2018 was really hard

Not only did the January exams kick me in the chest, the relentless workload in labs, coursework, reports, and summer exams followed and hammered the life force out of me. Then summer holidays came with GAMSAT and UKCAT preparation, and then UCAS applications, then third year.

And now it’s November.


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So I basically worked my socks off this year, spent loads of money, and still I don’t know where I am. ALSO- this is the first time in 8 years I haven’t done anything to do with writing. Wow.

Maybe the sails are  being adjusted. Wonder what 2019 will bring.

The Problem(s) With Narrative Medicine

Medical Margins

booksNarrative medicine is growing in popularity in academic medical centers and healthcare settings. Developed over the past decade by physician and literary scholar Rita Charon and colleagues at Columbia University, narrative medicine (as defined by Charon), “fortifies clinical practice with the narrative competence to recognize, absorb, metabolize, interpret, and be moved by the stories of illness.” There are textbooks on narrative medicine (such as the one by Charon shown here), workshops, undergraduate courses, and masters degree programs in narrative medicine (the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University), and even the venerable Modern Language Association is considering establishing a new forum related to narrative medicine (to be called Medical Humanities and Health Studies). I love narrative medicine and I teach narrative medicine, but I don’t love/teach it without having some serious questions and reservations about this whole ‘movement’ or religion as it sometimes seems to be.

Current narrative medicine…

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Senior Year 2018-2019. Lesdothes.

Third year of university started two months ago but I didn’t say anything about it given how postgraduate applications bogged me down completely and then lectures bombed me out the water. However, being in my final year is rather chill despite its hectic beginnings. Last year was a total nightmare: the coursework, the exams, the labs, the lab reports. I don’t think I even recovered from it. Hopefully, next summer will be more joyous.

I also received my exam timetable: Jan 15th, 22nd, 25th. Not bad. Ten complete days of madness. I can handle that. In fact, i’ll be doing a separate post very soon on what my revision tactics will be this year (and no, it will actually involve nothing to do with doing notes).

All that aside, let’s get to the real demon of third year: my dissertation.

I am currently conducting an in silico project using bash on ubuntu (some coding software) that allows me to analyse genomic files and overlap and intersect them.

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I genuinely don’t know. I don’t know how it works. I’m just coding the most random shit right now. I also have a meeting with my supervisor on Monday to tell him how much work I’ve done so i’ll be spending this entire weekend ploughing through self-teaching Ubuntu and furiously reading through all biostar posts to do with BedTools.

I don’t even think you know what I’m talking about right now. Wahay! We’re both in this boat together.

BUT I DO KNOW that the end goal is to explore the location of CpG islands and figure out how this relates to their function and disease. Since I would like to venture in something to do with Oncology- whether or not I decide to pursue a research career or become a Medic- this research project is an excellent choice. And I think i’m off to a good start; I got my results back on the preliminary report I did for it and I was pleasantly surprised. Honestly with the way technology is going, bioinformatics in general is going to be such a useful field. So all of this experience will be worth it in the end.

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Getting Exam Papers From Other Universities: How To & When To

If you want past papers from other universities, just google: “site:edu _____ exam” for whatever subject you want e.g. site:edu nutrition exam and you’ll get links like: Nutrition Exam MCQs

Honestly, if your universities don’t supply their own past papers, then utilise this method from the get go. You need as much practise as you can. However, if your university does put up past exams, stick to those. Exam technique is what gets you the marks, so knowing what your university exams ask of you can help better increase your chances of scoring higher grades.

My Own Experience With Past Papers

Theory is important. I got away by simply revising for exams and never doing past papers pretty much all the way until I graduated highschool. However, one incident in A2 (Year 13) changed my mind totally about it.

‘Tis the night before the A level mock exams for Paper 1 of A Level Biology.

I hadn’t studied.

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Well, I hadn’t studied as much as I should have. So I sat down and ploughed through an entire packet of past papers my teacher has kindly compiled into a booklet (Thank You Mrs Patel!). One question after the next, checking the mark scheme, annotating along with notes from the textbook. I finished up at midnight and then passed out across my bed within two seconds of my head hitting the pillow.

Results? I scored 96% in that exam. I was not only top in my class for the paper, I had topped the batch LOOOOOOOOOOL.

So yeah, that put things into perspective for me for sure when it came to past papers. I don’t think I’d ever doubt using them as a revision tool. They’re so useful. They teach you what the exam asks of you. There’s no point having pages and pages of notes with you if you don’t know how to apply them in an exam setting.

When To Attempt Past Exams

A lot of students don’t know when to begin attempting past exams. Honestly, there is no perfect answer for this dilemma.

  1. You can practise past paper questions as you progress throughout the course
  2. You can revise first and then spend the last few weeks before an exam doing past papers exclusively
  3. You could attempt past papers even before the course begins to get a feel for what’s ahead of you

Getting ahold of exams from other univerisites whilst your university provides their own- there’s no harm in that. If you’ve got the time, go ahead.

I think you can revise from your university past papers and use other online resources just to test yourself. Using online resources may also be another thing to include in your Summer Revision Programme

Best Wishes,

✧・゚: *✧・゚:* Shabnam*:・゚✧*:・゚✧


Studying during the summer holidays- and why you should consider doing it

Sometimes, I imagine ticking off the following list:

  • I have done all the pre-reading for a lecture
  • All my notes are completed prior to the lecture
  • I spend my lectures annotating around them calmly, not rushing to add loads of information as I have already included 85% of the points the professor is mentioning
  • Because I did the pre-reading
  • My attendance is 100%
  • ….and so is my punctuality (yikes!)
  • I review my lectures daily
  • And re-cap all lectures I had during the week over the weekend; utilising Active Recall and Spaced Repetition methods (S/O to Ali Abdaal!)
  • I’m ready for exams a week before they start
  • I’ve covered all content for exams and have not skipped revising any lectures
  • I’ve completed 5 years worth of past papers for each module
  • I’ve done further reading and can draw stellar diagrams for exam essays
  • I don’t burn out, and keep a record of atleast four hours of revision a day
  • I complete lab reports/assignments three days before they are due

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And then I wake up from this dream of mine and realise the what my work ethic is actually like:

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But, for the first time in my life, I’m going to change that around!

