couldn’t have presented to the board before the exam board, OR a failure to follow due process / an error such as a page of an exam paper missing. Normally, challenging an academic grade awarded isn’t allowed. But you can try. Best wishes with it.
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asif007
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Sorry to hear that. It's really **** that they have brought you to this point over an essay which I'm assuming was probably a short assignment. Subjective applies to all other exams including OSCE's and professional judgement so you have done really well to pass everything else where things could have gone a lot worse than this. Your best bet is to put your appeal together on the basis of procedural change - they replaced your usual examiner without informing you in advance, and perhaps this new examiner was more harsh on your essay than the first person would have been. Get some more information on the previous complaints that have been made about the SSU. If other people have been failed regularly on the same assignments in the past, see if you can challenge why this has happened consistently and why the concerns were not addressed. It sounds to me that your institution is pushing for you to repeat the year over a small assignment because they do not have enough spaces in your current year group. This is common practise at all medical schools across the UK. With the current year group oversubscribed and more people passing the big exams than they expected to - they find a way to engineer failure on small assignments for a small number of students so that they can force you to repeat the year unfairly with no repercussions on them. Do not let them push you into repeating everything all over again without fighting it first. Get the BMA involved, get them to represent you at any meetings you have with your medical school and treat every session like a court hearing. I know people who have been deceived at this point because their medical school staff said these would be informal friendly chats when in fact they turned out to be more like prosecutions with a scribe in the corner writing down all the accusations. Take a BMA rep with you every time.

Such is the status quo at UK medical schools that you must pass every module or repeat everything you've passed which I think is cruelty. They think even a module that is worth for example 0.01% of your whole year warrants you doing everything again. Absolutely not. You are right that writing a good report does not make you a better doctor - well repeating things a second time that you've already passed once does not make you a better doctor either. It's illogical and wrong but we must carry on nonetheless. I also wonder why in the world they require you to do an OSCE in first year unless they use the term OSCE interchangeably with anatomy stations?
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Alanyy300
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(Original post by junior.doctor)
Sorry to hear of your situation. If this is the first degree that you’ve had student finance for, then they will fund your full degree plus one additional year. So your funding shouldn’t be a problem if you need to repeat the year.

Whilst having a new examiner for the repeat assignment might seem unfair, in some ways at least it means that a separate independent person has assessed it, which hopefully adds some objectivity. Was there a clear mark scheme and brief for your assignment, and do you feel you got adequate feedback to help you improve and understand where you’d gone wrong the first time?

You are correct that appeals can be difficult and generally require you to be able to prove either mitigating circs that you couldn’t have presented to the board before the exam board, OR a failure to follow due process / an error such as a page of an exam paper missing. Normally, challenging an academic grade awarded isn’t allowed. But you can try. Best wishes with it.
I've checked in with student finance and you're right.

I failed it initially (got a 10/20 - the pass mark is 11 for this essay) and then got appropriate feedback and clear guidance on where I needed to improve my essay structure wise and what information I should add. after applying all the feedback into my essay I resubmitted it and it still got a 10/20. this is why I mentioned the marking process being subjective. Because the resubmitted version was 100% objectively better than the older version. the SSU lead marked my resubmission, I asked him if my original SSU provider would mark my resubmission as I think that would be fairer but got shot down immediately saying "it would be unfair for her". which doesn't make any sense at all.

I appealed on many grounds but the one that stuck was an error in the marking. my marker had said in the feedback that I went over 2000 words (word limit), but I proved to the appeals team that this was false. the evidence I provided was solid and showed that the marker clearly made a mistake as my report was 1992 words long. so now the same marker is going to review it again and remark it. but they mentioned that it might not change the overall mark given. Ive spoken to him previously in a meeting and he was adamant with his marking, even after I mentioned that he might've made a mistake with the word count. so im certain the appeal process was a waste because he won't change the mark he's given me even if he was wrong. I clearly outlined the marking criteria that mentioned to get an extra mark, you need to adhere to the word limit. but he tried to slide his way past that by saying "its multi factorial".
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Alanyy300
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(Original post by asif007)
Sorry to hear that. It's really **** that they have brought you to this point over an essay which I'm assuming was probably a short assignment. Subjective applies to all other exams including OSCE's and professional judgement so you have done really well to pass everything else where things could have gone a lot worse than this. Your best bet is to put your appeal together on the basis of procedural change - they replaced your usual examiner without informing you in advance, and perhaps this new examiner was more harsh on your essay than the first person would have been. Get some more information on the previous complaints that have been made about the SSU. If other people have been failed regularly on the same assignments in the past, see if you can challenge why this has happened consistently and why the concerns were not addressed. It sounds to me that your institution is pushing for you to repeat the year over a small assignment because they do not have enough spaces in your current year group. This is common practise at all medical schools across the UK. With the current year group oversubscribed and more people passing the big exams than they expected to - they find a way to engineer failure on small assignments for a small number of students so that they can force you to repeat the year unfairly with no repercussions on them. Do not let them push you into repeating everything all over again without fighting it first. Get the BMA involved, get them to represent you at any meetings you have with your medical school and treat every session like a court hearing. I know people who have been deceived at this point because their medical school staff said these would be informal friendly chats when in fact they turned out to be more like prosecutions with a scribe in the corner writing down all the accusations. Take a BMA rep with you every time.

