Year 1: The Survival Guide

Congratulations on getting into Imperial College School of Medicine! All of your hard work has finally paid off. After doing the UCAT/BMAT, writing a personal statement and prepping for interviews, you’re finally at the beginning of your medical school journey.

You are all about to begin a new chapter in your life and it may feel very overwhelming. It is completely normal to be nervous about starting medical school but we are here to support you and are very excited to meet you soon. Until then, this is a short blog with tips and tricks to help you with adjusting to life at uni.


Lets start off with lectures. Your very first lecture can feel very overwhelming. It can feel very content heavy and the speed the lecturer is going at can make it hard to understand what is going on. Do not worry if that’s how you feel, everybody else will be feeling the same exact way.

Advice for Lectures:

  • Go through the pre-reading and slides before the lecture. This should only take 10 minutes and will definitely help with staying on track during the lecture.
  • Don’t write down everything the lecturer says. It will take time to realise what is important and what is not, but essentially everything you will need to know for exams will likely be on the lecture slides. Use what the lecturer says to elaborate on points on the slide that are too vague.

What if Lectures aren’t for me?

After going to many lectures and trying different methods of learning, you may then decide that lectures aren’t for you. Everyone is different; some people really benefit from attending lectures and can sit through hours of them and others cannot. If you do choose to watch them on Panopto, it is important you stay on top of your work. Try to make sure you have watched all of the lectures by the end of the week so that they don’t pile up. Also, watching them on Panopto can make you more tempted to pause the recording frequently which can be very time-consuming.

How do I study and learn all of the content?

Finding your way of learning is so important but how do you actually do that? Experimenting. It is honestly just all trial and error. It can feel very frustrating because it can take months to find out what works for you but don’t worry; first term is all about experimenting and finding your feet. Lectures can be a great way to experiment different methods of note-taking and learning.

Many people find the hardest part of medical school to be the amount of content you have to learn. My biggest and most important tip would be to ensure that your way of revision involves some form of active recall. To learn the content in time for your summer exams, you have to make sure you are testing yourself throughout the year. Studying the lecture once and then cramming all of the content over Easter will make your Easter break very stressful.

First term is all about finding your feet so if you aren’t on top of all of your work and doing active methods of revision then do not worry. Just make sure that you catch up on content over the winter break so that you aren’t playing catch-up during term 2.

Here are a few methods of active recall you can try (NB: these are not the only methods):

  • Making revision questions for every lecture & testing yourself regularly
  • Making flash cards & testing yourself using spaced repetition
  • Summarising what you’ve learnt in a lecture from memory
  • Teaching others
  • Re-drawing diagrams from memory

Just remember: REPETITION!!! Whichever method you choose is best for you, make sure you are doing it more than once for every lecture. Constantly look over your lecture notes and test yourself. Don’t just passively read notes. Testing yourself at increasing time intervals is known as spaced repetition and is a great way of ensuring you memorise all of the content.

Social Life and Making Friends

Even though medicine is academically challenging, it is NOT all work. Make sure to take the time to get involved in different societies. Branching out and joining different societies is a great way to develop important skills. It is important to take a break from work and look after your mental and physical health by doing things you enjoy. Your first few years at uni can be some of the best years of your life so if there’s anything you’ve always wanted  to try but haven’t had the chance to, first year is the year to try it! London is also a great city with so much to do!

Some of you may be worried about making new friends that you get along with, especially given the current circumstances. The student union and societies are working very hard to make your freshers week as great as possible! Freshers week is a great time to get to know people in your year and to meet the older years. Joining societies is also a great way to meet new people studying different courses with similar interests. You may not find people you click with right away but don’t worry; you will be at Imperial for 6 years and will meet people you get along with really well. I know many of you are very excited to meet new people but make sure you are keeping yourself and others safe and following government guidelines.

Where to reach out to when you need help:

Given the current Covid-19 situation, this is a stressful and difficult time for all of us. Here are a few contacts you can go to when you need academic/wellbeing support:

  • Older years/Medic parents – Older years have been through the curriculum and know how overwhelming uni may initially feel. We are here for you if you have any questions or worries and will help you in any way we can! NB: only second years would have experienced your curriculum so they will be your best point of contact for academic support.
  • ICSMSU Welfare chair: Natania Varshney. Wellbeing support.
  • Phase 1A senior tutor: Any year 1 wellbeing/welfare concerns.
  • Student Counselling service:
  • The Advice Centre: Housing, Money and Academic advice.

More information on support contacts can be found on the student-support-zone page ( One of the greatest things about med school is the strong sense of community. We are all here for you so make sure to please reach out if you need any help.

Final Tips

  • Stay true to yourself- Don’t be afraid to say no to anything you do not want to do.
  • Ask for help when you need it. Remember you are never on your own and there is nothing wrong with asking for help.
  • You will be a student for the next 6 years so download apps such as unidays and studentbeans for student discount offers.

Lastly, MM is here for you throughout your next six years. MM runs weekly tutorials covering the content you covered the week before. Tutorials are a great way to get extra support on any topics you do not understand, ask tutors any questions you may have and to consolidate your learning before exams. Keep an eye out on Facebook and Whatsapp for more information on when your first tutorial will be. I will be going through your course and exam structure at the beginning of your first tutorial to give you an idea on what to expect from your first year.

I hope this blog has been useful and has encouraged you to make the most out of your uni experience. Best of luck with the whole of first year!

Hana Machnouk
MM Year 1 Coordinator 2020-21

Leave a Reply