how NOT to revise

I’d love to say I’ve spent all of my easter break revising super efficiently for my exams, but sadly this is not the case. I’ve spent way too much time ‘relaxing’ and was lucky enough to spend a couple of days in Paris. The second year of my course, medicine, is rumoured to be the hardest year of them all. Not necessarily because the content is particularly tricky, but because of the timing. Second year so far has been a whirlwind, and now we’ve got three summative exams in the space of five days in early May.

This blog post was never going to be me telling you how to revise for your exams in medical school- I’m simply not qualified to give advice on studying, (especially advice I can’t even stick to) as it truly is very subjective and depends on your own learning style and what works best for you. Instead, I’m going to tell you how not to revise, as I feel like this is an area I have more knowledge on own through my own experiences

Going in blind. This is a strict NO. What you don’t want to do is not have any idea of what content you actually need to know. It sounds obvious but do check your learning objectives or specification and understand what exactly you need to know. I don’t think there actually anything worse than agonising over a topic that you actually won’t be tested on. Unless you know, that’s what you like to do in your spare time?!

Spending a disproportionate amount of time on a topic. This is something I really learnt the hard way. Speaking to Dr Micheal Emerson, our senior tutor here, really emphasised to me the importance of time management. Being able to effectively manage your time and work efficiently is key. The volume of content in medicine, in my opinion, is too vast to spend days trying to grasp a single concept. Equally, don’t spend majority of your time on a topic you understand well and find easy. There’s an art form to finding the middle ground and spending a decent amount of time on a topic- which I am yet to master. Maybe I will next year.

Comparing yourself to others. No, no, no. Individuals work best in different ways, so it is only logical not to compare your style of learning to someone else’s. Preparing for exams is not about spending great lengths of time revising, it’s about using proven methods and adapting them to suit your own style of revision. For example, I love using flashcards. But I realised I could never be the type of person to learn new concepts from flashcards alone- so I incorporated note taking as well as using flashcards into my revision technique.

Not having any flexibility in your schedule.  Personally, I struggled with this. I felt as if not accomplishing my allocated lectures for the day meant I was doomed for failure. Having flexibility in your revision timetable is not only logical, but imperative for your sanity as I’ve learnt. Having dinner with a friend and missing two hours of work once is okay! Of course, this does not mean you can forsake your revision timetable completely. It’s about being accountable to yourself. Life happens and you may not have achieved as much in a day or a week or a month as you’d hoped, but it’s not worth sacrificing your mental health and happiness for. At the end of the day, there is more to us than just the course we study.

Thinking it’s over before it’s begun. I thought I’d end on this one. With the pressure of any exam, it’s easy to feel as if you’re underprepared and have no hope of achieving what you want. You sit there and think of all the times you could have spent working harder. It’s counter productive (and depressing) and I’ve found for me the best I can do is adapt to the circumstances. Resilience and being able to improvise under times of stress are things that all students, especially medics, will learn to do at some point- may as-well be sooner than later. Even if you feel like you’ve not done enough, still give the exam your best shot. We tend to focus on our shortcomings, and what we think we haven’t learnt but you’ll often be surprised at how much you actually know.


All the best to everyone sitting exams next week (shoutout to my fellow 2nd year medics) or later on!





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