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Medical exam, Words of wisdom

Medical Exam Dec: WHile preparing for any exam, one inadvertently also starts planning so many other things that one would do after the exams. However, just when you have all the time in the world to do anything and everything, you become too slothful to actually get a single thing done. Something like this also happens when one is through with the aptitude test for a desired medical college.
The response of people when they hear that you actually made it to your dream destination in addition to your own inner feelings of reassurance about the fact that the tag of 'doctor' will soon be a part of your recognition may be so overwhelming that it takes a while for the anticipation to die down.

It is only when the student realises that the celebration is over and that it is time again to get serious about studies is when reality about medicine not being a child's play strikes. There is a great deal of knowledge to get yourself familiarised with within a limited span of time.

You learn with experience. It is only after the first professional medical exam that students realise how the different subjects are to be tackled so that they are retained in the mind for as long as possible. However, how so better would it be were there someone to tell you all this when you needed to know about it, that is, before the first year. So this little article here should serve as a guideline for all first year medical students. It will show you how to approach the seemingly back-breaking subjects and how to turn them into relatively manageable ones.

Anatomy is one subject that gives a really hard time to the students for the simple reason that has been further divided. There is Anatomy itself as Gross Anatomy along with Histology, Embryology and General Anatomy. Then there is Physiology, which brings along with itself another cause for worry. Though interesting and easier than Anatomy, it is rather lengthy. Biochemistry is the shortest of all but it was the subject for which I had to refer to most books as every teacher presented us with his/her own favorite treatise and only in the end did I come to the conclusion as to which books are meant for me.

Books to follow
What troubles students the most is which book to follow. And who else to provide the best answer to this dilemma than your seniors. They are the real saviors. Whichever book you follow, it must offer at least as much detail as the teacher emphasises. It is also equally vital to understand the language and style of the book. Some are written in a more reader-friendly manner than others. Hence it is a good idea to have a look at all the standard publications. The college library comes in handy here and the books one finds appealing can all be used for reference.

No matter which books your teachers or seniors ask you to go for, study from the ones you understand the best. The likes and grasping ability of every individual varies and so does the complexity level of each book. Though it is important to follow the books as the teacher expects from you, the only thing that matters in the end is whether you know the stuff or not.

Thin or bulky?
Some students think smart and prefer thin books to the bulky ones. The thin variety works wonders, but only in the case of revision. They are not meant to quench the need of the volume of knowledge required to build concepts. Moreover, since no thin book provides a perfect summary of the bulky one, a student can do a great deal of good for him/herself by adding in the missing points from detailed books to the shorter versions during the course of study. This really helps in the final exams when you need a concise compilation of the bulky textbooks for a rapid and effective review.

Study pattern
Though attending classes is important for all the subjects, it is most important for Anatomy. The teacher helps you understand by using various interactive modes of teaching like multimedia and models. Illustrations play a very significant role in retaining Anatomy knowledge, Human Atlas by Netter being famous for this purpose. Mc Minn's Colour Atlas for Human Anatomy is also a good choice for illustrations in bone marking. There are tempting illustrative books available for Histology, Embryology as well as other subjects too that are worth spending money on.

Models, both soft and plastic, should be considered as important a tool for learning as the books. Therefore, dissection classes should be regularly attended and taken interest in. Anatomy museum must be visited often too.

Mnemonics have always been a sound source of learning. They are easily available on various sites on the Internet and can be created by you as well. Different DVDs and sites can ease the burden by providing excellent three-dimensional figures for some extremely convoluted knowledge.

Once in the field of medicine, any form or source of knowledge should be more than welcome. Various informative programmes on TV, instructive sites, video/audio cassettes and CD/DVDs, ebooks, etc., should all be used to strengthen ideas and perception. A medical student should learn to develop a keen eye. Medical reports, hospital visits, medicine-related novels and health magazines can all be used to broaden the scope of thought and understanding.

Learned from your seniors as well as the teachers the type of questions that constitute an exam and the way to solve them. The question type may vary in case of different subjects. Preparation for exams should begin right from the start. Studying one topic should be followed by solving questions about that subject. There is no need to keep track of the number of books solved, the more the better. Seniors can help in telling which books are important from an exam point of view. Past papers should also be solved.

As for vivas, they are simply inevitable. They are a part of every exam, therefore preparation of every topic should be done keeping in mind that both written and oral exams are to be dealt with.

Theory exams require extensive study while the questions put to you during viva are supposed to be a common knowledge. Nevertheless, it is more a matter of luck as to which teacher gets to take the viva exam and the way he/she likes to do it. Whatever the case, only true hard work, willpower and interest can make studying medicine a joyful experience for you.

By Komal Motwani (Dawn)

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