This week I had a weird realisation – I have a little over a year until my final exam of medical school. I guess I better start revising.
King’s uses progress tests to assess senior medical students. Progress tests are a way to test students on the same content as they move through the syllabus, monitoring their progress as they sit exams on the same content multiple times. These are a great way to assess how a student’s knowledge is changing while they learn, and has numerous benefits over the more traditional ‘Finals’ style exams.
I am now in my fourth year of medical school. This is also called Stage 3 Year 4 at King’s. The stage refers to this being the final section of medical school. The home straight. Stage 3 covers the penultimate and final year of medschool.
Across the next two years I will sit Six progress tests. Each of these will vary in length, and the individual questions will obviously change, but the content covered will remain the same. Each exam will assess me and my peers at the level of a final year medical student, testing our competency to become doctors in the NHS. I’ll have to be revising constantly for the next 12 months!
A strange feeling
The first of these progress tests is due to take place in a little over a fortnight. This is a strange feeling for several reasons. Firstly, I really don’t feel ready to be tested as a final year medical student. I really enjoyed my year off of medicine last year, as I completed my iBSc in Imaging Sciences, but it has meant that I haven’t been tested on medicine in over a year.
Secondly, I am normally someone who likes to be very prepared for every exam. I have only just started revising with just over two weeks until what is essentially the first sitting of my final exam. This is very odd for me. However, I think I am learning that clinical years and final exams are going to need me to change how I learn… again. The last two years of medical school saw me transition to creating thousands of flashcards. Trying to cram as much rote learning of physiology, anatomy, pharmacology and pathology into my little brain as possible in the lead up to each exam. Clinical teaching and learning is going to need a different approach. There is an ever increasing number of facts to remember. Questions now require inferences and multiple conclusions to be made before the answer can be deduced (or guessed). So I am moving away from creating flashcards. This year I am going to be focussing much of my learning for the written exams on two techniques. Question banks and reflective learning.
Revising Techniques – Question Banks
I am going to primarily be using Passmedicine for my revision this year. The subscription is relatively competitive at £25.00 for a year. There also seems to be a very large number of questions on the bank – around 5.5K. Plus, Passmedicine has the ‘knowledge tutor’ function which acts just like a multiple choice flashcard. It gives you a single fact and several options, rather than the multiple choice questions which require you to really decipher what the question is asking before you can try to answer.
I’ll let you know how I get on with it!
Revising Techniques – Reflective Learning
Let me just clarify what I mean when I say ‘Reflective Learning’. It is different from reflective practice, but closely linked. Reflective practice involves looking back at an event and following a framework to assess the experience (such as the framework below). Reflective Learning involves examining an event and thinking:
- What are the key things I already knew that were important to this situation?
- This needs to be made note of as important and relevant knowledge. By using this information in an active learning environment you will solidify it in your brain, ready to be accessed again in clinics or in an exam.
- What are the key pieces of knowledge I gained from this experience?
- These need to be revised soon, while the context is still fresh in your mind. By learning this information now, you will place more importance on it. The context of the patient it relates to, the clinician who taught you, the embarrassment of not knowing it prior. All will help you remember these learning points.
- What extra information would have made this case make more sense to me? OR What questions have been left unanswered?
- These learning points have to be actively sort out after an event or experience. They will often not be the most relevant to an upcoming exam, or wont yield the most marks. However, they will be of personal interest to you because they will provide background to the key learning above.
As I said, I’m not feeling like I should be in the process of starting to sit final exams! Do you have any advice for a fourth year medic? I’d love to hear any tips you may have!
Below is my reflective framework from my previous blog post, Reflection: Why and How.
- What is the experience I am reflecting on? What happened?
- Why have I chosen this experience to reflection?
- The key positives and negatives from this experience
- What would you differently if put in the same position in the future?
- What would you repeat from this experience?
- Are there any further actions you should take after reflecting?