A Whistle-Stop Tour of Year 2

Congratulations! You’ve all made it through first year, a year of much uncertainty and doubt, not knowing which revision technique is effective, or if the amount of work you’re doing is enough. I have no doubt the dark misery of MCD has long left your brains, never to be revisited again.

Welcome to second year! Best described to me as first year on steroids – with the content is ramped up and squeezed into a shorter time period. But truth be told, if you managed to make your way through first year, you shouldn’t be worried! As long as you have good time management and the ability to prioritise, it’s easily do-able.

A Little Bit of General Advice

Don’t freak out.
I found the first few weeks back were some of the most difficult of the entire year. After three months of doing zero work, lectures hit like a tonne of bricks and it took some time to adjust to the workload.

So don’t worry if you’re feeling like this! You’ll soon settle in and get back into the routine of lectures.

Don’t waste time on sessions you don’t find useful, so don’t stick around out of politeness.
If lectures aren’t for you, don’t feel like you have to go! If you’re anything like me and spent the entirety of first year forcing yourself to attend lectures, falling asleep in them, and then coming to the realisation of what a gift Panopto really is during third term, please don’t feel the need to go through it all again!

Make sure you are on top of your lectures.
To ensure I didn’t fall behind, I would be in the library whilst the lectures were going on (just in case they weren’t recorded). Trust me, once you start falling behind it’s a never-ending battle in an attempt to catch up (but not impossible!).

Feeling lost is ok! 
Although I’m sure some of you will be confident in handling the content, I took a while to get to grips with my revision techniques, and I’m still finding my way with it now.

Attend your small group tutorials!
I can’t emphasise how useful these sessions are. They’re the perfect opportunity to test and consolidate your learning and ask any questions.

A lot of us tend to focus on the couple of hard weeks of the year and base the entire year on it. Plus, it makes us feel better to say we’ve been through ‘the worst’.

Your time is precious, waste it wisely.
Second year is an amazing opportunity to fulfil whatever passions you have. Have fun and make the most of having your friends around every day! You only get second year once.

Find your balance.
Don’t be spending all your time in the library buried in lectures but remember that this isn’t exactly freshers’ part 2.

Play hard, but work equally hard.

How the Year is Assessed

Term 1

First term is one of the most enjoyable times of the year. The content level is similar to Y1 Term 2/3, so there is a fair amount to get your head around and understand. Just be sure to keep up to date and make sure you understand everything but get involved with events and don’t use work as an excuse to ghost.  

You will be hit with Pharm lectures on Day 1. In term 1, you will cover the first 10 lectures of Pharm, and generally these are relatively easy, well taught lectures. The first 5 cover the general principles of pharm, so consolidation of these is important, but they are pretty straight forward. There’s plenty of notes to use but do double check them against the slides.

One of the simpler topics this year. The first half expands on what you’ve learned in first year, as well as introduces drug names to target them. The second half is relatively easy to get your head around and overlaps with other areas of the course covered in term 2. I found the endocrinology of pregnancy lecture a little difficult, but make sure you have learnt the changes in hormones (this came up as an SAQ for us).

Generally, Neuro is one of the more disliked topics of the year. Some of the lectures can get rather messy. The first few lectures are taught quite well and are fairly ok to understand (except the cranial nerve nuclei diagram). The sensory and motor pathways are essentially about 2/3 lectures crammed into 1 and although they seem a lot, they are logical and relatively easy to follow. It was the ear and vestibular lectures that got me, they are rather scatty in nature and I couldn’t seem to find many resources to help (do try looking at previous years’ recordings). Fortunately, most of the exam questions are centred around Steve Gentleman’s lectures, so make your understanding of these your priority. I spent a disproportionate amount of time and energy on the ear and vestibular lectures, when comparing it to their actual appearance in the exam.

HNS anatomy:
The lectures seemed relatively easy at first, but when reviewing it later on during the year, I realised that they barely scratched the surface, and there was so much more to learn. I used SurgSoc slides, it may seem like a tonne of information at first, but the more you review it, the easier it gets (do bear in mind that SurgSoc slides can be a little extensive). I used to look for past paper questions and match them up to dictate the direction of my revision.

Basically, for HNS I’d say start early, make sure you review it during Christmas and keep on top of it especially during second term. Some topics in HNS overlap really well with Neuro, so I used to review them in conjunction, and it was great for consolidation.

Not sure whether to attend Dissection Room sessions? There’s no right or wrong answer; go if you feel they are useful but it’s not a crime to give it a miss if you feel it’s not a good use of your time (it’s an entire 80 mins of your day). I would recommend attending your Living Anatomy sessions but use your initiative. It is a great opportunity for OSPE practice and if taken seriously, can save you so much time (and stress) later on!

It took me some time to get my head around at first, but once you’ve grasped the concepts, it actually became quite enjoyable to review. Do bear in mind that there are 2 SAQs on Haem in the MCD exam (equivalent to Cancer). When it came to Easter revision, I did feel I neglected it, and this cost me in the exam.

They fit all five lectures into one day. Pretty simple, and there’s no SAQs on it. However, don’t neglect it. I met someone resitting Year 2 who recounted that Diagnostics was the reason for their resitting.

Attend the lectures, they’re not panoptoed and are pretty tight on attendance. The content is examined in third year, but I don’t remember anything from these lectures. Attend and take away from it what you want, but for second year it’s really not make-or-break.

Pharmacology ICA:
Start it early! It was rather vague but Sohag provides a list of FAQs that were really helpful and email him if you have questions! The stats are a little complicated, so focus on these first.

