The Student Room Group

So, you're going to medical school...

As I mentioned in another thread I thought I would create a generalised helpful advice thread for people with confirmed offers now that they are starting to come in. I'm hoping this thread can save people a lot of grief and make their transition to Uni as smooth as possible by writing about things I wish I had known ahead of time.

First of all though: I will take the chance to offer my congratulations to anyone who has been offered a place. You have followed a long road which I know well is tough and unremitting and not for the faint hearted- but how exciting is that- you're going to Med school? Wow! Give yourself a much needed round of applause there.

I realise a proportion of you are probably in the later stages of your A levels right now or otherwise on the home straight for Access courses or International Bac. Keep up the momentum and don't get burnt out this late in the day. :smile:

Now, my advice here is specific to Bristol medical school but a lot of this will apply to many other schools. Your mileage may vary, others might heartily disagree, but here goes.

-Firstly, you need to decide what note-taking software you will use. OneNote is one such program but there are many others. Anyway, the key thing between now and starting Uni is to get used to using that software so it is not entirely alien to you before you start. There is so much content involved in medicine that you won't want to be trying to write on paper and physically carry files around- so OneNote and OneDrive and digital note-taking become a necessity. Save your work to the cloud so that if you kill your laptop with spilt coffee, nothing is lost. Carry a pen and paper for any random things you need to write down but don't use it for actual note taking [note- you will not be allowed any digital devices in an anatomy suite. Don't panic, there are resources in place to mitigate this]. Learn to type fairly well if you can, too [Most windows programs now allow voice to text though!!].

-From day one get good at storing course content in a logical fashion, with folders, sub folders and the like organised so that if you need to find it again you can find it easily. Bristol follows a curriculum where new content overlaps with that of previous learning so you build on knowledge over time and in layers- make sure you know where to find last years stuff if you need to refer back to it, you'll be glad of this in the long run.

-Devices: You'll need a laptop at a minimum. Macs are very popular but they are also very expensive, however, a Windows laptop will also work- avoid Chrome devices as they aren't always compatible with all the services Universities use. However, a lot of people will have an ipad or similar touch/stylus device in addition to their laptop- so that you can annotate lecture slides as you go for reasons of speed. I would also suggest that if you can afford it or convince a relative to buy you one that a second standalone monitor you can plug into your laptop in your room for your main study sessions as it makes working on OneNote/Word/Anki whilst browsing the web or watching a video online so much easier. The beauty of an ipad is that they can also be used as a laptop with an attached keyboard and they are lighter to carry around. The city of Bristol has a lot of hills so you'll be getting a lot of cardio workouts and won't want to be carrying a lot of stuff/weight constantly. I would be wary of buying the most powerful laptop on Earth mind as they exhaust their batteries quickly and there aren't always a lot of plug sockets in lecture theatres.

-About Anki: Anki is an open source spaced repetition program that lets you learn virtually anything. It is very popular in medical schools all over the world. It has a few clever add ons you can use also and it is evolving all the time. If you use the Ankiweb online service you are storing your content in the cloud and so can review your flashcards on any device anywhere anytime. Very handy. However, if you're intending to use anki, then again, between now and September, start using it (if you aren't already for A levels) and get used to using it. It will make the jump into studying at school a lot smoother and less stressful. There will be pre-made decks available for any first year in any school if you ask around politely I'm sure. If you use anki, be sure to begin using it as your primary study resource from day 1, lecture 1. You'll be glad of this decision rather than deciding 3 months later that actually using Anki would be a good idea as you will have a bigger task putting all the lecture content into it. Anki might not look pretty or as flash as resources like Quizlet but it is fast and simple.

-Textbooks: I would not recommend new students go buying a lot of books. Medical textbooks are hugely expensive and very hefty- you won't want to be carrying many around. At Bristol the key textbook is Naish medical sciences which you can probably get a second edition copy of second hand for less than £10. If you want to buy any book you could buy that. The (and any University) library has millions of online eBooks you can access remotely (you'll be glad of that second monitor now) or contains lots of physical copies. Do not go and buy Grays Anatomy- my copy was given to me as a gift (costs over £150) and it is too detailed for a first year medic. What I did find useful was Rohens anatomy atlas as it features actual images of specimens but it is not cheap, either and I think an online version would have been easier to work with. There are many anatomy resources available though and your school will have lots of options. You will be given a reading list when you arrive each year, your school will advise on which textbooks to refer to.

