Year 1: The Survival Guide

First and foremost, a huge congratulations to all of you for getting into Medicine at Imperial! At last, all of those years of hard work, revising for exams, preparing for the BMAT and UKCAT, and endless preparation for interviews have paid off! But now that all of that is behind you, what is the best way to approach your studies through this course?

Since you’re turning a new page in your lives, it’s completely normal to feel nervous or out of your depth, so we’ve compiled a set of tips that’ll hopefully ease your way through your first year of uni.

Lectures – To go or not to go? 🤔

Different people utilise lectures in different ways, all depending on individual learning preferences. Some people can breeze through several lectures in a row and remain focused, but others may find it difficult to pay attention or keep up with the content being taught. 

If you do decide to attend, then ensure that you do some pre-reading (even if it is only a few minutes of looking through the lecture content that morning) as this will make the lecture easier to follow, and you will gain much more from it.  Be sure to check any pre-session reading on Coursera or other platforms to make sure you have a general idea of what will be discussed. 

On top of this, the form of note-taking you do is important to factor in. Whether it be making handwritten notes or typed ones, annotating slides, making revision questions up as you go along, there will be a method to suit you. Finding the correct note-taking strategy is simply a matter of trial and error. Don’t worry if this takes a term to figure out. First term is all about experimenting with methods that will suit you.

Some others may find it useful to watch the recorded lectures on Panopto in their own time instead. However, this method requires you to stay on top of your work, as you could easily fall behind on a lot of the content if you delay watching them.

N.B: A lot of the learning for your curriculum has moved away from lectures and is taught through TBL cases/online learning etc. but it is still equally as essential to keep on top of this work as well, or risk falling behind and becoming overwhelmed during exam season.

Approaching the workload


In general, the thing most people tend to find hardest about the jump from Year 13 to medicine is the larger amount of content to learn (rather than the difficulty of the content). That being said, since you were all able to balance Year 13 learning as well as applying to university, the workload will definitely be more than manageable!

Our main advice for handling the workload is to keep on top of your work. This means not falling behind on lecture content, and making sure starting all your coursework early. Leaving everything behind to the last minute will only cause you to be much more stress closer to deadlines and exams. It’s very easy to stay in the ‘first term’ mentality all year. Like every medic will tell you ‘Work hard, Play hard!’. Use your time effectively so you can stay on top of your work and still enjoy yourself. 

Another piece of advice is to take any formative assessments (mocks) you have seriously, as they are very important in helping you prepare for your summative assessments! These are a key chance for you to see how well you perform and to gain some invaluable feedback. Wasting this opportunity may therefore even put you at a disadvantage. And just to reiterate, formatives DO NOT COUNT. They are purely there as a trial run for you to get as much feedback as possible and see how the real (Summative) assessments will be structured.

Revision, revision, revision

How to approach revising and learning content is a question that we have been asked a lot. The honest answer is that there are many revision techniques you can use, but it is a matter of finding which methods suit you through trial and error. Some examples of revision techniques are:

  • Annotating and revising from lecture slides/other online content:
    This is useful as you will be revising the information relevant to the course and they often contain plenty of diagrams or animations that are easier to understand. However, you may find that some lecture slides are quite sparse or maybe harder to learn from. In this case you may have to look to other resources to understand a topic.
  • Annotating older year’s notes from the notebank:
    This method comes with a warning that the notes will not completely align with your new curriculum, and are likely to be out of date. Therefore, please use them with a pinch of salt, perhaps only when you are confused about one particular concept and are looking for further explanation on it. Do not rely on them as your key revision resource!

You’ve probably heard this already, but utilising ACTIVE learning is one of the best pieces of advice we can give you. Avoiding passive learning methods such as simply rewriting notes and hoping the knowledge sinks into your brain will make you more likely to learn and retain the content for a longer amount of time. Here is a list of a few active learning methods that you can try out:

  • Making and/or using flashcards – this will help you with active recall
    • Spaced repetition of flashcards: this is where you review information e.g. flashcards at gradually increasing intervals to help you remember it. Some flashcard programs such as Brainscape and Anki use this method.  
  • Collaborative learning in groups
  • Re-drawing diagrams from your lectures, or creating diagrams
  • Creating acronyms and mnemonics to memorise lists etc.
  • Summarising lectures into a few sentences covering the main concepts – this can be in the form of lists or spider diagrams etc.

Medicine isn’t all work and no play!

Realistically, you’ll have plenty of time to be socialising and doing extracurricular activities beside your studies. A lack of work-life balance will mean that you may become overwhelmed, which may impact your learning, but more importantly, it may be a detriment to your physical and mental health. 

So please, make sure you make the most of your first year of uni life in London and have plenty of fun as well as working hard! Join a society, be it sports, academic, religious, cultural, volunteering or any other society – this is a great way to de-stress and meet new people.

One excellent quote to resonated with ‘If the only thing you leave with is your degree, you’ve done university wrong’. So, take every opportunity given to you.

Where to get more help & advice

If you have questions about medicine, or uni in general, then there are plenty of people you can contact:

  • Older years, be it your medic parents or otherwise, are good people to contact for advice about work or uni life too, since they have already been through what you are experiencing right now. Again, bare in mind that they may not be 100% up to date with your new curriculum. We (the MM First Year Coordinators) are more aware about this so feel free to contact us with any questions!
  • If you find yourself with a question about a particular part of a lecture (that cannot be answered by a quick google search), then emailing, or talking to the lecturer after the lecture has finished is a good idea.

If you otherwise need help with anything else, here is a list of other incredibly useful contacts:

Finally, if you find yourself feeling behind on a particular topic or need a bit more academic support, then Muslim Medics are also here to help. We run tutorials on the topics that you will be covering throughout the year, so they’ll be a great way for you to catch up or revise a topic. Keep an eye on our Facebook for more information about these page for more information on this coming soon.

We hope that this blog post has been useful, and leave you with a reminder that first year is what you make of it – so work hard and be sure to take advantage of this chance to study at one of the best unis in the world. We believe in you!

Best of luck with the whole of first year!

Mona Hassan & Hamza Ikhlaq
MM Year 1 Coordinators

Leave a Reply