Tag Archives: exams


At Glasgow, we sit our finals in February/March of our fifth year.

I’ve been avoiding our faculty library since September — not too difficult, that, as it feels as if my faculty have been going out of their way to put me in hospitals that aren’t in Glasgow. I was around last year, though, and I remember what the last cohort looked like by February and I remember wanting to give them all hugs and chocolate. I have no reason to think that the current fifth years looked any better by the time their exams rolled around. But it’s over. So far as I can gather, they spent most of last week having a very big and very deserved sleep, and then this week they learned that they really are going to be shiny new doctors.

In many ways, this is absolutely terrifying. It means that we’re next. It means that this time next year, I can expect my bloodstream to have been replaced entirely by caffeine. It means that I am expected to be competent to the level of an F1 in less than twelve months, which, if the passage of time over the last six months is anything to go on, can be fully expected to go by in a flash. And that in a very little bit more than that, I am expected to be an F1.

Mind, it’s not as if the semi-regular emails about FP application dates weren’t already reminding us of that.

In any case, all of those things are for tomorrow.

Because I ran into one of them today and we jumped in the air and hugged and screamed. In public. You might have heard me in Edinburgh.

Congratulations, guys.

We’re stupid proud of you all.

Now playing: Michael Ball – If Tomorrow Never Comes

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Posted by on March 23, 2011 in Blog, Medicine


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The Things We Survived

I don’t remember taking this, but it’s a photograph of what our dining table looked like when we were studying for second year exams. I found it on Tuesday night — ironically, when I should have been studying for an exam. Note the full coffee mugs and the empty biscuit tin. Also note the scissors and Pritt Stick, because the things you picked up in primary school are the most fun part of medical school. This was fairly early on in the revision process, going by what I was working on (neonatal jaundice, I think). The second or third day, maybe. The chaos only got worse.

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Posted by on February 10, 2011 in Blog, Medicine


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The Storytellers

Last week, I had dinner with a group of acute care physicians.

We are all storytellers. I tell the funny stories, the moving stories, the profound stories, and the ordinary stories. Sometimes, I tell stories that have been told to me by other people. I’m a blogger because there are stories I want to tell. I think we all do it, we all have a wee stash of good stories that we like telling and that we know get a good reaction from our audience. Of course, there are some that always get a good reaction no matter how they’re told or who they’re told to — I have a friend who likes to tell people about when he met the Queen and started talking about tampons — but, more often, stories are better when they’re told to people who have had common experiences. This is why you put seventeen Anglicans in a room and aren’t surprised when they start telling stories about funny things that have happened at funerals.

It’s no different with medics. If we end up around a table together, we will pull out all our best bits. We share stories about ridiculous things that have been done in the name of infection control (getting intercepted on your way out of theatre by an HEI inspector who wants to know when you last did handwashing training), least likely investigation results (a troponin level of 3.28 on a man who hadn’t thought himself unwell enough to come to A&E), most surprising greetings from patients (“um, can I have a cup of tea, please, doctor?” shouted from the room of a woman who had been GCS 3 every time we’d checked for the last week), and craziest experiences with patient transport (calling in a helicopter from the Ministry of Defence during the volcanic ash cloud). The fact that these are our best bits may explain why we make awkward dinner party guests.

In the middle of dessert, the conversation turned to funny stories about life support training.

I was the only person at the table who wasn’t an ALS trainer, so that was fairly predictable.

The only good story I have about life support training comes from my most recent OSCE. It all started well enough. I got the sticky pads attached and the monitor switched on, and I had identified VT and debfibrillated properly. I’d done all the things that we’re supposed to learn how to do in third year life support skills. The last part of the assessment is to demonstrate that you’ve not forgotten how to do all the rest of it. I tried to dash around to the other side so that I could take over from my “assistant”. I tripped over the Ambubag cable and took a nosedive onto the mannekin and expressed myself using words that my grandmother doesn’t know that I know. So, when third year OSCEs were mentioned, off I went into this story.

And you can meet someone and spend the entire day with them and know that there’s something familiar about them, something that’s tugging at the corners of your memory, something that you just can’t quite place…

I came to the end of my story and there was laughter, and the consultant who was sitting next to me put down his fork and said, “Oh, gosh. I remember that! I was your examiner!”

