For the past several weeks, everyone in my class had been freaking about about this thing here called the Integrated Exam. It basically tests us on all of the anatomy, biochem, and physiology that we’ve learned from the first three weeks of school. I should clarify that this Integrated Exam was a baby exam. There were only 10 anatomy questions, 10 physiology questions, and 30 biochemistry questions. All in all, this exam makes up a tiny portion of your grades and is not as significant as an actual midterm or final exam.
If it isn’t even worth a lot, why have this exam at all? Well it was put in place several years ago after the students would completely fail the first real midterm. They were caught off guard with the amount of material and how much studying was actually required. Therefore, the Integrated Exam was added into the schedule within the first month of school in order to let the students get a feel for how efficiently they’re studying. In order words, it’s an early warning system. For example, let’s say you get a 30% on the anatomy section. I’m no genius but that probably means you didn’t study enough or are not studying correctly. Luckily for us, the Integrated Exam isn’t worth a whole lot (except mayyybe the biochemistry part). So doing badly is not really the end of the world assuming that you get it together before the midterm.
Okay, so how much did I study for this exam? I would say “a lot”. I would have class from 8-5, eat dinner really fast, then go to the library and study until they close at 12am, and then come back to my apartment and study another hour or two. I thought I was studying more than the average student in my class, but this didn’t seem to be the case based on the higher than expected averages.
At NSU, you get percentage grades for the first two years and you get ranked against your classmates. I love the people in my class, but they scare me. Remember your first day of general chemistry in undergrad and half the class didn’t know what an atom was? Yeah, none of that here. Everyone works hard, everyone is smart, everyone is driven, and everyone is studying as much as humanly possible.
I did okay on both anatomy and physiology, and our biochem scores aren’t out yet. I wish I could have done better. I didn’t screw up, but just doing “okay” on an exam is something that I am not used to. The worst part about all of this is that this was a baby exam on only three weeks worth of material and I feel like I studied a ton. Maybe I need to study smarter? How bad is a midterm or final going to be? How much more am I supposed to be studying? I don’t even think I can keep up that study schedule I was doing right before the Integrated Exam because it seriously drained me. Anyway, I’m glad we had this test because it has taught me a lot about my own studying and medical school exams.
1.) Forget cramming. You’re probably thinking this is a no-brainer, but it’s REALLY easy to fall behind in medical school. Things literally get stacked up and classes do not wait for you to catch up. Our exam was on a Friday and we were being tested on material that we had gone over on Thursday. Don’t even bother to try and cram a ton of lectures. Just go to sleep. You will remember probably 0% of whatever you tried to cram. It was doable in undergrad because there wasn’t a lot of material, but it’s impossible in medical school.
2.) If you really need to, skip lecture. One of the great things about NSU is that they got rid of their mandatory attendance policy. If you think you’ll be more productive going to the library and studying instead of sitting through 4 hours of lecture, then by all means skip lecture. I did it (and so did almost everyone in my class) and it was so productive.
3.) Sleep is still important. Studying until 1:00 AM and waking up at 6:00 AM to get to class on time was doable in undergrad. I was younger, in better shape, and crazier. I’m just too old now to sleep only 4 hours a night and still power through the day. I noticed that I was less focused, and unable to stay awake for long periods of time in class. I think I need at least 6 hours of sleep to function and be productive, 7 hours the night before an exam.
4.) Study ahead. I didn’t realize how important this was until I was studying for the test. It gives you so much of an advantage. While it’s the first time I might be seeing the material in lecture, it’s someone else’s second or third time. By the time the lecture has ended, they have a solid grasp on the big concepts and maybe have even started to memorize/remember the smaller details. Meanwhile, I’m just herp-derping from one lecture to the next.
5.) Don’t panic. Med school is hard and it will be hard for everyone (people that say otherwise are either geniuses or liars). I had a mini panic attack when I realized how behind I was on pretty much everything except for anatomy, and my friend was in tears when she realized just how much material is tested on this “mini” exam. Just remember that everyone’s going through the same thing together, and if you’re consistent and smart with your studying, you will be okay. At least that’s what I’m going to tell myself so I don’t freak out again.
What else did I learn from the Integrated Exam? First of all, I used this long weekend to catch up on all the classes I’ve been neglecting. Our physiology professor told us that studying only for what’s on the next test is a bad idea, and now I definitely can see why. In a couple weeks, we have 7 written midterms and lab practical exams crammed into a 2 week time period. Am I supposed to study for the first midterm (anatomy) and then give myself only 2 days to cram for the next midterm? No! I have to space out everything else and be simultaneously studying multiple classes at the same time. Secondly, I’m going to read ahead and review. My current plan is to use Saturdays to go over the material covered the week before, and use Sundays to glance at what will be covered the following week. I’m also going to use a couple hours everyday to reinforce what I learned in lecture, and then spend several more hours reviewing things from previous lectures that I’m still fuzzy on. I’m not sure how effective or realistic this plan is, but I’ll keep you all updated on how well it works based on how well/crappy I do on my anatomy midterm in a couple of weeks.
Last thing I wanted to mention is the post-exam party. It was epic (duh, we’re in South Florida). You work hard, you play hard!
And to all the NSU interviewees this cycle: Good Luck!!!! I’ll try to drop by and say hi if I can. Just relax! And for the love of God, cherish your freedom while you can. CHERISH IT!!!