By: 20 June 2014

Ollie CohenHi again, for those of you who didn’t catch my first column in the last issue I thought I’d quickly introduce myself once more. I’m Oliver Cohen, a medical student at The University of Sheffield. Last time I wrote this column I was just about to sit my second year exams and I’m thrilled to say I passed, so am now officially a third year student!

Exams are always a nerve-wracking experience and the step up from A-level standard to University has been huge. Due to entry requirements in medical schools, we are all used to getting straight A’s and aiming to get marks upwards of 80% – no one is used to failing or scraping a pass. The pass mark is closer to 50% and while we were all towards the top of our classes at school this isn’t possible for everyone now.

For the first two years of medical school, we are set three exams at the end of the academic year. The first is a ‘Multi-station exam’ – this is set in the style of an OSCE whereby we have many stations each lasting a few minutes and we move between them when a buzzer sounds. The questions in this exam were mostly based around anatomy and histology, with tissue specimens and histological slides being used.

Secondly, we had a ‘Short Answer Question paper’ – this consists of 15 questions, typically starting ‘Patient presents with…’ and then several questions based on their symptoms and the area of medicine they originate from. Lastly we have a Multiple Choice paper with a variety of questions.
Thankfully my next exams are not until December so I can look forward to beginning my clinical years. Getting into hospitals and starting with practical learning is the part of the course I have been looking forward to most. One of the major reasons for choosing Sheffield Medical School was starting clinical years early: I have played badminton at a national level since the age of nine and this has led to me being a kinaesthetic learner I believe that I will really hit my stride now the course gets more hands–on.

The days following exams were spent in our clinical skills building, learning venepuncture and cannulation. It was my first taste of practical skills and has certainly whetted my appetite for learning more. We had use of simulation arms to learn these skills which is incredibly useful – though introducing yourself to a lifeless arm is a strange feeling. I feel ready to have a go at taking bloods from a patient now, but know how much harder it will be in a real arm. Hopefully by the time I write my next column I’ll have had an opportunity to do this and can let you know how it goes.