Student survival guides

These are our own student survival guides. Students have taken the time to tell you what they wish they knew before they started and give you some advice.

Year One

Welcome to your first year at BSMS! It’s completely normal to be a mixture of excitement and nerves at this point, so try not to worry! Staff, fellow freshers, and your medic parents are all here to help and make sure you have a fantastic year! Below you will find a guide to the year, giving you basic information about lots of aspects of Year 1. This guide attempts to cover everything so is quite long, but you will get more detailed information about all this stuff from the medical school itself, so this is just an introduction – don’t get bogged down in the detail!

The Phase 1 (year 1 and 2) curriculum is broken down into 4 modules per year. Your clinical practice module (101) is taught on the University of Brighton campus, and runs throughout the year. The other modules (102, 103, 104) run from the medical school building on the University of Sussex campus, and are more science-focussed, running on a one-a-term basis. The first of these is called Foundations of Health and Disease, and will be broken further into several themes.
University is different to school/college in the sense that most of your teaching is done through lectures. The nice thing about BSMS is that because we have such small year groups, everyone has all their lectures together! Lecturers should upload their PowerPoint slides to StudentCentral, so you can use these to help you learn. The audio from lectures is also recorded using software called Camtasia, however this softwareis unavailable this year, so you may have to rely on recordings from a previous year. Different people use the lectures in different ways – some people find it useful to print out the slides and annotate in pen, others like bringing in a laptop and typing notes, and some like to make notes from scratch. Use the first few weeks as a chance to experiment with different styles of learning, if you don’t already know what suits you!
Some teaching is also done through module tutorials. These are smaller group seminars that are led by one of your lecturers or another member of staff, focussing on aspect of one theme in particular. These tend to be more revision than teaching new material, so it’s useful to look over what’s been happening in that theme’s lectures before the session so that you have some idea of what’s going on! Anatomy tutorials are an exception, as these tend to cover newer material as well as revising the old. You will also receive some anatomy teaching through dissection, which is fantastic way to learn, and we are very lucky at BSMS to have the opportunity! You will get plenty more information about dissection at the beginning of term 1.
One question that everybody wants the answer to is ‘how much work do I have to do?’ The unfortunate answer is that it’s different for everybody, but it will be a considerable amount over the term. Don’t be put off by this – you’re at medical school, you’re here to study, but the subject matter tends to be more interesting than school work so it will be easier to motivate yourself to work! It is possible to cram all the information into your brain in the last two weeks of term and pass the exam. However, these would likely be two difficult and stressful weeks, and so putting in consistent work throughout the term is definitely advisable! What is more, it’s important to remember that you’re not just learning for exams any more – one day there will be patients out there who will rely on you knowing your stuff, so it might be a good idea to commit some of it to long-term memory!

On a Tuesday, your life will be slightly different to every other day of the week! This is because Tuesday is your clinical day. These are all taught on the University of Brighton campus – quite a walk if you live in Lewes Court, make sure you’re up early enough! These days have more or less the same formula throughout the term. You will have a lecture first (this may be broken up into several smaller talks), followed by a short break. Then you will break off into smaller seminar groups, led by your clinical facilitator (who will be the same for the whole year) to discuss the subject of the lecture and sometimes put some of it into practice. In the afternoon you will have a ward-based placement, a secondary care placement (hospital or an out-of-hospital clinic), a practical teaching session on campus, or the afternoon off.
You will be pleased to hear that this module is different in the sense that the material from the lectures itself is not directly assessed! This does not mean that you shouldn’t go to the lectures, however, as the material covered will be discussed and used in the seminars. Furthermore, you will soon find that the only way to improve your clinical skills (history-taking, physical examination etc) is practice, and the lectures will point you in the right direction, here.

Another common question is ‘what books should I buy?’ The short answer is that there is no requirement to buy any. All the books that you will need will be in any/all of the Sussex, Brighton, or BSUH (Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals) libraries. Also, the vast majority of the material that you will need for the exams will be in the material that you are given/taught in the sessions, so whilst you may be encouraged to read around the subject (which is never a bad thing!), it is not essential to passing the exams.
On the other hand, lecturers will recommend books (some may even try to flog books that they have authored!) that could be helpful, should you choose to use them. This can be especially helpful if you’re struggling to understand a topic from the lecture slides/notes (this is completely normal!), and are looking for some clarification. Most people will find using an anatomy textbook every now and then useful during the first year, and most people last year chose to buy Gray’s Anatomy for Students (purchasable from the shop in the University of Sussex library). This book (and lots of others that you may use) is available online through subscriptions that the university buys for you – you’ll get more information about accessing these in induction week.
In addition to topics that you might struggle with, you may also be asked to use books as research for assignments you are set (again, more on assessment and assignments later!). Definitely don’t go out and buy these – you will probably use them for a maximum of a few weeks and then not again for a while, if ever. The bottom line is that you should never buy a book without knowing that you will get good use out of it over time. University level textbooks are very expensive, and unless you’re REALLY keen on cell biology, in most cases not worth buying.
In addition to books, there are other materials out there that can be very useful when studying. For the clinical practice module, BSMS has produced videos on history taking and various clinical examinations that you will learn, and although some of these are old, they are useful for learning the material. There are hundreds more of these kinds of videos on YouTube that aren’t produced by BSMS which can also be helpful, but beware – these may contain information that you don’t need to know, or not cover things that you do need to know. Always make sure you’re learning the right stuff!
For the science-based modules, some lecturers produce videos on some topics, which are very useful. There is also a plethora of resources on the internet to help clarify any cloudiness in your understanding, as well as satisfying your academic hunger! As above, however, be careful what you’re learning.

