Tips for surviving first year of medicine


Faculty: Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care
School: School of Medicine
Course: MBChB Medicine
Category: Medicine

1 July 2019

1. Little and often

I’m going to be honest with you. Medicine isn’t that hard in terms of content, but it is nigh impossible in terms of breadth. What I mean by that is you need to know a huge amount and the only way to tackle it all is by regularly doing a little bit of work at a time. Use your formative assessments (tests that don’t count towards your grade) and first few weeks to work out what’s best for you but I find you should be be summarising your learning on a daily or at least weekly basis to keep on top of the workload. Fit it into your routine and get into a habit early on.

2. Mix with non-medics

It takes A LOT to get into medical school, and it’s something you should be incredibly proud of! But what makes medical students similar is that they have had to fight for their spot and are thus the most competitive people I have ever met. This can seem intimidating and often quite stressful. So, although it can be hard given how much time you spend with medics, it’s really important to mix with students from other courses. You can easily do this by joining a society or sport and going to things like socials.

3. Don’t feel like a failure if you need help

I’m guessing that because you got into Medicine, you’ve probably always been one of or the most intelligent in the year group. Be prepared to lose that title and perhaps even fall to the bottom rung and not know how to climb up again. This can be incredibly disheartening and make you feel like you aren’t cut out for Medicine or that you’ll never be able to turn it around. Remember that Medicine is one of the hardest courses and if it were easy, everyone would be doing it!

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” This is a quote from a J.K. Rowling who knows a thing or two about failure and success as Harry Potter was rejected 12 times yet today, she is a billionaire.

Keep your head up and think about all the successful people who have failed at some point and you can start to understand how all these experiences just help you grow and develop as a person. University is completely different to A levels and failure is simply a tool to help you adapt to the new challenge.

4. Know when to ask for help

Some people succeed simply because they know when to ask for help and from who. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your friends, lecturers and especially your personal development tutor! You may never have had to ask for help before in your life but remember, there is no shame in doing so and will actually give you a helpful leg up.


5. Make friends with the year above

They have been through exactly what you’re going through now and most of the time are happy to lend a helping hand whether that be with notes or advice. And remember, they won’t bite!


6. Find resources that work for you

Everyone learns differently so use the early stages of the course to find youtube channels, websites and books that work for you. Also remember to ask around for what works for other people and steal ideas!


7. Get the easy stuff out the way early

In first year of Medicine you are assessed on an e-portfolio, OSCE, anatomy spot and single best answer (SBA) exam. Without a shadow of a doubt, the hardest element is the SBA exam at the end of the year and the easiest is the e-portfolio. Despite being fairly simple to complete, the e-portfolio can be time consuming so aim to get this done and out of the way early on in the year so you can devote the later part of the year to focus solely on your exams. To complete the e-portfolio, I would also advise keeping a placement diary and bookmark scenarios you can use in your reflections.


I hope these tips help you succeed but remember the most important tip is number 4. Don’t struggle in silence, there is nearly always someone who is willing to lend a helping hand.


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