So I survived…

My class just finished our first round of medical school exams. We had 7 exams in a 2 week time period and everyone was, of course, freaking out. This will be a longer post than usual just because I want take the time to comment on each of the tests that we took. I’m hoping it’ll give some insight as to what it’s like being a med student here.

Sept. 16th- Anatomy (lecture): The tension going into this test was particularly high because it was our first actual exam (people freaking out details here). I think if our OPP or biochemistry test came first, it would have helped us ease into the whole medical school exam thing, but of course, we had to have our first midterm on anatomy. I felt pretty good going into the exam but not that great coming out. The questions about the lower extremity were significantly more difficult than the ones regarding the upper extremity. After reading some of the questions, I was just like:


One of the questions gave a scenario in which you had a patient who was in a great deal of pain because a car had backed up onto his leg. It didn’t say anything about what position the patient was in when he got run over, it didn’t say which leg was injured, it was just incredibly unspecific. Then the question asked which ligament of the knee was most likely damaged. Uhhh I don’t know, all of them? He just got run over by a freaking car.

My class felt that question was unfair because of how vague it was, and there were several others that we thought had multiple correct answers, so we petitioned for a regrade. End result: the professor accepted all answers for two of the questions, which was sweet because it boosted my grade by 4%. Woo-hoo!

Sept. 16th- Anatomy (lab): Our anatomy lab practical was later in the afternoon and the whole class got divided up into two groups. Group B went first and Group A had to be locked up in the histology lab while they waited for us to finish (I can only imagine how badly people were losing it in there). There are basically a bunch of cadaver/body part stations with a tag on a structure, and you have 1 minute to identify the structure that’s tagged and answer any secondary questions that are also listed. Super easy, right? Not exactly. I think most people underestimated the practical because they thought that since they knew the structures in an atlas, they could figure it out if it was tagged on a body. Seeing things in a book is way different from actually seeing it in 3D. Things just aren’t as clean cut. I went to open lab pretty much every day starting a week before the exam just so I got used to looking different structures on multiple bodies. I also went to all the anatomy reviews and mock practicals. Doing all the extra stuff to prep for the practical was totally worth it. Reason being is that our final grade on the midterm is a sum of what we got on the integrated exam (10 questions), the lecture exam (40 questions), and the lab practical (50 questions). This means the written portion of the exam and the lab portion are weighed equally, so there’s a great chance of doing well overall if you ace the practical. Written + lab class avg: 80%, class max: 98%, class min: 44%

Sept. 18th- Physical Diagnosis CSE (Clinical Skills Exam): One of the classes we’re taking this semester is a physical diagnosis course where we pretend to know what we’re doing act like a real doctor. Each group of 6 is assigned to a faculty mentor physician and this mentor guides the group on how to take proper patient histories, how to do a full physical exam, how to take vitals, etc. You get paired with a partner within your group and you switch off being the doctor and patient. I actually really like this class because the skills we learn are what we’re going to use for the rest of our careers.

For the CSE, you get assigned a fake clinic room. When the announcer overhead tells you to enter, you knock and let yourself in. Inside, there’s an actor patient who has something wrong with him/her and a faculty member sitting in the room observing everything you do. Honestly, it’s kind of intimidating. The patient actors are very convincing. They even use makeup to mimic an injury and make it look as real as possible. The clinic room also looks like a real clinic room. Not to mention there’s a random physician standing in the corner watching you.

For this CSE, we had 16 minutes to go through an intro, history of present illness, past medical history, social history, family history, review of symptoms, vitals, and skin exam. In total, it’s a list of 86 things. Each item is a point. If you do it correctly, you get the point. If you forget to do it, or do it incorrectly, then you lose the point. Pretty straightforward. You’re not allowed to bring anything into the room with you, so everything needs to be memorized. As long as you remember most of the stuff, it’s really easy to pass. The only difficult part about the CSE is that there are a ton of little things to memorize. For example, you have to ask the pt. about their diet, including caffeine use. If you forget about the caffeine part, you lose the point for the whole thing. Same with doing the skin exam and checking the scalp. If you forgot to ask the patient to remove clips/pins in the hair, you lost the point. Most people got docked off not because they didn’t know what to do, but because they missed the little details associated with each task.

