by Vignesh Vetrivel
At the start of the year, you may well be feeling like you’ve just completed the hardest year of medicine ever anywhere in the world, and you are being rewarded with the easiest year possible. Sadly this is a bit of a fallacy. In part II, you literally get out of it as much as you put in. Yes, lectures will be a lot less frequent and reduced in volume. Yes, you will rejoice at all the free time you seem to have in your timetable. However, this time was built into your timetable for a reason.
First of all, let’s talk about lectures. Unlike Part 1A & 1B, few of the Part II lecturers will provide handouts of their lectures. In addition, the lecture slides may well be minimalistic, involving just a few words and diagrams. You may find yourself struggling to keep up with copying down everything on the screen as well as listening out for those little gems of wisdom provided from the lecturer’s mouth. I would strongly advise printing out your own copy of the lecture slides, and this involves actually preparing the night before. Honestly it only takes 5 minutes before you start pre-drinking for MedSoc Q-jump. Log onto CamTools, find the lecture, print. Sorted. Now you can just listen out for the important supplementary information from the lecturer.
If you ever sat down and reviewed any of your Part 1 lectures, you may have found yourself wondering how so much information exists in Medicine, let alone the world. If you do the same with a Part 2 lecture, there is hardly any actual information. These lectures are the mere skeleton of your learning this year. Remember all that free time you had? That was intended for you to add the muscles, organs and skin to that frame. And that means reading papers. Real, hot off the press science.
So you’ve probably never actually read a medical journal paper before and this may seem like a daunting task. It need not be. Get yourself onto www.pubmed.com. Now the lecturer may have given you a reference list of the papers s/he used. If there are any important papers that form the bulk of the lecture they may be worth reading. Sometimes the reference list will give you some review articles to read (basically a summary of all the experiments related to a particular subject). Quite often, the review will have been written by the lecturer themselves, and will be very similar to the lecture itself. In my experience, I found reading reviews a massive waste of time – just use the lecture as a review, because that is basically what it is. The real marks come from reading new original papers. I personally largely ignored the reference list provided by the lecturer. Instead, consider try and divide the lecture into subheadings. About 4-6 per lecture will do. For each subheading, type the subheading followed by the current year in the pubmed search bar e.g. thyroid hormone function 2012. Find 1 or 2 appropriate papers for each subheading. If you are having trouble finding papers, then have a look at a review to find some good ones.
When reading papers, you need to be efficient. Papers can take a long time to read, and you don’t need to waste all of that new found free time. To be honest, you won’t have the time or sanity to read papers in their entirety. Just focus on the abstract and pick out the important points. For each of those points, make a little sketch of any relevant diagrams in the body of the paper. Note down the first author and year of publication, also make a note of this in the appropriate section of the lecture handout, so you can easily refer to the paper when you come to revise or write practice essays.
Practise Essays and Supervisions
These are essential if you want to succeed in the end of year exams. Look at past essay questions and have a go. You don’t need to do these to time or closed book at the start. By Easter holidays though, you need to be heading in that direction. Also if I’m perfectly honest, you don’t necessarily need to be doing these essays from the start of the year, but when you do eventually buckle down, make sure you cover a wide range of essays from all the modules you are studying. I realise the department recommend doing 6-8 essays per term, but you need to find what works for you. If doing essays regularly is what is going to motivate you to learn the material, then that’s what you should require. If you are like me, you may find it sufficient to just accumulate notes on papers, so it is ready in one place to learn when the time comes. When you do write essays, try and incorporate as many references from your reading as you can, as long as they are relevant to the essay title. Illustrate your points with diagrams. Consider using subtitles to break down your essays and to provide structure.
Supervisions are completely at your discretion this year. You won’t have weekly supervisions that’s you need to keep remembering to run to, instead it is your responsibility to organise them. In order to do this, email the lecturer whose topic it is you want a supervision on, and arrange a convenient time for the two of you. However, do not feel it is necessary to have a supervision on every single topic. If you understand a topic and have done plenty of reading and are satisfied that you are comfortable with the material, then it may not be necessary.
If you have written any essays, I recommend having a supervision with the relevant lecturer to go over it.
Along as the modules you study, you will be expected to do a lab based project or a dissertation. I won’t say much on this as all projects and dissertations are different. Be prepared to devote time to lab practicals or hours in the library finding relevant information.
During Lent term, there will be a ‘Poster Presentation’ event run by the PDN department. This is intended to replicate real experiences in science, in which you will be asked to present a poster on your project, its background, any results and resulting analysis. This doesn’t count for your end of year grade, but you don’t want to look like a moron in front of your peers and lecturers. A little effort is all it needs.
At the start of Easter term you will be expected to hand in an 8,000 word write up. Have a look at some old projects to get an idea of how to go about this. Based on this you will have a viva. Make sure you know your project inside out and are able to talk about its relevance in its respective scientific field. This viva is important as it will impact on the grade you receive for your project.
That’s all the tips I have for you guys, especially as Part II was a couple of years ago for me. It will take a while to get into the swing of things at the start of the year, but you will soon get used to it. Try and enjoy the year if you can, after all you did choose to study it! Good luck!