-Be organised: use a digital calendar to manage all your lecture, tutorials, appointments and the like. As any doctor will tell you their work life is busy. You will be also and one way of making this as easy as possible for yourself is to stay organised. Get good at using Outlook or similar software.

-How hard is it? Someone once told me they viewed the medicine course as the most challenging of any University course. I don't know if that is true or not as I have never studied law, mathematics or engineering or anything else.

However, I can tell you what I found the most challenging aspect though: the belief that I could actually do it. A clip from a film portrays this so exactly I thought I would post it here. It is from the film 'The Matrix'. Neo watches Morpheus leap across a huge rooftop gap in a single bound. That's exactly like me in about week 4 having spoken to a second year who passed the first year. Whoa. I just saw someone else do this thing, but I began to think I couldn't do that same thing. You just have to take the leap of faith, giving up fear and doubt and make the jump. In reality you've already made the biggest leap by getting through the UCAT/GAMSAT and interview.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cL7HVU-uU4

Next up: you can't expect to rock up on day 1 and be amazing at this course- it is new to everyone. I had extensive experience of healthcare in very intense workplaces and a previous degree before I ever set foot in Uni for medicine. You'll have the advantage of coming from recent study as I know A levels are not handed out for free these days but even so- you can't expect automatic perfection and A stars all the time. This isn't A level where everything you need to know is in a single textbook.

The cohort of people you will be shoulder to shoulder with have been chosen for the same reasons you have. This means that actually, a 50% mark is now the default 'excellent' grade for which you had an A in your previous life. You'll have exams, essays (amazingly few and far between at Bristol) and other tasks to complete. Some people are amazing at these things, others are good, others are acceptable at them- a pass is good enough and good enough is enough to be a good doctor and school produces doctors, each as unique as the person that started, which is kind of the point because the profession needs to reflect the people in the society it serves.

-Don't compare yourself to anyone else: it is pointless. At the end of the day you'll graduate alongside thousands of others and every person will have gone through their own medical school journey. Don't be disheartened if someone seems to pick up the content faster or scores higher in an exam. Medical school is actually supposed to be fun. Enjoy your time there, it passes alarmingly quickly and you will grow into a very different person to the one you are now. Run your own race.

-And one last and final thing. I know I have written a lot but I want to pass this on and if you remember nothing else from this post I'd be satisfied nonetheless.
A fair time ago a very wise doctor instilled in me that there is a very real and genuine healing value in just 'being there' and caring for someone and having them know that you care- he called it 'the 5% rule'.

As a medical student and beyond you are going to meet people whose circumstances or situation may not be good, they may even be very dire. But that doesn't mean you can't be there for them and in some ways the first 5% of healing is the most important part of the process- because you were there and gave someone the 5% it meant they didn't have to suffer alone. You don't need any training for that, you have this ability from day 1, it is this that makes us human and it is what will make you good at your job. Never forget, however extreme the circumstances, you can always give someone that all important 5%.

Here endeth the lecture.

E.

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Wow. This is a fantastically useful thread. Thank you for taking the time to post it.

Perhaps you could link to it from the fastest and slowest offers thread and the 2024 entry thread so it gets the widest visibility!
Original post by circusqueen
Wow. This is a fantastically useful thread. Thank you for taking the time to post it.

Perhaps you could link to it from the fastest and slowest offers thread and the 2024 entry thread so it gets the widest visibility!


Thank you. Do feel free to link to it elsewhere, I am not sure where those threads are.
This is fantastic, thank you so much for making it! Would you mind if I replied with some KCL specific advice?
Reply 4
Original post by ErasistratusV
As I mentioned in another thread I thought I would create a generalised helpful advice thread for people with confirmed offers now that they are starting to come in. I'm hoping this thread can save people a lot of grief and make their transition to Uni as smooth as possible by writing about things I wish I had known ahead of time.

First of all though: I will take the chance to offer my congratulations to anyone who has been offered a place. You have followed a long road which I know well is tough and unremitting and not for the faint hearted- but how exciting is that- you're going to Med school? Wow! Give yourself a much needed round of applause there.

I realise a proportion of you are probably in the later stages of your A levels right now or otherwise on the home straight for Access courses or International Bac. Keep up the momentum and don't get burnt out this late in the day. :smile:

Now, my advice here is specific to Bristol medical school but a lot of this will apply to many other schools. Your mileage may vary, others might heartily disagree, but here goes.