As you will soon learn, it is very important that you have interests outside of medicine. If you allow medicine to consume your whole life while you are at medical school, you will find it very difficult to succeed and enjoy yourself. Luckily for you, there are plenty of options, so there is definitely something out there for you to get away to!
Going out clubbing works for some people, and can be a good way to relieve stress, though make sure to think about what you’ve got to do the next day (dissection is not a pleasant experience if you are hung over). BSMS sports and societies, as well as those offered by the universities of Brighton and Sussex respectively, are another fantastic way to take your mind off work. They are a great way to get to know other people both in your own year group as well as throughout the medical school. Societies need committees, and many will look for representatives from first year – this is a great opportunity, get involved if you find something you’re interested in! Similarly, getting involved with MedSoc is highly recommended.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you do, only that you do something other than medicine while you’re here!

Another thing that you will learn is that in addition to being great fun, medical school can be quite difficult! Whether this is stressing you out, or something outside your studies is bothering you, or even a combination of both, support is always at hand at BSMS! The medical has a dedicated Student Support department who are dedicated to making sure you aren’t held back by any issues you may have. You will meet them in induction week and during the course of the year, and are lovely people! They want to help, so make use of them if you need it! Likewise, medical is a great place to make new friends. Medics have a different experience of university than most undergraduates, but this brings us closer together. Talk to your colleagues if you’re struggling – nobody finds it easy all the time and somebody is sure to be having similar difficulties to you. It is always best to address difficulties early before they spiral out of control!

Ok, here comes the big one. Feel free to stop reading now! Unfortunately we do have to be assessed on what we learn at medical school, but once you understand it all it will become manageable! Each module is assessed slightly differently.

The clinical practice module is assessed differently from the science-based modules. Each term you will be set a reflective 1500 word essay. Reflective skills are something that you will work on throughout your time at medical school. These tasks are based on critical reflection on clinical practice, which is a fancy way of saying ‘thinking about how medical encounters happen, analysing why they happen that way, and what we can learn from them’. You will be given lots of support with writing these throughout the year, so don’t worry about them too much! You will also be asked to complete a family study, which is closely related to your GP placement.
You will make several visits to a family with a young baby and learn about how the baby develops and how this affects the family. This will culminate in a 3000 word essay which is due just after you return from the Easter break. Again, you’ll get plenty of help with this.
Finally, this module will be assessed with a Formative Clinical Skills Assessment. Here you will be asked to demonstrate some of the clinical skills (history taking, clinical examination, and resuscitation) you have learnt on volunteer patients in front of an examiner in an exam setting. This happens in late May, so don’t fret about it now!

Assessment for these modules is different. At the end of each term you will have a knowledge test (KT), which consists of a combination of multiple choice and short answer questions assessing all of the material covered in each module. Notice that these happen at the end of term – this means no revision in the holidays! You will get about a week and a half towards the end of term when lectures will stop and you will get more time during the day to revise. However, you will need to use this time to revise for both your KT as well as the anatomy assesment. This is the main component of assessment of each module, contributes most towards your module grade, and thus requires the most work!
Each term your anatomy knowledge will be assessed through a 10 item quiz. People get quite worked up about these, but nearly always walk out wondering what all the fuss was about. The assessment is done in the dissection room, and involves being asked questions in your dissection group by one of the anatomy staff. Vivas are formative, which means that they do not count towards your overall module grade. Whilst this is the case, they are very useful as a way of finding out how your anatomy knowledge is in relation to the level it needs to be at for the KT. Moreover, anatomy revision for the viva is also anatomy revision for the KT, so in addition to impressing your friends, a good viva performance will do you no harm when it comes to the bigger exam.
Each term you will also have one main assignment to complete. For module 102 this will be called a module essay, and for 103 and 104 it will be called a student-selected component (SSC). You get to choose which of these you do via a ballot – you rank the options in order of preference, and whilst it is rarely possible for everyone to get their first choice, you won’t end up working on something you have no interest in! Whilst the module essay will always be an essay, the SSC can be assessed via a presentation, an essay, a poster, or a written test.
Modules 103 and 104 also feature module tutorial tests (MTTs). These are regular mini-tests consisting of 12 multiple choice questions from some of the material covered in the prior weeks. These do count towards the final grade of the module, and so you should make sure to prepare for them! In fact, most people find these very useful, as being forced to learn some of the stuff that will be in the exam at intervals throughout the term makes it much easier to revise for the KT!
In term 1 there is one final component of assessment called Academic Skills. This assessment is based on requirements of the GMC (general medical council), who have a role in determining what future doctors learn at medical school. They include a short essay, a presentation, a numeracy test, and an IT test. You have to pass these to pass the module, but do NOT stress about them! They are designed to get you working towards the level of writing/presenting/multiplying and dividing/computer-using of a practising doctor. The academic skills assessment is all supported by your academic tutor, with whom you will meet with every week of term 1. As long as you put in a proportionate amount of work into these assessments, you will pass and do fine!

