How to Survive Semester 1 – Part 1

Now that I am safely set for Semester 2, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the things I’ve learned with the incoming first semesters. Some of these tips are in the ‘do as I say, not as I’ve done’ category but hopefully, someone will heed them and use them to rock the term.

 General Study Tips

  • Pre-Reading is Good

Abandoning my pre-reading routine is probably what caused my disasterous downfall on Mini III.

Here’s what I Used to Do:

Prior to a given lecture, I’d go through the lecture handout and make my notes (this would usually take forty-five minutes to an hour for a two-hour lecture). During lecture, I’d follow along and make notes on my notes, highlighting anything the lecturer emphasized, amended or edited. Then, sometime later in the day, I’d read the notes again.

Here’s what you should do:

My routine was a bit more involved than what is generally recommened but any amount of pre-reading is beneficial. Ideally, pre-reading is only a part of your process (same day post-reading and weekend review round it out) but it is critical. If anything, it allows you to multi-task during lecture beacuse you know what’s being covered (so you can catch up on email, chat on Facebook, etc.).

  • Study Groups are Better

Once Mini I scores come out, people generally have a good idea of where their strengths lie and who’s extra-clever in which subjects. If someone is talking about how they aced biochem while waiting on line at Subway, don’t be afraid to ask them when they study and if you can study with them. Have no shame. Don’t worry that you’re being a leech. Small study groups are beneficial because they allow exchange of information and by explaining concepts to others, one can crystallize one’s own knowledge. Study groups work especially well for biochem and physio. 

  •  Academic Success is Your Friend

You’ll be surprised by who you see at academic success sessions. On Wednesdays and Fridays, groups go over multiple choice questions from old PACE quizzes and on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, it’s student’s choice – bring in the tricky bits of that pulmonary physio handout or that neuro packet and the faciliators and other students will help you clarify your understanding. Academic Success also organized peer tutoring sessions which I did not attend (but I will this coming semester and you should too!) during which the material covered during the week is summarized and study points are underlined. If you have the time, go to as many Academic Success sessions as you can. You can never have too much practice with MCQs! The best sessions are generally the ones presided over by Mr. Winston, who, while he may come off as curt, is actually pretty cool (and is married to another faculty member, you’ll never guess who!). Dr. Harris-Allyne’s sessions are also pretty good.

  • Learn to Love the Lab

The anatomy lab may not be the sweetest-smelling or most fun place to hang out but if you want to see your scores soar on Lab Practicals, plan to spend some quality time in there. One of my classmates and I made a point of going to the lab twice a week to review all the attachments and innervations of the muscles we’d dissected and this really improved our performance not only on the practicals but on the exams as well. The best time to go to the anatomy lab and get some alone time with your “first patient” is weekday mornings before lecture. Late nights are also pretty quiet. Be sure to attend TA sessions as well. They’re often more informative than the lectures are.

  • An Aside About Exams

There are four exams – Mini I, Mini II, Mini III and the Final. On Mini I, your main focus should be biochemistry – it’s worth 35% of your total grade. On Mini II and Mini III, physiology is the dragon that needs to be slain. 25% of your physio grade rides on Mini II and Mini III is worth a whopping 45% (and covers the toughest material of the semester). On the final, the percentages are fairly evenly split between all the subjects but the biochem section counts for a large chunk (30%) of your grade.

While you should pay special attention to biochem for Mini I, physio and anatomy (particularly neuro) for Mini II and physio for Mini III, don’t sleep on the other subjects. And please, don’t write off DPS as a fluff course. Even though they say all you need is common sense to pass it, plenty of people failed the DPS section on exams. All it takes is a few readthroughs of the lecture handouts. You can leave this to the day before (or even the day of) the exam. The bottom line – keep percentages in mind when you prepare but make sure to review each subject.

Check back for the next entry in the How to Survive Semester 1 series. I’ll cover the little tidbits that will make your life on Dominica easier, including what to bring, ship, and/or leave at home, how not to hemorrhage all of your money at the campus bookstore and all sorts of good stuff!

Explore posts in the same categories: 1st Semester, med school


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