-Firstly, you need to decide what note-taking software you will use. OneNote is one such program but there are many others. Anyway, the key thing between now and starting Uni is to get used to using that software so it is not entirely alien to you before you start. There is so much content involved in medicine that you won't want to be trying to write on paper and physically carry files around- so OneNote and OneDrive and digital note-taking become a necessity. Save your work to the cloud so that if you kill your laptop with spilt coffee, nothing is lost. Carry a pen and paper for any random things you need to write down but don't use it for actual note taking [note- you will not be allowed any digital devices in an anatomy suite. Don't panic, there are resources in place to mitigate this]. Learn to type fairly well if you can, too [Most windows programs now allow voice to text though!!].

-From day one get good at storing course content in a logical fashion, with folders, sub folders and the like organised so that if you need to find it again you can find it easily. Bristol follows a curriculum where new content overlaps with that of previous learning so you build on knowledge over time and in layers- make sure you know where to find last years stuff if you need to refer back to it, you'll be glad of this in the long run.

-Devices: You'll need a laptop at a minimum. Macs are very popular but they are also very expensive, however, a Windows laptop will also work- avoid Chrome devices as they aren't always compatible with all the services Universities use. However, a lot of people will have an ipad or similar touch/stylus device in addition to their laptop- so that you can annotate lecture slides as you go for reasons of speed. I would also suggest that if you can afford it or convince a relative to buy you one that a second standalone monitor you can plug into your laptop in your room for your main study sessions as it makes working on OneNote/Word/Anki whilst browsing the web or watching a video online so much easier. The beauty of an ipad is that they can also be used as a laptop with an attached keyboard and they are lighter to carry around. The city of Bristol has a lot of hills so you'll be getting a lot of cardio workouts and won't want to be carrying a lot of stuff/weight constantly. I would be wary of buying the most powerful laptop on Earth mind as they exhaust their batteries quickly and there aren't always a lot of plug sockets in lecture theatres.

-About Anki: Anki is an open source spaced repetition program that lets you learn virtually anything. It is very popular in medical schools all over the world. It has a few clever add ons you can use also and it is evolving all the time. If you use the Ankiweb online service you are storing your content in the cloud and so can review your flashcards on any device anywhere anytime. Very handy. However, if you're intending to use anki, then again, between now and September, start using it (if you aren't already for A levels) and get used to using it. It will make the jump into studying at school a lot smoother and less stressful. There will be pre-made decks available for any first year in any school if you ask around politely I'm sure. If you use anki, be sure to begin using it as your primary study resource from day 1, lecture 1. You'll be glad of this decision rather than deciding 3 months later that actually using Anki would be a good idea as you will have a bigger task putting all the lecture content into it. Anki might not look pretty or as flash as resources like Quizlet but it is fast and simple.

-Textbooks: I would not recommend new students go buying a lot of books. Medical textbooks are hugely expensive and very hefty- you won't want to be carrying many around. At Bristol the key textbook is Naish medical sciences which you can probably get a second edition copy of second hand for less than £10. If you want to buy any book you could buy that. The (and any University) library has millions of online eBooks you can access remotely (you'll be glad of that second monitor now) or contains lots of physical copies. Do not go and buy Grays Anatomy- my copy was given to me as a gift (costs over £150) and it is too detailed for a first year medic. What I did find useful was Rohens anatomy atlas as it features actual images of specimens but it is not cheap, either and I think an online version would have been easier to work with. There are many anatomy resources available though and your school will have lots of options. You will be given a reading list when you arrive each year, your school will advise on which textbooks to refer to.

-Be organised: use a digital calendar to manage all your lecture, tutorials, appointments and the like. As any doctor will tell you their work life is busy. You will be also and one way of making this as easy as possible for yourself is to stay organised. Get good at using Outlook or similar software.

-How hard is it? Someone once told me they viewed the medicine course as the most challenging of any University course. I don't know if that is true or not as I have never studied law, mathematics or engineering or anything else.