Looking through all of that it looks like there is quite a lot of assessment, which is probably true. However, it is definitely manageable! Every year 6,000 people like you get to the end of medical school and are pronounced practising doctors – you can make it! You won a place at one of the most competitive medical schools, you definitely have the potential to succeed! Potential and talent can only get you so far, however, and you will have to put some effort in to get there. Having said this, ask any second year student if they enjoyed their first year, and every one of them will say yes. It is possible, encouraged, and fundamentally important to your success that you enjoy yourself, and we promise that with the right balance of work and play, you will have a fantastic first year at medical school!

Year Two

Firstly – congratulations on completing first year! You should all be rested after the long summer break to tackle the four modules that stand in your way to the clinical years. You already know the structure of the terms, what a KT day feels like and how to navigate studentcentral so you’re halfway there. This guide is by no means a bible but, upon reflection of the year, just a few things that I wish someone had told me a year ago.

The thing with second year is you will have hopefully worked out how you learn best through your successes and failures in first year. Just like first year, there is a lot to learn but as long as you know what works for you it will be fine. While you might find yourself working harder than last year because the content is a little more challenging, it is not an impossible task. Do not forget that there is a world outside of medicine and while you feel you may have over committed in becoming a committee member of 4 different societies, you will still have time to keep playing the sport you love or going to every MedSoc social (thank you Megan) or even both – you have just got to manage your time but it is 100% doable! Many people say second year is their favourite because they’ve settled into the phase 1 routine and know the ins and outs of Brighton that mean they can take full advantage of the many things this amazing city and uni has to offer.

So first term is the dreaded neuro term. There are no more MT tests, but you do have two case study-assessments that are basically bigger MT tests. They focus primarily on clinical cases (surprise) and are there to ensure you are keeping on top of the lectures. I found MT tests extremely useful in first year as it meant that I actually had to do work so when it came to week 9 I wasn’t totally clueless but after 202, you are on your own until the KT. I would say very core content for this term is the anatomy of the brain and what each part is supposedly responsible for. Also getting to grips with cranial nerves (this is also very useful for the OSCE) and the foramina they go through would be handy. Understanding this early on would have helped so much as it comes up again and again and would make the rest of the term a lot easier to get to grips with. Brain DR is awesome so get involved! At some point in the term, you may feel like you will never understand the ins and outs of neuro. I promise that if you stick at it something will suddenly click and you will feel enlightened. Also, make friends with some of the medical neuroscience students as you’re sharing the entire module with them.

You still have your clinical days but these are on Thursday. The secondary care placements are so much better than first year, like A&E and ITU. You begin seeing how all the systems fit together and you’ll surprise yourself about how much you remember from Heart, Lungs and Blood when the consultant starts asking you questions. Take full advantage of these sessions and remember that, while it’s not the same as saying you’re a first year, they still don’t expect much from second years – no need to be worried about saying the wrong thing. Advice for the OSCE would be to refresh your knowledge of year 1 clinical skills sooner rather than later (third term is very busy), keep practicing your history taking at your GP placement and don’t leave telling the 201 office that you still haven’t seen your chronic patient (for the essay) until the end of second term…

Second term is all about reproduction and endocrinology. Widely considered the simplest content of second year but do not underestimate how much content there is to actually remember… You also have to produce a Patient Information Leaflet, which is something that you probably never have done before. I would recommend having a look at lots of examples online or when you’re waiting for your secondary care placement to get an idea of their layout and how they word complex medical issues. But no need to even think about this until 2019.

