I guess exams are probably the last thing a lot of you want to think about at the moment, having just received your results not too long ago. Anyway, I’m going to talk about them anyway, cause they’re a big part of your uni life (although, that being said, they form a smaller part of uni life for some people than others).

You get a few exam types at Dunders:
Online Exams
In my mind, these are the biggies. You sit these exams on campus on computers and the questions are multi-choice style questions. It sounds easy, but I would disagree! Instead of 4 choices, you get around 8-10 potential answers. For more info on the question styles, the questions are called EMIs and MCQs. They basically test your theory knowledge of medicine and sometimes your situational judgement as well. Lots of fun.

This stands for Objective Structured Clinical Exam, and you’ll sit these whichever medical school you go to. They test your clinical skills e.g. taking a history from a patient, doing an examination etc. etc. and are really nerve racking! You stand outside the door of a room with a sheet telling you what you’re expected to do inside, a bell goes (reminiscent of school, which is enough to shoot the nerves of even the bravest medics) and then you do as much as you can in the 7 minutes to impress the examiner. You get these at the end of each year of medicine (apart from 5th year if you’re lucky). I remember in 1st year and 2nd year I had to do something called ‘Urinalysis’ as my first station. There’s a general rule that your first station is your worst in any OSCE, just because of nerves. Well, I was so nervous both years that after fumbling around for around 3 of my 7 minutes in the station, I managed to get about 3 fingers in the right place in my gloves and then proceeded to spill urine all over myself and the floor. Not the best!

I also remember in 1st year, you get given these wee hand gel things which you can attach to your clothes, and they’ve got the push top things, so you push the top down, and pungent alcohol gel shoots out of a hole on the front of it. Now, at every station, you get a point for washing your hands using alcohol gel, so I was intent on spraying my hands at every chance I got. Unfortunately, my aim was a bit off, as the hole was pointing inwards towards my crotch rather than outwards onto my hand. I ended up walking around for an hour looking like the urine accident in station 1 could well have been me. It gave the examiners a laugh though, I guess.

Anatomy Spot Check Exam
You get these in 1st year, where you’re presented with a prosection with a flag pinned in at an exact location. You walk around with a sheet of paper, told when to move to the next station by a buzzer, and have to name everything thats flagged – it could be a muscle, a nerve, an artery or a nerve. These are a case of either knowing it or not having a clue exams and so can be a bit daunting at first, but you get used to them.

This happens in your final year. Over your time in med school you build up a portfolio of cases you’ve seen (called a RoCE (Record of Clinical Experience), said Rocky). You then put these in a big folder, your examiner has time to look at them all and then they can ask you anything about any of the cases they choose. I think this’ll be a pretty scary exam, but plenty of time before I need to worry about that one! If you fail this, then you have to pass a remedial OSCE before you qualify.

Intercalated exams
If you want to intercalate, you’ll be doing some different exams.
Essays are usually the final exams and make up about 50% of your final degree classification (if you’re like me and hated english at school, this probably won’t be much fun!), although you have either a Project or Dissertations you do throughout the year whihc makes up 25% of your final grade, and then throughout the year you get wee mini tests which usually make up about 25% of your grade. You don’t really need to know that, but its nice to have an idea of what things are like.

Personal experience of an anatomy spot check
Today was a formative spot check (formative meaning that it doesn’t count towards your degree classification is just for practice) – and it was just as well that it was formative too, cause everything that could have gone wrong just about did! I didn’t struggle with the content at all – I was just, generally, a bit of an idiot the whole way through.

The test was a set of 25 stations, each lasting 1 minute each where you were asked two questions. The first question was always an identifier question – a pin is placed somewhere in the body and you have to identify it. The second question is either a second pin or a question about the structure which had pin 1 in it. (However, I should note that this is not the case for medical anatomy spot checks – you only have to identify structures).

The test started really well with a few simple questions which eased me right in. I was feeling pretty confident right up until the point I realised I started at station 18, but had written my first answer the station 1 boxes at the top of the answer sheet, as you would normally do when you answer questions in a test, and had continued like this for about 3 or 4 stations. After a lot of scribbling and re-writing later, I managed to fix my early error, only to later realise that I hadn’t been writing whether the structure I was identifying was on the right or the left (easy marks, but easily forgotten – the question merely says ‘identify structure 1’). So, I had to set my mind back to each question and try and remember which side everything was on – not as easy as you might think – whilst trying to answer the station I was at.

Just as I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I wrote down two answers which I was sure I had written down earlier. Turns out I had done this station before. Each cadaver has two stations at it, one on one side, and one at the other. When I first came to the cadaver, I could see the labels on the other side of the cadaver and so thought they were for my station. Unfortunately, I had completely missed the station I was meant to do. Woops!

So, I made just about every error they tell you to watch out for in anatomy spot checks, but I don’t think I’ll be making them again anytime soon! I’m glad it was just a practice and feel that I’ve done quite well in general and will probably be able to do better in future if I don’t disadvantage myself too much!


One Response to Exams

  1. Ex medical student says:

    I was a medical student in Dundee, and although had a very positive experience in my first 4 years, my year was unfortunately a “joke”. I worked hard throughout turning up to EVERYTHING, was praised in ever block by the different consulting supervisors and built a decent portfolio.
    Unfortunately, Dundee University medical school has the viva exam (a so called exemption exam), which in my opinion does not assess anyone’s knowledge or ability to practice medicine, it is an exam where 2 consultants have a ‘chat’ with you as described by some doctors and basically they decide your future, either graduate or have to undergo a really nasty OSCE exam, unlike any which you had in your previous years.
    The viva is a complete lottery, where you may get a nice down to earth consultant or a bully which main goal is to fail you because they “CAN”. No actual explanation/reason is given if you fail this exam, and you are treated like total failure, not much support is given and you are given about 2 to 3 weeks to do a massive amount of work “supplementing” your portfolio. Additionaly, prior to graduation you are made to attend with all the other students that passed the viva supplementary classes, which is totally humiliating considering that all of the students are dressed casually and are playing about and you are fully dressed up and made to hear different consultants congratulation you for “finishing” medical school.
    Unfortunately I had to do another year at medical school as I did not do very well at the OSCE, but passed the year after.
    However, I know of more than one case where, after all 5 years of hard work and commitment students that never graduated, and the funny thing is that many of these are still completely unaware of the reason for not graduating.
    I also know of many others who should have never graduated and did get away with it.

    In my personal opinion the viva should be scrapped, and the monitoring of students in their placements should be more strict or the other option would be to make all final year students to SIT THE CLINICAL OSCE.

    So unfortunately, guys if you are a student at Dundee brace yourselves and pray so that you get a couple of decent people in your viva otherwise you may get a similar experience to mine (or worse).

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