The medical school years and how to survive them

In recent years, studying medicine has changed, and so too has university life in general. There are now new methods of teaching, but also larger financial burdens on students. Having said this, medicine continues to be a very worthwhile and popular degree to study.

This chapter highlights the aspects pertinent to the successful completion of your medical school years.

The preclinical years

British medical courses are generally five or six years long (the extra year usually culminating in the award of a BMedSci/BSc or BA in Oxford or Cambridge). These are optional degrees that give the opportunity to do an extra amount of personal research into a chosen specialty.

There are two types of course on offer:

  • PBL (problem-based learning)
  • systems- or subject-based learning.

PBL is a way of learning that is completely different from what most of you are used to, and is becoming increasing popular at university. PBL involves small-group work around a particular clinical scenario, working together to teach yourselves the knowledge needed. While you are supervised, the emphasis is on finding the information for yourself. The good points of PBL are that it allows you to manage your workload more freely and that, if done correctly, it can make you very good at researching. However, the group needs to work together to get the work done and make the sessions interactive.

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