Saturday, 14 December 2013

Exam Review - Written Exams

Our medical exams are weird. We sit 2 written papers, each containing 10 questions (with each question having 20 marks). The pass grade of the papers is based on how many questions you pass rather than your overall percentage, and across the 2 papers we have to pass approximately 13 questions to pass the exam overall. Each question has a variable pass mark (ranging from 10-13 out of 20) based on the difficultly of the question. As you can imagine, this makes gauging your performance on an exam extremely difficult – you could have a really high percentage, but due to the spread of the marks still fail the exam, or vice versa.

I found these papers easier than my first attempt of the summer exams, but that’s not saying much considering I had to retake that paper. Many people said Tuesday's paper was more difficult than Monday's paper, but I thought it was the other way around. I guess it just depends on what bits you’ve revised well! In the exam I estimated that I’d got about 9-13 marks out of 20 on every question, with a few higher, a few lower, but looking back on the exam I think that I’ve done worse than I initially thought (although I do have a tendency to concentrate on the answers I know I’ve got wrong and forget about all the answers I did answer correctly). There’s a chance that I could pass the exam, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll be resitting. It’s not the end of the world, but it would be nice to pass…

There were some silly questions on the paper, which annoyed me. Eg. there was a question on the gate theory of pain which we were told in lectures was an out-dated theory and that it wouldn’t come up in the exam. There were also a lot of social science questions which were really ambiguously phased so you didn’t know which exact module the question was from which made them hard to answer. I put logical answers down, but whether they corresponded with the exact lecture slide points (and therefore, whether I get any points or not) is unlikely. Sometimes it just feels like exams are just lots of rote learning and jumping through hoops rather than displaying our understanding and knowledge of the subject matter, but I guess that’s the nature of most exams. It's still annoying though!

If I pass these exams then I get to go onto the clinical phase of the course after Christmas, which I’m really looking forwards to! This involves being mainly based out on placement doing rotations in different areas of the hospital or with GPs, learning on the wards and actually doing things rather than being sat in a lecture theatre. I know that the science basis is important, but this is what I joined medical school for and the job I want to do, and being sat in lectures/group work full time can get pretty boring! I really hope that I pass these exams. I’m trying not to get too excited about going into the clinical environment because to fail exams (and the re-sits), and having to go through this year (or possible back to the beginning) again would be so de-moralising.

Since the exams I haven’t really had much recovery time. After the last exam everyone else went out drinking, but I had to get a train back home as I was working a long shift the next day. In the last few days I’ve worked 2 locum shifts, done Christmas shopping (which I couldn’t ignore anymore after exams) and helped my sister with decorating her flat. Tomorrow I’m visiting my gran to help her de-clutter her house, but hopefully on Monday I’ll be able to have a proper chill day and a lie-in! I'm looking forwards to it.

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