Third term is musculoskeletal and immunology. I don’t think there’s a right way to do this term as everyone did it differently. Some focused on getting their anatomy down early at the expense of immunology and vice versa. (As in every cohort, there will be people who know everything but don’t be put off if you know nothing in the module tutorials. Just like neuro, suddenly things will start falling into place.) There is a lot of dissection in this term and reading the notes before is crucial. I spent the first half of the term absolutely clueless in the DR because I know nothing so it was completely pointless. Putting in just 30 minutes before the session makes DR a lot more worthwhile. On top of everything you have a poster to do and also your OSCE. I would say this term was the most difficult for me because everything was so new so maybe start a little earlier to avoid too much stress. This was the only term where I bought a book, an old edition of “immunology at a glance” off eBay. It was really useful to get the basic principles but immunology has moved on so quickly that it didn’t really match up with the lectures so was not that useful. You can’t win them all. You will most likely be staying off campus in second year so it is now a lot more effort to get to uni. You can’t just roll out of bed at 8:40 and wonder into to a 9am – but that doesn’t mean a night out can’t be managed. I cycled as much as I could. It saves money as you don’t have to buy a bus ticket and it also gets in that much needed exercise. Make sure you get some gloves for winter and be prepared to get super sweaty in the summer so maybe leave some extra time to cool down. It’s also really easy to walk into Brighton from the Lewes Road area and a taxi back isn’t usually more than £5, which you can split between 4. You will also become really inventive at making your own lunch using the random ingredients that aren’t mouldy in your fridge (Robyn’s toast salad is my favourite from last year) and bringing it to lectures because the food on campus is £££. Make sure you invest in a good Tupperware.

Having a house isn’t like living in halls because you’re normally with less people and medics don’t live right next door – pre drinks therefore takes a lot more planning. It’s always nice to invite people round for something like Great British Bake Off or Game of Thrones to make sure you keep socialising and having a break from uni work. I wouldn’t recommend putting any blu tack on your walls as they do stain it and you will lose some of your deposit. If something is wrong in your house, make sure you let the landlord know ASAP and don’t leave it until the end of the year to sort out. We got charged £5 per broken light bulb (absolutely ridiculous) when we moved out our house this year but if we had emailed as soon as there was a problem it would have been sorted for free.

There are some really nice pubs and bars around Brighton that will have seemed too out of the way when you were on campus but now it is time to explore some of these hidden gems. Whether it’s a cheeky morning coffee in Mojo’s or chilling in the Martha Gun beer garden during the summer, there’s something for everyone. And if you want to study, medics dominate Aldrich library in Moulsecoombe during exam period (or so I’m told). Lidl is a short walk away from Lewes Road for those of you on a serious budget. The Open Market is also good for some decent cheap food.

Ultimately, keep calm and you will smash second year. Stay on top of your work but don’t forget to have some downtime. I remember someone telling me during my freshers week that the hardest part of medical school is actually getting in… So enjoy it!

Year Three

Congratulations and welcome to Phase 2!! You have officially survived your first 2 years of medical school and have endured the many lectures, tutorials and assessments of Phase 1. You should be proud of yourself! It’s now time to put all that fresh scientific knowledge and your rudimentary clinical skills to the test in the hospital. It’s fair to say that starting third year is one of the biggest changes you will encounter in medical school. Having to quickly adjust to a new environment, plus develop a new way of learning makes third year perhaps more challenging than your previous 2 years at BSMS. You are bound to be nervous about this change, but just remember all your peers will be feeling exactly the same. Most students worry about whether they will be able to acquire the sheer amount of knowledge thrown at them during third year. Although there is undeniably a lot to learn, you must remember that the aim of third year is to have a breadth of knowledge not depth of knowledge! Despite the nerves, third year will come as a long-awaited breath of fresh air for many students. It’s the pivotal moment where you really start to feel like a doctor…so embrace every minute and enjoy it!

