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How to prepare for your medical school finals

Finals are looming! Where do you start? How do you prepare? Your medical school finals may be the most important exam you’ve ever sat. Here are some key tips on dealing with exam revision and getting through that final step to becoming a doctor.

Know what you need to know

This might seem obvious, but before you start any revision, you need to know what you need to know! Your medical school will have a syllabus with intended learning outcomes (ILOs), which you can print off, so you know exactly what you need to know for finals. These can be split into topics, body systems or otherwise. You can also use this as a checklist, ticking off or highlighting topics as you have revised them.

It’s also useful to know the format of the exams you’ll be sitting in advance – for example, single best answer, practical examinations, oral examinations or written examinations. Find out how long each exam lasts and how many questions are expected. This way, there will be no surprises on the day!

If you graduate from 2025 onwards, you’ll need to sit The United Kingdom Medical Licensing Assessment (UKMLA), a standard examination designed by the General Medical Council (GMC), which every graduating medical student will have to pass to practice in the UK. This is based on the GMC’s “Outcomes for Graduates”. For more information, read our blog article on The UKMLA: What is it and what does it mean for me? and watch our video on our YouTube Channel for more.

Make a revision plan

Calculate how long you have until finals, and split your time up accordingly. Depending on your time, you might spend a week on each speciality – e.g. cardiology, respiratory, gynaecology. If you’re short on time, prioritise important and high-yield topics that are likely to come up in examinations. Learning every tiny detail about every condition you’ve been taught about is unachievable!

Identifying which topics you find most difficult can also be beneficial - as we’re prone to tactically avoiding studying these. Instead, you might want to study these first, or early on in your revision schedule and study the topics you enjoy more later on when you might feel less motivated.

Identify your revision style

Plan how you will revise and identify your favourite revision style – be it flashcards, video content or drawing mind maps. You might like to use several different revision styles to mix things up. Spaced repetition is one of the most effective revision tools – whereby you view a key topic or fact at increasing time intervals until it has become committed to memory.

Using mnemonics and mind maps are fun ways to remember key facts. The funnier (or ruder), the easier they seem to recall. We all know the cranial nerves one…

Revise on the go!

Regular revision and consolidation is key. Using any spare moment, for example on your commute or whilst waiting for your takeaway pizza, to smash some revision. Using app-based revision tools like Quesmed’s app enables accessible spaced repetition of key facts and topics. Read our blog article all about Quesmed, and why it may be your number one revision tool.

Study together!

Studying with a study buddy or in a small group can boost motivation, help you pick up tips and mnemonics from others, and may also be beneficial for mental health if you’re the kind of person who needs human interaction! In addition, group studying is great for testing each other formally or informally using example questions and mock tests. Check out the Group Study function on Quesmed's app.

Attend revision lectures

Specific revision lectures run by your medical school or elsewhere are an excellent way to revise and consolidate high-yield topics. During finals season, Quesmed runs regular live revision tutorials on key topics likely to make an appearance in your finals. These are typically run in the evening and are also recorded and uploaded onto the YouTube channel, so you can watch them back at your leisure. Video or audio content can be played in the background when you’re cooking, tidying or commuting, helping you to utilise spare moments to squeeze in some more knowledge.

## Practice with mock tests

Practicing mock tests not only gets you into “exam mode” but also aids in time management, exam technique and familiarises you with the examination format. Quesmed has several UKMLA AKT mock tests containing unseen questions that can be taken under timed conditions, just like the real exam. Once you’ve completed a test, you’ll receive your total score and a breakdown of your scores divided by speciality. In addition, you can go back to each question to review the explanations for each choice and look up any relevant notes.

Remember to take breaks and have a life!

It’s important not to let studying take over your whole life. Make time to engage in the things you enjoy. Make sure you have regular breaks, eat healthily and keep fit. Healthy body = a healthy mind. In particular, ensure you’re getting plenty of good quality sleep, as sleep has been shown to aid in consolidating facts. It might seem like an all-nighter before the exam is a good idea, but this is highly likely to hinder your performance in the examination. Don’t feel bad about an unproductive day; we all need a day off now and then!

Medical school finals really aren’t that bad; with a little preparation, revision becomes easy, maybe even enjoyable! Good luck with your finals and your future career!

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