Such is the status quo at UK medical schools that you must pass every module or repeat everything you've passed which I think is cruelty. They think even a module that is worth for example 0.01% of your whole year warrants you doing everything again. Absolutely not. You are right that writing a good report does not make you a better doctor - well repeating things a second time that you've already passed once does not make you a better doctor either. It's illogical and wrong but we must carry on nonetheless. I also wonder why in the world they require you to do an OSCE in first year unless they use the term OSCE interchangeably with anatomy stations?
They did change the marker and I asked older students and he is known to be a harsher marker. I had a meeting with him (without a BMA rep) and he was very uptight and shot down anything I had to say. I tried asking for my original SSU marker to remark my resubmitted version but the SSU lead said "it would be unfair for her". what a joke. lesson learned, ill take a BMA rep with me next time to meetings.

my appeal did stick though as he made a mistake saying I went over 2000 words but I proved that he was wrong as my paper was 1992 words long. so now the same marker is going to review it again and remark it. but they mentioned that it might not change the overall mark given. Ive spoken to him in the meeting and he was adamant with his marking, even after I mentioned that he might've made a mistake with the word count. so im certain the appeal process was a waste because he won't change the mark he's given me even if he is wrong. I clearly outlined the marking criteria that mentioned to get an extra mark, you need to adhere to the word limit. but he tried to slide his way past that by saying "its multi factorial".

I will ask around and see if people have had the same issues I did. thanks for raising that point I never thought of that!

Im currently in contact with BMA and Im waiting to get counselling. I did have one meeting with my SSU head who marked my resubmission and I wasn't hesitant about getting confrontational about some of the mistakes I saw in his feedback. as I mentioned above he made an error with the word count and gave unreasonable marks for the work I had presented. he spoke like a politician and tried to deflect the hard questions I asked, it was really frustrating.

Your theory makes sense but im afraid I have little to no power contesting based off of that. I have no evidence to prove it so the university can easily dismiss that as a conspiracy which is frustrating because what you mentioned makes total sense and could be the case.

EXACTLY. its crazy how my tutor and staff reacted, saying all current students who moved to second year have "gaps" in their knowledge and staying behind would fill those gaps for me. what a **** take to have. the main point of SSUs are so we can look up and read new relevant scientific information. I mentioned to my SSU lead that examining our ability to write a report doesn't equate to how well we understand the literature. A more reasonable test would be to set us questions based on a scientific paper. you're right, theres alot of illogical rules in medical school. regarding OSCEs, we have separate anatomy sessions from them. im assuming the university wants us to get early clinical exposure and a more practical approach, im unsure how it is in other medical schools.
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by Alanyy300)
the main point of SSUs are so we can look up and read new relevant scientific information. I mentioned to my SSU lead that examining our ability to write a report doesn't equate to how well we understand the literature.
The point is that you can look up and read new relevant scientific information AND synthesise a reasoned conclusion based upon what you have read.

And in my experience, one's ability to write a report DOES equate to how well one has understood the literature.
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Alanyy300
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Yes, you're right that is the point of them. However, marking them isn't just based on if you reach a reasonable conclusion. There are many aspects such as report specifications and other criteria that aren't relevant to the actual literature itself. One can have a sound understanding of the literature and still produce a failed paper. Hence why its flawed.

Writing a good paper isn’t the only measure of how well someone has understood the literature. After all, in clinical settings, doctors don't produce a written report on any literature search they did (e.g. to guide them for treatment etc...), but you probably wouldn't say that their understanding might be flawed? Hence, my point is that reading and writing are two different skills. And we’re being examined on how well we WRITE a report, and that involves alot more than just understanding the literature.
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Anonymous #1
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I agree that marking isn't just based upon making a reasonable conclusion, but more about how you made the conclusion you did. The parallels with clinical life would be that for patients you have to draw upon multiple sources and generate a sensible management plan which is a higher order skill. Furthermore I agree writing and reading are different skills, but writing a good paper will have a solid understanding of the literature as a pre-requisite.

I do also agree that there are flaws, for example giving marks for the referencing is often just a test of obedience. However all tests have flaws, for example if MCQs were a perfect test it would presuppose that for every clinical decision five answers - including one correct one - will be presented to you. I also agree that writing a good paper isn't the only measure of how well someone has understood the literature - but it is a good one.