Now playing: Barry Manilow – Somewhere Down the Road

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Posted by on October 14, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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I’m (almost) a fourth year!

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Posted by on June 15, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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Well, that’s that.

It wasn’t so bad as I feared it might be and it seemed better than last year, but I repeat what I’ve said before about third year not being an easy ride (no matter what anyone else might tell you).


Paper 1

1. The aetiology, pathogenesis, pathology, and management of asthma and COPD.

2. The pathophysiology of TB, the natural history of HIV, and five ways to prevent the spread of each.

3. The management of peripheral vascular disease as it progresses from intermittent claudication to acute critical limb ischaemia.

4. A modified essay question on cervical cancer, including cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, staging, spread, management, the HPV vaccine, and the basic anatomy of the female reproductive system (it doesn’t bode well for me in, y’know, life, that I spent five minutes trying to work out which way around the woman went, or that I spent another five minutes saying, “but women haven’t got prostates!”).

5. A modified essay question that was split into two separate patients, one with psoriasis and one with epilepsy.

6. 60 EMQs — as expected, a hodgepodge of random things that included infectious disease, embryology, the muscles of the abdomen and thorax, differential diagnoses of dyspnoea and acute abdomen, immunology, and interpretation of LFTs.


Paper 2

1. The differential diagnosis for and management of severe depression, including assessment of suicide risk.

2. The genetics of breast cancer.

3. The clinical causes of eight abnormal blood films (microcytic hypochromic anaemia, normocytic normochromic anaemia, macrocytic anaemia, thrombocytopaenia, eosinophilia, neutrophilia, reticulocytosis, and atypical mononuclear cells).

4. A modified essay question on atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure.

5. A modified essay question on the clinical features, pathophysiology, and management of rheumatoid arthritis.



I actually studied for the OSCE, this year. A lot of this involved making my flatmate pull strange faces as I tried to get a routine for the cranial nerves into my head, but still. I studied for it.

Day 1 is the one that takes place in the hospitals. It was difficult but was made less so by the volunteer patients, who were all lovely (and, personally, I owe many thanks to my first patient, who did much to put me at ease). This is also the day with a resuscitation station, during which I managed to almost strangle myself on the Ambubag cable, tripped and fell over, and, um, swore loudly, which provided amusement for my examiners and may have got a yellow card for me. We’ll see.

Day 2 was less difficult but still had its interesting moments, like having to give a “patient” an intramuscular injection without ever having been taught how to do so and having been assured that it wouldn’t be in the exam, but we’ve been told that our marks from that station won’t be counted.


We’ll get our results in the middle of June. I hope that I’ve done enough to pass, but, honestly, for now I’m just enjoying the sunshine and the sleep and the opportunity to be a normal human being again.


Posted by on May 22, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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Two Weeks Out

I had a spectacularly unproductive day today.

Occasionally, there are moments of spiralling panic — have I retained any of the information that’s been being stuffed into my brain over the last six weeks, have I totally underestimated the synoptic element of this exam, what happens if I walk in and sit down and can’t answer anything?

I know that I’ve worked hard.

I know that I’ve got another two weeks, and that I’ll continue to work hard.

They always say that if you coped with the second year exams, you’ll be fine with the third year exams.


But I can’t quite get rid of those niggling doubts.

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Posted by on May 2, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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Exams. Again.

It is That Time Of Year. The hoodies have been excavated from the bottom of the wardrobe, the corner of the SL has been staked out, the caffeine tolerance has increased to alarming proportions, and the slow process of drilling information into my brain has begun.

I took my medic hat off for Easter. It wasn’t what you’d call a holiday, but I had a glorious weekend and I spent three days not in the medical school. And then it was back at my desk on Tuesday — I’d been swearing up and down that I would be at work on Easter Monday, but, after an exhausting Holy Week and Easter Sunday, I decided that that was a stupid plan and I turned my alarm off. In the few days since then, the SL has been filling up as the holidays come to an end and people start drifting back to Glasgow. In a couple of days, it’s the beginning of our final term of third year, and, as I remember saying at around this time last year, it’ll be a long slog to “the end”*.

* I’ve put this in parentheses because it isn’t “the end”, as my exams this year are followed immediately by a five week SSM and a four week junior elective. I’m really looking forward to both of them, and details will be forthcoming.

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Posted by on April 8, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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