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A Snowball's Chance

Discussion in 'Weblogs' started by M150, May 9, 2013.

  1. M150

    M150 New Member

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    Hi all,

    One of the things I have always done is kept a diary, not one based on my personal life really but an experiences diary. One that I have been able to use when writing job applications or applying to university. I write about what I've been up to as I've been up to it and what I learned from it. My paper diary has recently run out and instead of getting a new one I thought a blog could be an alternative. I'm posting on here but I am also blogging here:Applying to Medicine: A Wishful Medic.

    This means people can comment on the blog which isn't allowed on this site. This blog is going to be specifically about my attempt to get a place to study medicine.


    So, first post is an introduction to me :)

    Hello everyone and welcome to my blog, I’m Mia. I’ve recently finished university during which time I realised that I’d made a huge mistake. What I really want to do with my life is be a doctor. This wasn’t something I considered when I initially applied to university and I’m not sure that I would have been ready for the demands of the course at the time. I come from a family where no-one before me had GCSE’s, let alone A-Levels and the careers advice given by my school was not exactly helpful. I went to university to study biology as it had been my favourite A-Level and it wasn’t until I started the course that I began to appreciate the variety of potential specialisms within the subject. I chose modules on the basis that they sounded interesting and while I loved my modules, they did not support each other well and I found I did not know all the material that was assumed knowledge for my courses and I ended up graduating with a 2.ii. I went away and did my MSc in human genetics. I thought it would help me to decide what I wanted to do with my life and let me study a subject I loved in more depth. At this point I was convinced that studying medicine was a stupid dream and I was thinking about going into research instead.

    I finished my MSc with merit and became even more convinced that I wanted to study medicine. So here I am. I have no idea if I will ever actually become a doctor but I intend to write about the attempt. I plan to sit the GAMSAT in September and apply for courses in September 2014 for 2015 entry. I was interested in the experiences of others in similar situations to me and wanted to be able to read their stories, so I’m aiming for this blog to be what I would want to read. Also, I hope by keeping a record, I will be able to look back on this blog to help me later in the application process. Some of my posts may be about things I have done previously such as work experience, others about research I have done into entry requirements or funding arrangements while others (likely those do do with GAMSAT revision) may descend into indecipherable rants.


    Thanks for reading.

    M150.
     
    #1 M150, May 9, 2013
    Last edited: May 10, 2013
  2. M150

    M150 New Member

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    Studying medicine with a 2.2 undergraduate degree


    One of my biggest disappointments in life came when I finished my undergraduate degree with a 2.2. After spending so much time and money on my degree, I felt like I had failed. There are lots of reasons why people get a 2.2 (or a third) for their degree and one of the harshest aspects I found to deal with was the comments of others, especially extended family members without any qualifications who found pleasure in tormenting me because I shouldn’t have ‘been a snob’ by going to university in the first place. During the final semester of my undergraduate degree, I was focused on gaining a 2.1 and applying to medicine and I didn’t really think about what I would do if I failed.

    Then I got a 2.2, I was devastated and thought that becoming a doctor would be completely out of reach for me. I considered a career in research, I considered training to be a paramedic (my driving skills made that unlikely) and ended up going back to university to do my MSc. I chose my MSc purely because it looked interesting and I was excited about studying it, I enjoyed it significantly more than my undergraduate degree and I found the information fitted together clearly in my head and I wanted to learn more. I graduated with merit but the medical aspects of my course appealed to me more and more. I still couldn’t imagine doing anything else. So, in 10k more debt I began looking again to see if medicine was still a viable option.

    The undergraduate fees increase had a significant impact on the financial implications for studying for a second degree in medicine. Excluding a future lottery win, a five year course is unaffordable for me and I don’t come from a family where parental support would be an option. There are currently 15 universities that offer a shortened 4 year medical course to graduates and more than I initially thought were willing to consider candidates with a 2.2 degree. The results of my research are listed below (information confirmed on relevant university websites on 8 May 2013).

    Will accept candidates with a 2.2:
    St George’s, University of London – GAMSAT required.
    The University of Nottingham – GAMSAT required.

    Will consider candidates with a 2.2 and masters degree:
    Kings College London – UKCAT required.
    Swansea University – GAMSAT required.

    Will consider candidates with a 2.2 and PhD:

    Imperial – UKCAT required.
    University of Warwick – UKCAT required.

    Will not accept candidates with a 2.2:
    Barts and the London / Queen Mary’s
    The University of Birmingham
    The University of Leicester

    The remaining 6 universities are slightly more complicated. Bristol, Liverpool and Southampton state that a minimum of a 2.1 is required for entry but do not make any comments about candidates with higher degrees. They all have additional GCSE & A Level requirements that I did not meet so I didn’t investigate further. I would contact these universities directly if you are interested in studying there. Newcastle explicitly states that a 2.1 is the minimum requirement and that masters degrees will not be considered, their website doesn’t however state if PhD’s will be considered or not and again this might be worth investigating if you do have a PhD.

