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How to practice OSCEs, make friends and pass medical exams
  • 09 Aug 2022
  • Medical School

Akshi, a 3rd year at Imperial College London and subscriber to Pastest's Medical Student Finals resource, shares his tips on making friends as a fresher and the path to medical exam success (including the dreaded OSCEs) as he looks back on his experiences. 


Hi, my name is Akshi. I am a 3rd year medical student at Imperial College London University, and this is my medical journey so far...

Medical School is amazing. Most of the time. The thing is, on top of learning every bit of anatomy as well as knowing the mechanism of actions of 15 different antibiotics AND learning the pathophysiology, diagnostics and treatment plans of various diseases whilst trying to get 30 minutes to make the band rehearsal so that you have some sort of an extra-curricular life to stay sane can get...well...a lot!

It's well known that medical school is unique in the sense that it’s really a different type of university life (so much so that some universities have separate clubs for medical students to cater to their terrifyingly upside-down working hours). Having said all that, medical students can be among the happiest and most fulfilled students and I’m going to try (emphasis on the try) to give you a few pointers on fine-tuning your life so that you don’t lose the plot by the time mock exams come around.

Making friends as a 1st year med student

When I started my first year at Imperial, no thanks to a dude called ‘COVID-19’, I didn’t have an enthralling social life but in hindsight, some of my best friends honestly came from my tutorial groups. Whilst it’s slightly harder when you’re on Zoom and everyone’s got their cameras off, being on campus and actively engaging with your tutorial groups can help you very quickly make friends, who you will see every day.

Obviously, you don’t have to always make friends with your tutorial groups – societies, clubs or whatever they’re called at your university - are the hallowed tomb of friendships (you make a lot of friends there). A common error students make is saying that they’re not very good at a sport/instrument/hobby and would feel ‘out of place’ at a society, or that ‘they’re in their third year and are far too old for this’. Neither of those is true; most students are trying societies for the first time, or deciding to bump up their extra-curricular activities, late on into their university life. Also remember if you’re not a fan of sport or music there are plenty of other societies like academic societies!

Sometimes, though, this can all feel like a lot of effort. Remember that making friends isn’t something that you should be scheduling – these things normally happen with time and often without you realising. Do what you enjoy, and you’ll naturally feel like you’re making the right friends. But if it feels like it’s been ages and you’re still not in a ‘social circle’, don’t worry – it took me nearly a year to find my closest group of friends (it was all worth it!).

The path to medical exam success

Now how do you do the hard stuff – like pass your exams without resorting to the annual Anki festival three days before your first exam? A massive part of success is knowing your capabilities. A lot of my mistakes come from overestimating what I can do. For example, coming back at 6:30pm after a long shift on placement, does not leave me in the best place to complete three lectures at two times the speed. However, it doesn’t completely write-off the day – I could still do flashcards for half an hour and spend the rest of the day relaxing. Burning out is a really bad thing in medical school because it can leave you worn out for ages and that’s never ideal. Try to fit in at least 15-30 minutes of something productive each day (doesn’t have to be Anki every single day).

What about OSCEs?

Well, that very much is different gravy. I mean that’s a whole different ballpark, a different league if you will. There’s little deskwork that’s truly helpful for those exams and a big part is using your placements so that you have less work to do at home. You can easily revise by practicing on patients (who are willing of course, do not wake Doris up at 5:30pm for a cardio exam). I’ve been on about five different placements and found that often, patients are willing to be subject to your practice – find the right junior doctors who will help you out and the ward is very much your oyster.

You can also practice history taking on…anyone. Even your friends. To be honest this is something you can do whenever, wherever if you have another person. Switch up the conditions or presentations to make things fun (doing 15 different chest pain histories gets boring very quickly). Just try and focus on this whilst you’re on placement or out with friends so that when you get home you can prepare for your written exams.

That’s all though that I can think of – I’m only in my third year and it means I’ve got a LOT to learn and a LOT to still go through so I’m not one to pretend that I hold the almighty sceptre of information about success at medical school. But I’d like to think I’ve learnt a bit. And hopefully by reading this, you have too.

  • 09 Aug 2022
  • Medical School