SEPTEMBER 6, 2007
I've never really had a problem with tests in my life. Not because they haven't been difficult, I've had my fair share of those. But I've never been the type to stress out before tests (or study for them). Get in, get out, quick f*ckin' about.
Enter medical school. Our first exam of the year looms at the end of the weekend, a 4 hour behemoth called "GIE Exam 1." I just battled my way through the first level of medical school, now I gotta beat the boss. And you know the funny thing? I'm not stressing too much. Oh, I have enough of apprehension in me to keep me in the library all weekend, but (and I can't believe I'm saying this), the material doesn't seem "that bad." Just 3 weeks ago, I got my 2 inch syllabus, and my jaw dropped 20 inches. Now, it all seems damn reasonable. A continual evolution of me, I guess. That being said...
Preparing for an exam in medical school is like preparing for war.
Studying for it is an intensive endeavor. Packing my bag in the morning is like preparing to go on a week long recon mission. I need my manuals (books), water to stay hydrated, source of energy, source of caffeine, radio (ipod). Throw it all on your back and trudge off for 12 hours.
The exam is close to 4 hours long. For comparison, the LSAT is close to four hours long. I am taking an LSAT I only had 2 1/2 weeks to prepare for.
The exam is split into two parts. The first half is multiple choice based on lecture material and the questions are framed to be like what we'll see when we take the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) Step 1 following our second year. I haven't taken a multiple choice test since my lower division sociology class at Gonzaga (upper division profs considered them "too easy"), but wouldn't you know, I'm taking them in medical school. The second half of the exam is the lab practical. The day before the exam, the lab professors and 4th year students go through each of our dissections. They grade the dissections, and choose structures from each group's cadaver that are good representations of what things SHOULD look like (or, as our course director says, "we're really superficial, we choose things that look pretty"). For the lab practical, you enter the lab and start at a station. In front of you is a cadaver, and in this cadaver are tiny metal pins. At the tip of these pins could be a variety of structures. The filum terminale of the spinal cord, the recurrent branch of the median nerve, the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle, the thoracolumbar fascia. If its a muscle, you might not be asked the name, but will be asked where it originates, or where it inserts, or what it does, or what nerve innervates it. Obviously, this is a very daunting task with no Word Bank to help you out. You have 60 seconds to identify the pins, pick their names out of thin air, and move on to the next station, where a whole new set of pins await you. At least we get to stand.
Obviously, this sounds like a really fun way to spend a Monday (sarcasm). I've been trying to put my finger on why I'm not FLIPPING SH*T about this exam, and I've yet to find a good reason why not. Maybe its because I'm a person the world needs most (thank you Gonzaga). Maybe it's my ego. Or maybe my brain is really just running that well after years of lack of use (and abuse, likely). I think above all the main emotion I'm feeling going into the exam is simply... curiosity. These will be the things that judge my progress for the next two years, and I just want to get the first one out of the way to see whether my study strategies have been working so far.
So, we'll see how it goes. The class is going out to happy hour after the exam, and I'll either be celebrating or drowning my sorrows. The nice thing is all you need to do is pass. As they say, "P's get MDs."