  • General Tips – Be organised from day one of your first rotation (placement block) – Gone are the days where you can rely on your mates to tell you what is happening in the week! Unlike Phase 1, each student pretty much has a unique set of timetables for the different modules of year 3. Some of your friends may be on different rotations or wards to you, therefore it is important to be organised yourself. The best way to do this is to buy a diary and make a note of where you are meant to be during the week. By writing your own master timetable which brings together all your modules, you avoid having to look at several documents at once which can make things confusing. At the start of each rotation spend some time in the library looking for books that may help you with that rotation. There is no point getting books for future rotations…you will only make life harder and more stressful for yourself!
  • Prioritise your workload– From essays to organising group presentations, you will always have something to do when you return home from the hospital! It is very easy to spend an evening relaxing and going over a couple of lectures from the comfort of your bed after a long day in the hospital instead of starting that dreaded SBM essay; however, it’s important to do assignments with deadlines early, as leaving things to the last minute will interfere with preparation for your CbDs (see below) or your summer exams. Going through the notes that you have taken whilst in the hospital, reading books, or going through lecture slides may not always be a top priority!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help– There will come a time during the year when you may be unsure about something you hear on the wards or in a lecture. Whether you are sitting in clinic or attending a ward round, it is best to clarify something you don’t understand sooner rather than later. You are more likely to remember the consultant’s explanation of a procedure or a condition when you are in the clinical situation. It may not always be possible to get the consultant you are shadowing to explain everything to you, especially if it is a busy clinic or a long morning ward round. Therefore, try making a note of your question and ask other members of the clinical team such as the junior doctors or nurses to help you. It is also worth going through difficult concepts with your friends. Additionally, your Clinical Academic Tutor (CAT), module leaders and the student support team can help you with issues that may not just be work related. Remember you are only a third year student…no one expects you to know everything. Never suffer in silence!
  • Be professional– You are essentially a part of the clinical team once you start on the wards. This means it is important to behave well around patients and other members of staff. Being polite and treating everyone equally is vital and will not go unnoticed.
  • Every day is a new day– Year 3 is a roller-coaster ride. There will be days where you will tell yourself “why did I ever consider doing medicine!” and there will be days where you feel absolutely amazing and see how rewarding medicine can be. Take every experience as a learning experience and take on board any form of criticism. You are at medical school to learn so don’t let the bad experiences bring you down.
  • Get enough sleep– The key to staying sane during third year is to know when to stop working. It is important to have some kind of interest outside of medicine that you can turn to when things are getting too overwhelming. It is natural to feel exhausted after a particularly long day, so you shouldn’t attempt to work excessively in the evening when you are feeling tired…let your body rest. If you need to sleep you should sleep! Try and get enough sleep in the evening otherwise you will struggle to concentrate the following day; also falling asleep on a ward round is just a little bit embarrassing! You should take it easy for most of the year…especially at the start of each rotation, otherwise you will burnout!

Year 3 starts with a 4 week course introducing you to clinical medicine as it is practised in secondary care. If you have ever had any previous work experience in secondary care, be prepared to be bombarded with those classic induction talks on fire safety, manual handling and infection control. You will also build on your clinical skills during this time, especially with regards to resuscitation and life support. Although there is no formal assessment in the form of a written exam at the end of the ACE, you will be expected to pass a 10 minute resuscitation scenario, for which you will receive lots of practice opportunities beforehand. The best way to prepare for the test is to go through one or two mock scenarios with your housemates the night before. It is also a good idea to get in touch with the phlebotomy team during the ACE. This is a great opportunity for you to practice venepuncture on actual patients several times in a supervised environment. This will give you the confidence to start taking blood on the wards within the first few weeks of your first rotation. You will have a lot of free time during the 5 weeks so enjoy it!! However, that 80% attendance rule applies…so avoid the lie-ins. The ACE continues with additional sessions on Wednesday and Friday afternoons during your first clinical rotation, with attendance being monitored at these sessions too.

Every Wednesday morning is SBM day. It is the only day of the week where the whole year is together. The purpose of the SBM module is for you to build on your scientific knowledge from Phase 1. You will revisit a lot of the central themes that you learnt in first and second year, but in slightly more detail. SBM is taught in the form of lectures, so the best way to approach this module is to do whatever worked well for you in Phase 1. SBM can be broken down into four different parts – research methodology, immunology and genetics, pathology, and pharmacology and therapeutics. The module is assessed through three bits of coursework (i.e. three 2000 word scientific essays) and a short answer question paper which you will sit in summer. You will be required to write the 3 essays over the course of the year. Essay titles are based loosely around the topics taught during the SBM lectures. You will have the opportunity to select a title that interests you out of a choice of around 10 titles. It is worth choosing a topic you find both interesting and useful in terms of revising for the final SBM exam. You should aim to score above 12 in all your essays as this will take some pressure of the final SBM exam. The SBM short answer question paper consists of 20 x 5-mark compulsory questions based on any of the lectures taught on Wednesdays. It is therefore a good idea to dedicate one day of the week to go over the lectures covered during that week in order to stay on top of things!

