Firstly, a huge congratulations for making it to second year! You’ve made it through the most unique start to university. The uncertainty and doubt of going from year thirteen school students to university is finally behind you and you’re now entering, in my opinion, what could be one of the best years of medical school, so welcome!
This year was first described to me as one of the ‘hardest’. I remember anticipating and being anxious over how much more ‘difficult’ and ‘impossible’ it would be as a result, but I can assure you that it was actually far from that. With a little time-management and an effective revision technique from the start (or even later), second year is more than manageable.
You will find that in the first few weeks, a tonne of lectures has already piled up and you may be falling behind. I would say begin by knowing your own individual way of learning new content first; whether that be note taking, flashcards, teaching, to name a few. Be aware that the process does take time – it took me halfway through second term to finally be sure.
What does to ‘understand’ or ‘learn’ a lecture mean?
To me, that means picking out the most important overall message and ‘moral of the story’ from the lecture especially the first time you cover it and then building on that foundation the next time. Once you have found a way that allows you to understand a lecture properly, then it is important to add some form of active learning to test you actually understand it – through flashcards, past-paper questions, making questions for yourself and answering them or even ‘blurting’ what you can remember from a lecture on a blank piece of paper.
Track and Trace Yourself!
Spacing the process of learning and testing is crucial to keep that knowledge fresh in your mind. One way you can do this is by tracking the number of times you repeat that process of learning and testing yourself – a way I did this myself was through google sheets. I would make a separate sheet for each exam and within that sheet, all the lectures would be listed and grouped appropriately. Then on the cell adjacent to each lecture, I would write the date in which I went through it and colour code it in terms of difficulty. You would repeat this until you’re satisfied that you know the lecture well and this might take four/five/six repeats even by the end of the year – hopefully with lots of green boxes at the end.
The google sheet then becomes a visual representation of where you are at with a certain topic/paper at any given time and so will give you direction the next time you revise the content again – i.e., you would tackle the topics in red boxes for example or the ones that you have only gone over once or twice. The important message here is to try and be aware of where you are at as you go through the year and to notice which topics need more time.
Above is an example of one of the topics, haematology, that I applied this method to. It took me about five repeats of each lecture over a couple of months to make it all green and thus to be completely confident with the topic. I was harsh in the colour coding and kept some topics orange/red even when I understood it but the pressure of it still being orange made me go through it again the next time. This might or might NOT be useful for you so please do not feel any pressure to do this.
Should you just Panopto everything?
Deciding whether to watch a live lecture or panopting the lecture was another major decision that can be hard to make. I noticed a little later on in the year that panopting a lecture at a faster speed actually saved a lot of time for me. Just make sure to stay on top of whatever you had scheduled for that day to be completed that day or at least by the end of that week – something I wish I had actually stuck to.
Take Home Message
We all know that Mahjabin – MM Year 1-3 head – is always dishing out the best advice but one of those that have really helped me till now – which has also been mentioned by Amir Sam himself – is ‘to refrain from learning every bit of detail’. Second year is a hotspot for this mentality which can be damaging. I do encourage learning as much as you can about a lecture but don’t let that lecture take 4 hours of your time to cover purely because you want to learn every bit of detail in it. The point of the google sheet tracking method I mentioned earlier is to also show that you will not learn everything about a lecture the first time you do it. However, as you go through the year, not only do you learn more detail, but you also recall more of it because of that added repetition. This is minus the stress that follows from taking so long to learn a lecture the first time and then forgetting most of it the next time you do it. Awareness of this is key.
Finding the Balance
There is plenty of time to do whatever you like during 2nd year. Being consistent and up to date with content is amazing but don’t neglect your own time to recharge and do whatever it is that makes you happy. Finding that balance is probably one of the hardest things in 2nd year – not necessarily the workload! I suggest scheduling a time to connect with your friends and family regularly and try to put in as much effort to organising a facetime call as you would with planning to meet someone! Keeping that connection going through these times is most important.
The very best of luck!
Hassan Ali and Mohid Malik
MM Year 2 Coordinators 2020-21