A Reflection on Second Year Exams.

14 Jun

This was originally written in longhand, while on a First Scotrail train from Edinburgh to Glasgow this afternoon. I’ve spent this week with my parents, sleeping and reading novels and cooking the odd meal and then sleeping some more. It’s been a good week and a much needed break, but I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight.

In spite of warnings from the faculty that results might not be published until Tuesday, we’re all expecting them tomorrow and we’ve already had the obligatory This Is What You Must Do If You Fail email from our head of year. This is doing nothing for my blood pressure. I’d wanted to write about the exams and I’d wanted to do it before my memories became contaminated by the elation or the devastation of the results, but I couldn’t face doing it straight away. So, here we go.

For the written papers, this was honestly the longest and the hardest I’ve ever worked for any exam. I know I’ve said it before, but I don’t know what I’ve got left to give to a resit — my proper revision started on Easter Monday, and for the next seven weeks, my computer was turned off during the day and I worked from 9am until 11pm, most days (and five or six days where that 11pm quitting time turned into a 2am quitting time) with lunch and dinner breaks, with Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings off, and with classes fitted in where they needed to be. It turns out that my extended family hadn’t been aware that my trip down to Englandshire marked the actual end of term, which resulted in a number of remarks being made about me having an easy life and not working hard enough. As you might imagine, that went down like a bag of hammers.

Paper 1 was the worse of the two. It was three hours on Block 7 (reproduction, growth, and development), Block 8 (musculoskeletal and neurological systems), and Block 9 (cardiovascular, respiratory, and renal systems). There were a handful of one mark questions that I really just couldn’t answer — the name of the deformity that results from a Colles’ fracture?! — and a horrible picture of the brain that I had to flat-out start inventing things about, and I’m not convinced that I got the answers they were looking for in the pregnancy hormones questions. There were a few places, too, where the marks available didn’t seem to match the quantity of information needed to answer properly — 4 marks for a full description of the ischaemic cascade?! They got a page and a half from me! And a ridiculous question about the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, which everyone in the room could have described the principal features of but which we all freaked out at when faced with an eight-mark fill-in-the-blanks paragraph. The most common question I heard as I left the exam hall was, “Do you think it’s okay that three of my blanks were angiotensin II?”. Overall, a few really odd things and certainly not an easy paper, but nothing like as nightmare-ish as I’d been expecting.

Paper 2 was on Block 10 (gastrointestinal system) and Block 11 (risks and responses, or ‘everything we didn’t have time to fit into the rest of the year’), with a wee bit of signal transduction thrown in just in case we should have thought we’d got away with that one when it didn’t turn up in Paper 1. This was an easier paper — still not easy, but I found it much more straightforward than Paper 1. The only thing that really threw me for a loop was a question that required me to start digging around for information that had long been buried in the furthest corners of my brain and not touched since second year biomed, stuff that I knew but that I definitely didn’t remember covering in this degree! I’ve since been told that it was in an FRS in the last teaching week that I skipped in favour of revising embryology, so that’ll be that.

Have I done enough to pass? God, I hope so.

As for the OSCE, I really don’t think I’ve done very well. I know there was stuff that I missed out and that I did in the wrong order. I missed out a few things that were really basic, especially on my first station, when I forgot to wash my hands and forgot to check my patient’s identity. Plus, I’ve totally cocked up the ethical communication skills station — I wasn’t expecting the actor to pull out a list of questions that he’d written down and wanted to ask me about the Access to Medical Records Act. I’ve been told over and over that it’s difficult to fail the second year OSCE and that hardly anybody ever does, and I know that I didn’t actually freeze in any of the stations and that I probably did most of what I was supposed to, even if it wasn’t that slick, so, again, I hope that I’ve done enough to pass. Fingers crossed.

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Posted by on June 14, 2009 in Blog, Medicine


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