Med: Midterms/Finals in Review (Part 2)

March 15, 2008

Extra stress about both the neuroanatomy and head/neck anatomy DEFINITELY set in the night before the physio exam. It was at that point I realized I had certainly not left myself enough time. As mentioned above, we had two full weeks to do anatomy last semester. Because of the impending physiology test, I had been putting off neuroanatomy and anatomy, and it finally dawned on me that I had left just two days for neuroanat (sat/sun), and 1.5 days (later Monday, Tuesday) for anatomy. But hey, stress can be a motivator, right?

c) Neuroanatomy: At the time of studying, this test actually weighed on my mind much more heavily than the others–for a couple of reasons. First of all, I knew that neurophys hadn’t gone terribly well, and given that there was a lot of material overlap between the two, I was feeling like it was double jeopardy. Secondly–and more importantly–the neuroanatomy exam was the ONLY exam for the course. Failing it meant that I would be headed to summer school, whereas there was more wiggle room in other classes (More on that below).

The neuroanatomy exam had two parts–a conceptual multiple-choice exam, and a lab identification component. I had expected the lab identification to go pretty well, and the mcq to be “blah,” but the opposite actually was true. I did right around average on the lab exam (what more can you expect when you learn primarily out of books because you skip lab?), but did REALLY well on the written. In hindsight, I DID have a good handle on neuro topics–I just understood them much better in the “anatomy” sense rather than “physio” sense. Oh well.

d) Head/Neck Anatomy: Above, I alluded to the fact that because the neuroanatomy exam was our only grade, I had to sacrifice to ensure I passed that one–anatomy was that sacrifice. I had done rather well last semester, and knew that I could essentially fail this block and still be in good shape to pass the class. Of course, this “sacrifice” is not an inherent aspect of medical school–if I would have been working as I should have been along the way, things would have been fine.

Still, It hit me like a ton of bricks on Monday afternoon when I realized I had 1.5 days to cover the material–both reviewing stuff, but also learning some of the topics for the first time. And I hadn’t spent too much time up in the anatomy lab, so I felt like the Lab Exam/Identification component of the test would be a complete disaster. But you need to have a base of knowledge, so I decided I would do bookwork first, and then hit up the lab late on Tuesday.

I pulled all-nighters on both Monday and Tuesday night, though I did take midday naps along the way. I can’t even count how much caffeine I pumped into my system–I was jittery, my stomach hurt, and I had to keep a steady stream of Visine flowing into my eyes to keep them from hurting. It was awful–but I was petrified.

Having spent Monday night/Tuesday daytime reviewing, I finally decided on Tuesday night that it was time to get myself into the lab. Fortunately, I found that I knew more about the lab stuff than I thought I did–so that calmed me down a bit. Still, when I got home around midnight, I realized there were only 12 hours til the exam started and there was a LOT left.

I stayed up during the night–catching a few hours around 6-7am–and did the best I could to pound things into my head. I know its commonly said that at some point “it’s just not worth it,” and to some extent I believe that is true. But you also need to realize that there is a certain threshold of information that you absolutely NEED to get into your head…its not like sleeping will magically give you knowledge.
Results were a mixed bag. Going through the lab exam, I had felt pretty good about the answers I was coming up with; however, getting to see the key directly afterwards was a nice punch to the face. I passed–but barely–and certainly didn’t feel I had done as poorly as I did when I was taking it. The MCQ was kind of the opposite–I thought for SURE that I had failed the exam outright. I had to make “educated guesses” on more than 1/2 the exam, and literally filled in B’s for every embryology question because I never really got around to studying it…and missed every lecture (pattern?).

When we got the email that anatomy grades were posted, I was pretty scared. No, I didn’t need to pass the exam to still be passing the class, but I still didn’t wanna do poorly. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the score–it was a decent amount above the average and made me feel a lot better. My friend Patti loves to say that I exaggerate, but that really wasn’t the case here–I had way too many guesses to feel comfortable.


In the end, things worked out alright–but not without a whole lot of caffeine, stomach pain, lack of sleep, and agitation. I think that I honored Genetics, will be CLOSE to honoring neuroanat (from the looks of last year, I’ll be just short), and I’m still on track to honor anatomy if I do well enough on the final two exams in May. Physiology is a lost cause, but that’s ok–I’ll just mail it in and go for PASS like I did last semester.

But regardless, what we’ve been told is the hardest stretch of academics at the UIC College of Medicine is now over. Phew!

We’ve now started into our next block, and I’ll write about them in the next few days.


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