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By organizing myself over the summer.

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I’ve already begun by organising the past papers for the modules I signed up for next year which you can read about here, if you want to learn the way I do it.

Albeit, I will be bogged down with pre-medical school application prep, but all the same, there are little things I could do to get myself into gear.

How to Prepare for the Upcoming Year Over the Summer Holidays:

  1. Get ahold of past exams: I swear by this rule. Past papers, past papers, past papers. Read through the questions and annotate each one with the topic they discuss.  When it comes to revision, you can simply prioritize the topics they question on the most.
  2. Brainstorming: I remember talking about brainstorming and mind mapping as a revision tool eons ago, so far back that I cannot even html link you lot to that specific post. For each of the topics in the past papers, read up on them, and brainstorm a page of points.
  3. Recommended Reading: For those of you who don’t know, usually you can e-mail the Module Co-ordinators of the prospective courses you’d like to take and request a viewing of the Mini-Guide (i.e. Curriculum/Syllabus) for a general idea about what is going to be taught in order to make a more informed decision. See? Perks of being friends with the intelligent, academic people who sit at the front of lecture halls. If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t have known about this little trick. Usually, the mini-guide (which outlines all the lecture topics that are to be taught in that semester for that module) will also highlight recommended texts, articles, and exam layout. Sometimes, the university website will tell you what to read as well so it’s worth looking there for information.

I remember reading about a man on Quora who read all the recommended textbooks for each of his classes in college during the first week of term whilst all the other students went out partying. He just ploughed through, reading along, although it seemed like “latin” to him at the time (that’s how he described it, if I remember correctly).

It turns out, when classes began, he managed to pick up a lot quicker than the other students, performed better, and even had lengthy discussions with the professors during class about concepts the class had to grapple with. I’m guessing that because he exposed his mind to the material once, it became less intimidating to him. There’s some truth in confidence. There’s lots of comfort in familiarity.

I really wish I saved that answer somewhere. It was a good read. I’m not the type to press for spending fresher’s week reading textbooks, unless you like that sort of thing. But maybe try to suss out what’s going on the next year in school, college, university etc.

By working hard now, you’re doing your future self a favour.

Best Wishes,

☆.。.:* Shabnam.。.:*☆

Tackling Past Paper Essay Practise

Hello children.

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If you have finals- good luck! If they’re over, like mine are, good luck for results day!

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Okay now let’s get to the good stuff.

Past paper practise has hands down been the most effective revision tool I have ever used. In fact, I would go as far to say that doing past papers can give you 10 extra marks in the exam. There is no scientific evidence to this. It’s just what I tell myself. I also tell myself being confident for an exam can give you 5 extra marks. It just gives me a bit of a push, that mentality. But what the hell do I know. Ignore me.

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Anyway, moving on.

This September I will be in my final year of university (Oh my god, did time really go that quickly?! Remember when I first started A level back in September 2014- it’s been 4 years!). I did quite a good job of blogging about second year, and keeping track of my studies. For that reason alone I think I was able to perform better this year. Of course, I had the occassional slip up, and could’ve done things a lot differently.

Baby steps, I suppose.

For third year, I’m going to cannonball into keeping myself in check academically. Especially since I will be applying to medical school this year.

God, where was I..

Right. Third Year. Exam structure: essays. Second Year had exam essays that accounted for 25% of the mark. Third year exams comprise of 2 essays which contribute to 100% of the module mark.

Here’s how I tackled them using past paper (from 2nd Year PPQ practise):

  1. Going through the last 5 years worth of past papers. For Nutrition: Part One, this proffered 16 essay questions in total. 5 years worth of past papers if often enough to get through without the syllabus diverging too much. Unless it’s subjects like Maths, Physics, or Chemistry. Then I would say hit every past paper your university provides and then scavenge for more on the internet.
  2. Split the essay questions according to groups: Appetite, Immunonutrition, and Dietary Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease came up the most (3 each; total: 9/16).
  3. Create an essay plan per topic, not per essay. Your essay plan should span across all the questions pertaining to that topic. This is incredibly useful for revision: you get majority of content covered for those lectures at once, and essay questions tend to repeat themselves- thereby ultimately saving you a lot of time. (In fact, for Immunology this year, I managed to cover all the Vaccination lectures with this method- and the notes only came up to a 6/7 sides ~ 3 pages or so).

An example of this:


As you can see, I have colour coded similar parts of both questions, and then organised an overall essay plan that addresses everything at once. I have also included Further Reading, Diagram, and Tables– anything to flesh out an essay and score even higher marks.

Another top tip: E-mail your essays to your lecturers. You are paying them. This time around, I sent out e-mails and did essays for all my modules. Lecturers replied to every single one of them, with additional feedback and sometimes a predicted grade for each essay. They also told me what to include, what to avoid, what to develop upon. It was great and served me well in the exam.

Seriously when you’re prepared, it’s such a nice feeling to walk out of an exam knowing you passed.

Below, I’ve uploaded an Immunology Past Paper Essay Question from Second Year that actually came up in the exam. Feel free to see how I’ve organized it.

Vaccination Essays

From doing extensive past paper practise, you can also look for the things they haven’t asked recently, or asked enough about. This can help predict what’s more likely to come up in the year you are to sit the exam.

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Best Wishes,