Ultimately my own personal view is that as all tests are flawed the question is often of picking the 'least bad' and using a variety of methods to ensure you aren't favouring a certain type of candidate as the 'true' best candidate will probably perform well across all of them.
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Alanyy300
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(Original post by Anonymous)
I agree that marking isn't just based upon making a reasonable conclusion, but more about how you made the conclusion you did. The parallels with clinical life would be that for patients you have to draw upon multiple sources and generate a sensible management plan which is a higher order skill. Furthermore I agree writing and reading are different skills, but writing a good paper will have a solid understanding of the literature as a pre-requisite.

I do also agree that there are flaws, for example giving marks for the referencing is often just a test of obedience. However all tests have flaws, for example if MCQs were a perfect test it would presuppose that for every clinical decision five answers - including one correct one - will be presented to you. I also agree that writing a good paper isn't the only measure of how well someone has understood the literature - but it is a good one.

Ultimately my own personal view is that as all tests are flawed the question is often of picking the 'least bad' and using a variety of methods to ensure you aren't favouring a certain type of candidate as the 'true' best candidate will probably perform well across all of them.
You make alot of good points.

Would you agree that they hold more academic weight than they should? it's arguably the least important part of the course yet you get penalised heavily for it. Even my tutor said its useless unless you're interested in research, which most medics aren't, including myself. Students have been complaining about it for what seems like ages but nothing has changed. It makes sense to make them formative or make them optional (however that might be impractical). It seems so petty from the medical school to halt my progression because of it. I know alot of established consultants in their respective fields who never authored a single paper. As you know, you can put your name onto a paper without actually authoring it. Hence, the skill isn't a necessity to becoming a good doctor.

The result is that I have to waste another year of my life and get 18K more in debt because one staff member, who never treated a patient in his life, was convinced that my work was worth a 10 instead of an 11. I'm going to learn content I've already learned and sit exams I've already sat. Is it rational? absolutely not. Is it worth it? absolutely not. Is it a waste? YES. And I have absolutely ZERO power to do anything about it.

It's more confusing when the university has offered 10K and free accommodation to my friend who was on a gap year to defer another year, assuming to clear up spaces. Making me resit the year takes away someone else's spot who's fully capable and replaces it with someone who's already familiar with all the content. It's just a massive waste and an efficient way to allocate resources.
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Anonymous #1
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(Original post by Alanyy300)
You make alot of good points.

Would you agree that they hold more academic weight than they should? it's arguably the least important part of the course yet you get penalised heavily for it. Even my tutor said its useless unless you're interested in research, which most medics aren't, including myself. Students have been complaining about it for what seems like ages but nothing has changed. It makes sense to make them formative or make them optional (however that might be impractical). It seems so petty from the medical school to halt my progression because of it. I know alot of established consultants in their respective fields who never authored a single paper. As you know, you can put your name onto a paper without actually authoring it. Hence, the skill isn't a necessity to becoming a good doctor.

The result is that I have to waste another year of my life and get 18K more in debt because one staff member, who never treated a patient in his life, was convinced that my work was worth a 10 instead of an 11. I'm going to learn content I've already learned and sit exams I've already sat. Is it rational? absolutely not. Is it worth it? absolutely not. Is it a waste? YES. And I have absolutely ZERO power to do anything about it.

It's more confusing when the university has offered 10K and free accommodation to my friend who was on a gap year to defer another year, assuming to clear up spaces. Making me resit the year takes away someone else's spot who's fully capable and replaces it with someone who's already familiar with all the content. It's just a massive waste and an efficient way to allocate resources.
Personally, yes I do think that essays are overused as a method of assessment. Were it me in charge I might not go as far as removing them from all summative assessment but I would tone that part down in terms of weighting and increase the clinical reasoning (note not factual recall).

I feel a lot of the rest of the post has nothing to do with assessment though.
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Alanyy300
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(Original post by Anonymous)
Personally, yes I do think that essays are overused as a method of assessment. Were it me in charge I might not go as far as removing them from all summative assessment but I would tone that part down in terms of weighting and increase the clinical reasoning (note not factual recall).

I feel a lot of the rest of the post has nothing to do with assessment though.
We seem to agree more than we disagree about SSUs.

the rest of the post was to show how illogical the medical school can be in general, which is surprising. They have a rule where papers can't be marked by the same person twice (on resubmission), to "eliminate bias" and make it "fair", which makes no sense and is entirely unscientific. To make it a truly fair test, the marker has to be the same (controlled variable). The work is held to a different standard when you introduce a new marker, that's just a fact. They say they have a moderation process to make the marking "fair". This "moderation process" can be easily voided by making my original SSU provider mark my resubmission, which would make it a fair test. When my appeal was upheld because the marker made a mistake in the word count, I begged to have it marked by my original SSU provider but they shot that down.
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