Posted October 2014
Medical school is the most wonderful, amazing, horrible, gut wrenching experience I’ve ever had. It will get infinitely better and worse all at the same time. Its a whirlwind.
The first big exam in medical school is a stepping stone. Its the start of the medical student actually becoming and actual doctor! It sounds great in theory, but its not such a fairy-tale in reality. So I’m sharing my experiences, advice and a bit of motivation about the first stop in the medical school experience.
My experiences might be different from yours, and that’s how it happens. These are just what I learned from me and my classmates. I just want to share!
Before those days
- The first time anyone mentions your first exam will be during orientation, your last moment of beautiful freedom.
- Exam taking in medical school is unlike how you’ve been done testing before. It’s different at every school, but it’s a whole new ride.
- You will be told you will fail by upperclassmen, instructors, pretty much everyone.
- It’s easy to think to yourself that it’s just a scare tactic and hey, you don’t need to worry about failing.
- It’s not that these people are trying to scare you. They are trying to warn you.
- Just remember that most upperclassmen only want to help you.
- Okay and maybe scare you just a little.
Ready, Set, Go and never stop
- The first day of classes will be overwhelming. There are no syllabus days, no get to know the class. It’s go time.
- Even though it was a lot, the first day won’t seem so bad.
- After the first week you will feel like you jumped into the deep end and you do not have your floaties on.
- Try as you might, you will find yourself comparing what you know to what your classmates know and comparing study habits.
- You realize you have no idea how to study anymore.
- Don’t worry, neither does anyone else.
- The next week consist of frantically trying to figure out how to study again.
- If you find yourself at an impasse, seek out those with experience. Call a friend who’s already a doctor, find a current 2nd, 3rd or 4th year or seek an advisor.
- Don’t forget about your professors! As the test makers, they really are a good resource. It might be intimidating, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
- Take breaks! Take a day off! Take a nap. Trust me, you’ll need it.
Dig a little deeper
- Even if you don’t quite have solid foot hold, you have to keep going. You can’t stop now!
- Study with everyone you can. No one has allegiances or solid groups yet, and you will find out which people you can work well with, if at all.
- Many others will assume class is useless. You have to figure that out for yourself though even if you have to suffer some.
- You will feel tired. Not just tired, but drained. Not just drained, but beaten down.
- Random bouts of test anxiety will start popping up even if you are still two weeks away from the exam.
- These episodes will including feeling like you don’t know enough, don’t know anything, and that you might just be going a little crazy.
- Remember that you can’t know it all, but you can know a lot.
- After two weeks you will have exhausted every way you know of to keep yourself from being exhausted.
- The days before the test, you will cycle through “I don’t know everything, I MUST learn everything NOW!” to “I’m so screwed” to “I should just accept it the way it is.”
The Day arrives
- For all that jazz about accepting thing for the way they are, you might be up at 6 am studying just a little bit more.
- Check the weather the day of your exam! Check the traffic!
- Eat your safe food.
- Pretty much the only conversation starter you’ll hear “So are you ready?”
- Almost everyone in your class pretty much looks like they are in some form of facial pain from trying to act calm.
- Stay far away from any known gunners.
- But stay equally as far from the nervous wreck. Just being around them will make you feel even more nervous if possible.
- If you are the nervous wreck don’t let it show or remove yourself from others as not to freak yourself out more and freak anyone else out.
- Just tell yourself you’re okay. Because you are. You are smarter than you think.
- Put on your game face, leave your problems at the door and act like you’re going to rock this shit.
- But you will completely blank at some point (don’t freak, its normal).
- Gut instincts are a pretty good way to go, but if you really don’t know a question leave it for later. Chances your exams are pretty long and some questions can give away answers to other questions.
- Don’t let the distractions get to you. If you can’t tune out excess noises, like someone throwing up for example, make sure you have ear plugs (and that they are allowed).
- Use your time. Think out questions. Let oxygen get to your brain.
- At the same time, if you feel done with your exam and you feel there is nothing more than you can do, turn in or end your exam. Don’t brood over what might be.
Your first chapter, completed
- Whatever you need to do to be over the exam do it. If you need to cry, bitch about every question, speak to no one, or party it out do it.
- BUT if you have another exam afterwards, you need to find a way to but this exam behind you beyond your norm.
- You may pass. That is fantastic, you’ve already got at least some of it figured out. Don’t get cocky though.
- You may fail. The world will keep turning, and you now have learned what doesn’t work for you. This is your tool to succeed for the next exam.
- You will be so burned out. You might be burned out for days. Allow yourself some time to come back.
- You now have the experience to be successful in medical school. Make sure you use it wisely.
- If you love medicine, make it work. If you hate the book part of medicine, make it work anyways.
- No matter what, remember that you can do this.
- This is only the beginning.
I want everyone in medical to do well! I want everyone to succeed! I hope that you’ve learned something or felt the pain of medical school exams along with me.