However, I can tell you what I found the most challenging aspect though: the belief that I could actually do it. A clip from a film portrays this so exactly I thought I would post it here. It is from the film 'The Matrix'. Neo watches Morpheus leap across a huge rooftop gap in a single bound. That's exactly like me in about week 4 having spoken to a second year who passed the first year. Whoa. I just saw someone else do this thing, but I began to think I couldn't do that same thing. You just have to take the leap of faith, giving up fear and doubt and make the jump. In reality you've already made the biggest leap by getting through the UCAT/GAMSAT and interview.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cL7HVU-uU4

Next up: you can't expect to rock up on day 1 and be amazing at this course- it is new to everyone. I had extensive experience of healthcare in very intense workplaces and a previous degree before I ever set foot in Uni for medicine. You'll have the advantage of coming from recent study as I know A levels are not handed out for free these days but even so- you can't expect automatic perfection and A stars all the time. This isn't A level where everything you need to know is in a single textbook.

The cohort of people you will be shoulder to shoulder with have been chosen for the same reasons you have. This means that actually, a 50% mark is now the default 'excellent' grade for which you had an A in your previous life. You'll have exams, essays (amazingly few and far between at Bristol) and other tasks to complete. Some people are amazing at these things, others are good, others are acceptable at them- a pass is good enough and good enough is enough to be a good doctor and school produces doctors, each as unique as the person that started, which is kind of the point because the profession needs to reflect the people in the society it serves.

-Don't compare yourself to anyone else: it is pointless. At the end of the day you'll graduate alongside thousands of others and every person will have gone through their own medical school journey. Don't be disheartened if someone seems to pick up the content faster or scores higher in an exam. Medical school is actually supposed to be fun. Enjoy your time there, it passes alarmingly quickly and you will grow into a very different person to the one you are now. Run your own race.

-And one last and final thing. I know I have written a lot but I want to pass this on and if you remember nothing else from this post I'd be satisfied nonetheless.
A fair time ago a very wise doctor instilled in me that there is a very real and genuine healing value in just 'being there' and caring for someone and having them know that you care- he called it 'the 5% rule'.

As a medical student and beyond you are going to meet people whose circumstances or situation may not be good, they may even be very dire. But that doesn't mean you can't be there for them and in some ways the first 5% of healing is the most important part of the process- because you were there and gave someone the 5% it meant they didn't have to suffer alone. You don't need any training for that, you have this ability from day 1, it is this that makes us human and it is what will make you good at your job. Never forget, however extreme the circumstances, you can always give someone that all important 5%.

Here endeth the lecture.

E.

Thsnkyou that was great piece of advice 👏 👌 👍
Original post by IBkidinthecorner
This is fantastic, thank you so much for making it! Would you mind if I replied with some KCL specific advice?


Not at all, the more the merrier. Anything that helps people transition into medical school is a great idea in my view.
Reply 6
Hi, this is a great reference guide for students. What would you suggest to be a good date for international students to arrive in UK? Giving them enough time to settle before lectures start. Currently have offer from Bristol, waiting for KCL offer. Thanks.
Reply 7
I have been using quizlet for 7 years do you think I can still use it or should I switch to anki?
Original post by halfharry
I have been using quizlet for 7 years do you think I can still use it or should I switch to anki?


I have never used Quizlet myself, I know it looks a lot prettier and probably a bit nicer to use than Anki, I would say have a play with Anki over the coming months and see what you think.

Anki is virtually unlimited in it's scope and ability, particularly with image occlusion which is very beneficial for images and diagrams. You can even add sound files to flashcards (i.e. heart or lung sounds) although I have never done it myself.

It may be that you are so good at using Quizlet that you don't actually need Anki. The main thing is that if you can obtain a ready made Anki deck, you won't have to do so much sweating making flashcards which can be very time consuming if you are a perfectionist at making them.

Have a play at making Anki flashcards on some introductory anatomy over the summer and see what you think.
(edited 2 months ago)
Additional:

For those of you who are wanting to know what you could be doing over the summer holidays before you start medical school.

-Have a rest and enjoy your holiday so you are well rested before medical school starts.
-Take up part time work and earn money- you will need this for all the partying and clubbing and whatever else you intend to do in first year.
-Learn to drive and complete your driving test. Being able to drive and have access to a car will be useful later in the course when you are on clinical placements or sent to a GP practice some miles away from where you reside. You are likely to need to drive for your foundation years if nothing else.
-Start playing with Anki and learning how it works. It is a very different way of learning and almost feels like cheating but it really does work.
-Really important: start your anatomy learning journey now. Start with the basics. Name all the major bones of the skeleton, the bones that make up the skull, learn anatomical terminology and what it means: superior/inferior, proximal/distal, superficial/deep. Learn what transverse, axial, lateral, sagittal and coronal views of the body are. Learn the major arteries and veins in the body. By way of example: it would be useful for a first year to enter medical school knowing that the right subclavian (subclavian: beneath the clavicle) vein feeds drains the upper limb and that the two major veins draining into it are the basilic and cephalic veins. This level of detail is ample for the early steps of the process. You will learn the complete and total detail of the femoral triangle maybe at some stage when you are an orthopaedic surgeon who is training to do hip replacements.