The medicine rotation lasts 10 weeks with teaching taking place daily, from Monday to Friday, excluding Wednesday mornings. The module is delivered in the Royal Sussex County Hospital (RSCH) and Princess Royal Hospital, Haywards Heath (PRH), with lectures and symposia based in the education centres of the two hospitals. During the rotation you will be required to attend several sessions which are outlined in your module logbook. Sessions will include morning ward rounds, outpatient clinics and carrying out histories/examinations in a supervised environment. Within the medicine rotation you will be allocated to a specific firm where you will spend the majority of your time. This for example may be a respiratory ward or an endocrine ward and you will likely have placements in cardiology and A&E, with a chance to clerk patients. The most important skill to refine during this rotation is your systems examinations (cardio, respiratory and GI). Practice these whenever you get the opportunity as it will put you in a better position when it comes to the OSCE. You should also become familiar with the red flag history taking questions to ask for common medical presenting complaints such as chest pain, shortness of breath, jaundice etc. Practice asking these questions to patients a bit every day as it will help you tremendously for the OSCE…seriously it will!! You will quickly notice your history taking develop to the standard required of year 3. A good time to take histories from scratch is during your allocated weekend on-take with the junior doctor. During this rotation you will also receive specific diabetes teaching. Diabetes is an important topic to get your head around, so make sure you attend your allocated sessions! In the final week of the rotation you are assessed in the form of a CbD (see below). You will also be required to submit your attendance and skills logbook. Medicine is a good rotation to refresh your knowledge from modules 103 and 104! In terms of reading material, the ‘Crash Course: General Medicine’ book will be helpful, along with the ‘Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine’. BMJ Best Practice is also a good resource…especially for CbD preparation.

The surgery rotation is also 10 weeks long. You will be allocated to two surgical firms headed by a named consultant; one vascular firm and the other a digestive diseases firm. You will also spend some time in urology. Like medicine, you will take part in the day to day activity on the wards and in outpatients. You will also have the opportunity to watch and assist in surgery…take these opportunities when they come. It is also a good idea to try and assist in the surgery for your CbD patient if you can, as this will come across as a sign of genuine interest in the eyes of the examiners. Surgery is a great rotation to perform history taking on new admissions. You will also spend one week in A&E with a chance to clerk patients. You will also become familiar with the common surgical presentations very quickly if you attend all your allocated ward rounds. By knowing the common conditions you will be able to revise for the summer knowledge test more efficiently. One way to make the most out of the surgery module is to follow patients through from arriving at the theatre (or even from when they are on the ward, if you can) to leaving the department after the operation is complete. Again in terms of books, the ‘Crash Course: Surgery’ book is helpful. It is also worth learning all the symposia/lectures delivered during this module at some point, particularly the ones on pre- and post-operative complications, fluids/nutrition, and acute abdominal pain. These are popular topics that are always tested in some form i.e. during your CbD or in the knowledge test.

Elderly medicine and mental health is split into 2 x 5 week blocks. The module will usually start with a block of lectures which cover most of the important conditions you will see during the module. Topics such as falls, stroke, delirium, Parkinson’s disease, heart failure, arrhythmias, and polypharmacy are areas you should know well in elderly medicine. For psychiatry, you should know about the mental health act, psychotic disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, substance/alcohol misuse, and psycho-pharmacology in a fair amount of detail. The tricky part of psychiatry is that you are unlikely to come across a variety of conditions during your time at the mental health hospital. Therefore you should try and do a lot of reading outside of placement to make up for this. Mental health also plays quite a big role in the OSCE, as there are several possible stations that can come up. Being empathetic and non-judgemental is even more important in these stations!!

You will have 2 SSC’s in rotations 2 and 3 which will either be on a Wednesday or a Friday afternoon. This is a great chance to do something you are genuinely interested in. If you are thinking of intercalating, consider choosing something related to your desired course as this will strengthen your application. Like Phase 1, the SSC will most likely be assessed through an oral presentation or an essay.

At the end of each rotation, you have a CbD assessment (two if you have done the elderly medicine and mental health module). This is where you present your OWN history and relevant examinations of a patient you have clerked during the rotation, as well as talk about the differential diagnoses, investigations and management plan. For your CbD, it is necessary to know your case inside-out, particularly when it comes to justifying the differential diagnoses you have made. When selecting your case for the CbD, try to choose something simple but interesting. Picking a patient with a complex rare disease is likely to be associated with unusual investigations and treatments which will make your justifications for differential diagnoses difficult. It’s also likely that patients with rare disease will be those that the consultant who will be examining you has been to see and will know the case well. This means, you cannot make a single mistake unless you wish your marks to suffer. Picking a simple/common condition is also helpful in terms of revising for your OSCE and KTs. However, If possible try to find a case with a bit of a twist as this will keep the examiners on their toes during your presentation.

You will be asked to have written your clerking (history and examination findings) and differential diagnoses on hospital paper. You should break up your history into the standardised format of basic demographics, presenting complaint, history of presenting complaint, past medical and surgical history, drug and allergy history, family history, and social history (format will slightly differ for mental health). You will usually have to present your case for 15-20 minutes (8 minutes for the double module) and then answer several questions from your examiners for the remaining time. As you’re presenting your case, act confident as if you were the FY1 doctor who saw the patient first. Try to use medical terminology as it shows that you have been turning up to hospital. Speaking clearly and looking at your examiners whilst presenting as opposed to reading of your notes comes across well…if you can, try memorising some of your history! The best time to find a case for medicine and surgery is during your on-take sessions or during the weekend. It is recommended that you find something suitable around weeks 6-8 of your rotation. You should then spend a good week and a half learning your case and the associated knowledge. Remember anything you write on your notes or anything you mention in your presentation is fair game for the examiners to ask questions on. The key to doing well in your CbDs is to know your case and to be able to justify everything you say accurately. Practice your CbD under exam conditions with your housemates and get them to ask you questions. Also, if you have time go over your CbD with one of the junior doctors on the ward.