Formative OSPE:
It can be rather overwhelming when you first hear about the OSPE, and then realise how close the formative is. Personally, the best way to learn was through group tutoring and practising on my housemates. God-willing, we plan for MM tutoring to begin very soon. I’d also recommend loaning a skeleton from faculty as a group/house to orientate the bones and identify different landmarks.

Second Clinical Attachment:
This is your first main exposure to hospital life and the wards, so do make use of it. It’s a good opportunity to take histories from real patients and get stuck in (I was allowed to scrub in and suture in theatre!). However, don’t waste your time if you don’t feel like you’re benefitting (which to be honest is most of the time). The HCA shadowing shifts in particular were rather dry, so I’d just leave. I split my time equally during these weeks between being in the hospital and focussing on lectures. These three weeks are the perfect opportunity to catch up with and consolidate lectures from Term 1, as well as alleviate the workload during your upcoming Christmas holidays. Don’t let it go to waste!

Christmas holidays:
Balance your time; ensure you take some time off- it’s your last break before the Easter exams- but cover as much of first term content as you can (most importantly Pharm and HNS) – it will lighten the load for second term. Make a timetable and stick to it. I basically took a week off, and then spent 2 weeks doing a fair amount of work.

Term 2

Anatomy of the Limbs:
I have no doubt you’ve heard about Limbs, and I can’t deny that initially it was a slap in the face. The key to making the most the anatomy sessions is knowing the content beforehand. (Sound obvious but) don’t rock up to dissection expecting to learn the content if you haven’t yet looked over it. It’s a good idea to spend time the night before getting to grips with each compartment, muscles, function, innervation and blood supply. Limbs is actually very logical and systematic, and the more you revisit it, the easier it will become. By Easter, I found that reviewing the lectures became easier, quicker and actually allowed me to appreciate what a masterpiece the human body is. I tried to get into the habit of looking over one anatomy lecture every morning, hence reviewing them once every 2 weeks (6 HNS and 7 Limbs).

Be aware that there are no SAQs for Musc, so don’t be spending masses of time on it, but they are very easy marks to pick up on.

Generally perceived as quite complex. For understanding, YouTube was my saviour. In terms of memorisation, find the simplest notes you can (Alistair) and then learn to draw the pathways from memory. The small group tutorials were amazingly helpful for understanding (make sure you attend the prostate cancer tutorial – it comes up in exams a lot!). I attended all the tutorials I could for this, and that’s when it really clicked for me – sometimes just talking through the pathways again and again is just what you need.  One of my biggest regret for second year was spending too much time on learning all pathways and intricacies in Cancer, and not dedicating enough to Haem. Use past papers to guide your learning, a lot of questions are repeats.

I wouldn’t recommend going to the lectures. The course lead releases a psych guide closer to exams that literally details what you need to know from each lecture that you need to know (do be aware that it changes slightly from year to year so be sure to check for any changes if you’re using older years notes). I personally used Lazs psych bible and edited it as necessary. Although its traditionally not one of the harder topics, DO NOT leave it until Easter. Get started on it early, it’s usually one of the nicer topics you can chill with when you’re not feeling revision but want to be productive.

To be defined as a car crash. I clocked this so late, but the lectures don’t cover everything; you are expected to cover embryology yourself, which is around 100 pages on Medlearn. I’m sure you’ve heard of the infamous Muni’s notes, I basically just added to them. ICOGS tutorials were a good summary, but working from past paper questions is the safest option, the same ones have repeated year on year in SAQs. Although it’s very content heavy, don’t spend your time focussing on details, they aren’t usually tested. The topic is so broad, so know the principles and please please please do not dedicate more time than it is worth. Review it, do past paper questions and move on with life.

Relatively simple. Alistair’s notes were a lifesaver and I felt it was learnt best through teaching (even if it was to my teddy bear).

The reality of ‘goes in one ear and comes out the other’. It became problematic since I would review a lecture in the morning, come back to it before I went to sleep, and it was like I was looking at it for the first time. I do recommend using Alistairs notes, since they are concise and use the learning objectives (especially for the parasitic infections lecture). I’m not really one to focus on LOs. but for Micro they were useful and specific in directing my learning because there was so much waffle in the lectures. If I was to go back and do second year again, I would definitely not have attended these lectures.

Since it is a pass/fail exam, I was hesitant to dedicate too much time to it, when in reality there’s a lot of overlap between OSPE content and anatomy. It means certain aspects of the lectures are already committed to memory, making your life so much easier during Easter. The OSPE is actually pretty enjoyable. Yes, it is your first practical exam and yes, it can be nerve wracking, but if you are able to introduce yourself, wash your hands and ask permission before starting, you’re halfway there. Fake confidence will get you far in medical school, pretend to know what you’re doing even when you don’t!

It’s a long, hard slog, but it passes by much quicker than you anticipate. Make a timetable and stick to it. Day-by-day, you will find covering a substantial number of lectures becomes easier. The key is spaced repetition – revisiting lectures at gradually increasing intervals leads to much more effective long-term retention of information. For me, simply quickly reviewing the content quickly that I had covered in the day before going to sleep was invaluable.

I’ve said it many times, but I’ll say it again, past papers are so important (MedStep questions were also very helpful), it highlights what topics are usually tested. Make sure your time is continuously split between covering lectures and practising questions, rather than cramming them in the final week.


Final Remarks…

Be aware that everyone does second year differently, stick to what you know works and try not to compare yourself to others. Find a healthy balance and remember that life doesn’t begin and end with your degree – work to live, don’t live to work.

Best of Luck!

Saira Chaudry
MM Year 2 Coordinator 2019-20

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