Bones of the skull- frontal, occipital, temporal and parietal. It's not about learning everything 100% off by heart but instead learning a bit so that you could work out a structure by using a process of elimination.

In University you will start by learning subjects in layers. Having a small amount of basic knowledge lets you begin to build in the detail in your anatomy and physiology knowledge earlier on and makes the learning process smoother. The key to it is spaced repetition which is where Anki and similar software really comes into it's own.

Books- if you really must have some then Kunar and Clark's clinical medicine and Guyton and Hall's medical physiology are rammed full of first year detail and should get you through any sticking points that you could encounter in lecture material. A copy of the Oxford handbook of Clinical medicine (the 'Cheese and Onion') can be useful for later stages of the course.

Any other questions, feel free to post them here or PM.
(edited 2 months ago)
Apologies to the people who have sent me questions via PM, for some reason I can't seem to send my reply to you. I'll keep trying though.

Please do feel free to pass attention of this thread to others so people get a chance to read it. It anyone has any other helpful hints then adding your thoughts will be useful to someone somewhere I am sure.
(edited 2 months ago)
Reply 11
With textbooks. Do we need the very latest edition (they are significantly more expensive) or can it be the previous or older versions?
Original post by PaulZzzz
With textbooks. Do we need the very latest edition (they are significantly more expensive) or can it be the previous or older versions?


Not really- the only benefit of the latest editions is that they may include more up to date guidelines in line with that from NICE etc, but by the time you graduate these may well have changed anyway.

Naish medical sciences 2nd edition is what a lot of people will be using in the main. That should be ample for first year at Bristol really. The remainder you can borrow from the Library or view from the Library as online eBooks. If you decide a book really is that good and you would want your own copy you can decide to buy it on the back of that.

There is one very good anatomy resource that I can't remember the name of. I'll get back to you.
Two good anatomy resources to look into, particularly for the Bristol curriculum:

Clinical Anatomy- Applied anatomy for students and junior doctors by Harold Ellis and Vishy Mahadevan

Human Anatomy- A colour atlas and textbook by Gosling, Harris, Humperson, Whitmore and Willan.


EDIT: I have tried to reply to the PMs sent by some people but for some reason I can't reply- it says a particular member doesn't exist strangely. Anyway, if you want to message me again I have some information regarding travelling and the accommodation type stuff.
(edited 2 months ago)
Reply 14
Original post by shroffd
Hi, this is a great reference guide for students. What would you suggest to be a good date for international students to arrive in UK? Giving them enough time to settle before lectures start. Currently have offer from Bristol, waiting for KCL offer. Thanks.

Hi, I'm an international student 3240 B2, interviewed by Bristol on 08/01/24, been put on hold till now. May I ask when you received the offer?
Original post by bababla
Hi, I'm an international student 3240 B2, interviewed by Bristol on 08/01/24, been put on hold till now. May I ask when you received the offer?


This is some years ago now but I recieved my offer February 22nd.
Reply 16
Offer holder days - do you take your parents/supporters along or do you go alone to get a feel for the place without parents influence?
Have a Glasgow holders day next month and it’s 5hours and an over night stay
Original post by Sares100
Offer holder days - do you take your parents/supporters along or do you go alone to get a feel for the place without parents influence?
Have a Glasgow holders day next month and it’s 5hours and an over night stay


Up to you. Taking parents might be useful as they might think of something you do not.
Reply 18
Original post by ErasistratusV
This is some years ago now but I recieved my offer February 22nd.

Thanks!
Original post by shroffd
Hi, this is a great reference guide for students. What would you suggest to be a good date for international students to arrive in UK? Giving them enough time to settle before lectures start. Currently have offer from Bristol, waiting for KCL offer. Thanks.


Spoke with international colleagues about this- general advice seems to be to arrive in the UK around a week before freshers begins to give yourself time to get settled in etc.

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