Studying medicine is not difficult with regards to the complexity of the subject matter; its difficulty lies in managing to learn the volume of information that is needed to become a safe and competent doctor. Thus in order to do well in the year 3 knowledge tests, revision should ideally start from the very first day of your first rotation with collating your notes on different diagnoses. Consider making a table for each condition you see in the hospital. Your table could include column headings such as epidemiology, aetiology, pathophysiology, clinical features, investigations, differential diagnoses, and management. Knowing this type of information is crucial in order to diagnose conditions, so the earlier you get into the habit of learning like this, the better you will perform in the KTs. Each of the KTs is solely assessed through multiple choice questions. These are just like the questions you had in Phase 1. Questions in the KTs are patient-based, in that they will describe the important findings of a history or examination and you will have to give the diagnosis. You may also get asked some questions on what you would do next (e.g. which investigation would you like to perform?) or even what you would do to manage the patient, but these will not be covered in as much detail as you will need to know in years 4 and 5. Try doing lots and lots of practice questions in the weeks leading up to the exams. Good resources are PassMedicine, BMJ OnExamination and PasTest. Some of the questions from these sites are very similar to the actual KT questions! Also rather than reading hefty books days before you sit the exams, try finding a small revision book from the library which you can quickly read through (e.g. Surgery on the Move – Jenna Morgan).

If there is one exam during third year that you should truly focus on it is the OSCE!! One big difference for the third year OSCE compared to the other OSCEs you’ve done is the type of knowledge required. Each station is still 5 minutes long but they will test clinical knowledge including investigations. With respect to history taking stations, you need to know what questions to ask in order to rule a particular diagnosis in or out. The history taking stations will also test whether you are a safe doctor; therefore it is vital that you ask certain red flag questions when it is appropriate to do so. You are more likely to encounter history taking stations in the year 3 OSCE as opposed to clinical examinations, so spend time practicing different presenting complaints with your friends. Try to get hold of an OSCE book from the library with some mock scenarios. You could then get together with two other friends and have someone being a patient, someone being the student, and someone being the examiner. In terms of examinations, cardiovascular, respiratory, GI and peripheral vascular examinations are most likely to be tested in some form. Remember practice, practice, practice…examiners can easily tell if you have been spending time in the hospital or not!
In terms of when to start revising properly, consider sacrificing a month or two before the final exams (maybe more for the OSCE) and you should be in a good position to do well. This is obviously just a rough time-frame; you should work at your own pace and decide when it is best for you to start. You should also try to attend as many of the AMECS revision sessions run by year 4 and 5 students. These sessions range from mock OSCEs to CbD practice and will make things less stressful when it comes to your actual exams. Getting through third year is a big achievement, so work-hard and never give up…it will be worth it in the end!


Everyone comes back from intercalation with different experiences and opinions depending on where and what they choose to study. I did an intercalated BSc at King’s College London in Physiology. My best advice would be to talk to someone who has already intercalated in the course you are interested in for more information and advice. However, speaking to others who intercalated elsewhere there are some main points we all agree we wish we knew before applying.

The idea of taking “a year off” after your demanding 3rd year may seem like a good enough reason to intercalate but the reality is anything but. Admittedly, you will most definitely have fewer contact hours than in your medical degree, however the content you will cover in those hours will be of much higher detail than we have experienced before. Not only will you be expected to learn from your lectures, but independent reading of up to date journal articles and research papers are essential if you want to come out with a decent degree classification, showing evidence of critical appraisal and independent analysis if you’re aiming for top scores.

My BSc was very scientific. The first month of my year was a steep learning curve and I did find it challenging. However if you choose to apply for courses with more of a humanities emphasis Eg. Ethics, Global Health, Accounting and Management, also be prepared for the challenge of very different teaching styles and assessments.
If you are thinking of applying for a Masters degree, bear in mind that these courses are made for people with prior specialist knowledge so you will be expected to already have a variety of skills (or be able to pick them up very quickly!) if you want to keep up.

Many people choose a course to reflect the field of medicine they hope to enter when they qualify. I am still pretty uncertain on that front, so chose a course which I knew would keep my options open. On a personal note, I couldn’t recommend intercalating in Physiology at KCL enough if you’re in a similar position. There is so much variety and flexibility in the modules you can choose from so you can really tailor the degree to your interests.
If you do know what subject area you’re interested in and unsure of where to apply, when comparing courses at different universities look at course content and the modules you will be studying for a better idea of if the course will suit you. Once again, just getting in touch with people who have already studied the course to get their honest opinions was most helpful.
Most importantly, intercalating solely to boost your FPAS score may not always be worth it. A year can be a long time if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing.