Sept. 20th- OPP (lecture): Lecture exam was pretty doable. The only hard part about it was the lymph section because some of the questions were really specific. I think most people (including myself) crammed for this exam immediately after we finished the CSE. I think in one of my previous posts, I said something along the lines of “forget cramming”. I take that back. I think when you’re in medical school and registered for 11 classes, cramming is somewhat inevitable, especially for classes like OPP and CSE where it’s not hard science. Class avg: 90%, class max: 100%, class min: 71% (that means everyone passed!)

Sept. 20th- OPP (lab): If you told me a year ago that I would one day be nervously waiting in a hallway half naked with twenty-three other 20-something year olds, I would have said, “I want to be a doctor, not a model”. But this ain’t a Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show audition- it’s an OPP lab practical.

There were three stations: a bony landmarks/range of motion station, a lymph station, and a posture station. Each station is worth 16 points. Before entering, you get assigned a station number and letter. If you get the letter A, it means you’ll start off as the doctor. If you get the letter B, it means you’ll start off as the patient. You and your partner go through 6 stations total and switch off being the doctor and patient. The person who is the doctor is the person who gets graded by the OPP fellow/faculty member.

If you get a buff or larger person as a partner, the grader is supposed to take that into consideration since it may be difficult doing some of the techniques or identifying the body structures. I’m so glad I got a skinny girl as my partner because it gave me one less thing to worry about. The great thing about the OPP lab practical is that you can get hints. It will cost you two points, but it’s better than losing all the points for a technique. The beginning of the exam was pretty nerve-wracking, but the setting itself was very relaxed and the people grading us were really nice. Class avg: 92%, class max: 100%, class min: 60%

Sept. 23- Physiology: Ah yes, the dreaded physio exam. To all you future NSU students, here’s a protip: you literally must memorize everything for this class. The professor will take a 4 word sentence from the huge/incredibly dense packet and ask a question from it. I wish I was exaggerating, but you really need to know the packet cold. Unfortunately, I had to cram for this exam in three days because I was too busy worrying about anatomy, physical diagnosis, and OPP. I wish I kept up with it earlier, but oh well, can’t do anything about it now. I’ll just have to try harder on the next exam. Considering how badly people were freaking out, my class as a whole did okay. Class avg: 73%, class max: 95%, class min: 31% (ouch).

I really need to up my game for this class. We just started cardio physiology last week and we got another HUGE packet. It’s even denser than the previous one and on a subject that I am completely and utterly unfamiliar with. I am also having a hard time taking this new packet seriously because the whole thing is in Comic Sans font. Let me say that again: we’re in medical school and our cardiophys packet is in Comic Sans. Yeah, I just can’t.

Sept. 27- Biochemistry: We had 4 days to study for biochemistry after physio, so everyone was a lot more relaxed. We actually all walked across the street to a bar after the physio exam to get drinks and just take a mini-break before we geared up for biochem.

I think out of all the classes we’re taking this semester, biochemistry is the most disorganized. We have something like 4 professors that come in an teach it to us and sometimes, the information on their lectures conflict with each other. They also take forever to grade exams and are just really slow at keeping the class informed. We’ve brought this up to the Dean, but since biochemistry is not in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, they can’t actually do anything about it.

Anyway, the exam for this test was harder than I thought it was going to be, but I ended up doing fine. Class avg: 82%, class max: 100%, class min: 47%

The past two weeks have been pretty hellish, but it feels so nice to be done!


Now I get to catch up on all the sleep lectures I neglected while studying for those exams. It’s been about two weeks since our anatomy midterm and since then, we’ve already flown through the thorax packet and have already started the abdomen packet. It’s so much material. I decided to get a tutor for both anatomy and physio just so it forces me to review what I learned and hopefully helps to reinforce the material. It’s $30 per hour for 1-on-1 tutoring. We’ll see if it’s worth it.

I feel like this post is long enough so I’ll stop here. Plus, I should probably go study.




  1. Hehe so many things like nervousness and little memorization bits seem so familiar. But we never have performed physical exams on one another because we have standardized patients during a testing scenario… but a Sunday night potluck turns way more interesting when you practice cardio/neuro/etc exams after dinner with everyone that came!

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