When you intercalate you will be assessed in very different ways from what we are used to at BSMS. Very few courses have multiple choice or short answers question exams. Instead they often examine you with essay-style questions. Throughout the year your coursework will also comprise of multiple essays for your modules.
You will most likely have to conduct your own research on your intercalated year for your dissertation. Again, unlike anything we’ve done before you will be required to conduct experiments and use techniques you’ve never heard of. That said, the majority of intercalators found this the most enjoyable part of their course with a few even getting published!

Moving to a new city much bigger than Brighton can be intimidating. Many universities offer halls of residence for intercalators, however you may need or want to find your own house. For King’s intercalators I would recommend finding a house in the Old Kent Road or Bermondsey area for the best social life in a relatively cheap (for London!) area. For others, talk to students who have intercalated at that university already for advice about the best locations.

On a more personal note, I couldn’t recommend intercalating enough. I have had the best year and it was great to explore somewhere new. I had plenty of time to join new societies, meet new people and explore London. Overall, if you do choose to intercalate I would say just throw yourself into it all and make the most of it, it’s a great opportunity!

Year Four

Fourth year comprises of 8 specialty rotations and GP. The specialist rotations run from Monday to Wednesday, IRP on Thursday, and GP on Fridays. This year is a long year but compared to third year there is a lot more flexibility.

Much like the previous years, logbooks are used to assess each rotation with some rotations having a mini quiz or presentation required as a sign off. Luckily everything is formative, and good practice for IRP! Remember these are all specialist rotations, and they don’t expect you to be experts but it’s good to know and revise the common conditions in the rotations as they will be tested in finals!

In GP you have 8 visits, so really make the most of your time there. Be proactive and ask the GP if you can see patients by yourself and then present the patient back to them. You really do only get out what you put in so the more you practice, the better your skills will be. You also have a few simulated GP surgeries running in the year, which are similar to how an OSCE is ran but it is much more relaxed. They give you the chance to practice your skills in taking history, diagnosing and managing the patient. You go around in a pair and take it in turns which gives you the opportunity to give each other feedback too. The difference between third and fourth year is that you are expected to come to a diagnosis, communicate this to the patient and explain the management. As well as this, taking a history and suggesting appropriate examinations and investigations.

The IRP runs throughout the year, it is good to meet with your supervisor early and try to be organised and do a little bit every week. Otherwise you will have to cram things near the deadline, which isn’t always easy when doing your own research. You always think you have more time than you actually have! The IRP isn’t quite finished though when you’ve handed in the final piece; you also have to present you research at the IRP conference in front of your peers and some doctors and professors. You might get it easy or you might get grilled. It is formally marked and counts towards your overall IRP grade. Just be confident and concise and just enjoy the opportunity to practice those presentation skills.

So, in summary enjoy having that spare time before final year, there’s 40 weeks of it! It’s a marathon, not a sprint!

Year Five

Fifth year is by far the most exciting, enjoyable and SCARY year at BSMS! With finals and graduation just around the corner it’s time to pull your socks up! You’ll be placed on 3 regional attachments, consisting of 2×4 week placements. The 6 rotations will include Medicine, Surgery, Elderly Medicine, Psychiatry, GP and Emergency Medicine.

As you’d expect there are log books which need signing before the end of each rotation, though these are mainly skills based instead of minimum attendance. Most students find it best getting the majority of these skills done in the medicine and A&E rotations. How you spend our time on the wards is up to you, though most use this time ultimately to focus on what FY1 will be like and really getting to grips with the job. It’s definitely good to keep a bit of a diary of what you’ve done each day as they expect some reflection from you each week which is hard if you can’t remember one day from another!

After Christmas is when the revision season starts. Luckily you’ll have already done some of your finals due to the change in curriculum! You can’t quite rule out ObGyn and Paeds as it could still come up in GP! The rest of the rotations should be just building on 3rd year knowledge, so the best advice we can give is to work steadily from the start of the year. You really can’t cram everything at the end!

The clinical skills team and medical school give a fantastic revision programme- which really shouldn’t be missed! There will be a catch up for any hard-to-get skills too! The teachers of the revision programme are the same clinicians who set our exams so the teaching should be second to none!

When you get to OSCEs the time you’ve spent on the ward will be invaluable. Being independent and arranging your own time is great, but here is where you’ll get caught out if you’ve not been in all year! OSCEs will test all skills from data interpretation/ clinical examination, history taking to management plans! They’re a great cause of stress so pace yourself, start early and practice on the wards and with your peers.