    Cambridge states that they require a 2.1 minimum or equivalent but does not state what the equivalent is or their stance on MSc/PhD’s. Oxford’s website is a little more supportive stating that they normally expect a 2.1 and 2 science A Levels and that they ‘seldom’ but not never accept candidates with a 2.2 so that might be worth considering.

    The main point I want to make with this post is that medicine is still possible with a 2.2 degree, even with no further qualifications there are two universities that are willing to consider your application. I have an MSc with merit and am planning to apply to St Georges, Nottingham, Kings College London and Swansea. If you are able to look into studying for a five year course then there are more options although as I couldn’t afford this option, I haven’t really looked into all of the options you have.

    I hope this post was helpful, if you have any additional comments or information, I'd love to hear more from you on my blog.

    M150.
     
  3. M150

    M150 New Member

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    Visiting St George's

    I’m starting to get really excited about medicine. Although I’ve done a fair bit of research online and I’ve started to prepare for my GAMSAT, I’d not done anything really practical about applying. This blog was the first time I really sat down and stated ‘right, this is what I want, this is what I’m going to do’. I haven’t spoken to a lot of my friends about applying to medicine. Firstly because I’m not sure I’ll get a place, secondly because a number of my friends have wanted to do this their whole lives and I only really became convinced during my MSc that this was what I really wanted to do. I feel a bit like a fraud, as though this hasn’t been what I’ve worked towards my entire life therefore I don’t deserve a place.


    On Saturday, I headed to St George’s (SGUL) for one of their open days. Having been and looked around a medical school, it all now feels that bit more real. I had been to St George’s before (mainly to take skateboarding teenagers to A&E – my little sister and her friends are a bit accident prone), so I’d been around the hospital a bit and had also used the university library so I knew it a bit. I didn’t get the instant ‘Oh wow, this place is amazing and I can’t wait to come here’ feeling but I don’t know if this is because I already knew the place. I got to chat to a few of the current GEP students who were working as student ambassadors and I got answers to a few questions I had.

    So useful information I found out:

    There are about 112 places for the graduate entry medicine course.

    SGUL seem to be a lot more flexible about deferred entry than I’d initially thought. Although I’m planning to apply the year before I start, I’m glad to have this information if anything goes wrong closer to the time. If you do ask to defer, you must still meet the conditions of any offer (e.g the GAMSAT) in the year you apply not the year you start.

    I’d been worrying about my lack of work experience. However when I asked about previous experience and how far back I could use work experience from, the response I got was that they wanted really recent experience – within a year or so and not the 5 years I would have normally used on my CV. On one hand this knocks out my 2 years as a support worker for autistic children, on the other it gives me plenty of time to sort out more work experience as I need to be able to move anywhere to find a job at the moment and until I’m more settled I can’t apply to volunteer in most places.


    What I liked about St Georges:

    One of the things I did love about the open day was the enthusiasm from both the staff and the students. They really did love being a part of St George’s and chatting about why it was a great place to study.
    Early patient contact – I don’t want to sit in a library for two years forgetting why I applied in the first place. I’ve always learnt best by doing things so this is a big plus for me.

    PBL’s. I think this sounds like a really great way to learn and does fit in with the way I learn best. I can be a bit of a control freak and learning through PBL’s means I will have to learn to relax a bit on this front.

    I do like that the entire university is focused on healthcare subjects. I definitely see working and learning with a mix of other healthcare students who are all focused on providing the best care for their patients as a good thing. It sounds like a fantastic environment although I do also have some concerns about this.


    What worries me:


    St George’s is my parents’ local university, I could cycle there. This could help me in that I could live somewhere rent free for my first year when I have to pay a chunk of the tuition fees. On the other hand, could I stand living at home? By the time I start the course my parents will have retired, I’m slightly concerned if I stayed I could end up with my parents relying on me to the extent I would struggle to leave. Also, would I actually be able to afford to leave even if I wanted to?

    London is really, really expensive. I know Tooting is relatively close to everything, but even so, travel fares are not cheap. If I was living at home, I’m not close to anything I love about London and if I don’t live at home, I would still struggle to afford anything too close. I love bits of London, I grew up here and there really is so much to do. But on the outskirts you can feel really isolated.

    The size of the University. I’ve been to two very large universities previously, they have both had a fantastic mix of people and I made some incredible friends. St Georges is much smaller, just under 2300 students according to Google. What is it like to study somewhere where you could know everyone in your year? Is it great to be working alongside people with such similar interests (healthcare) or do you wish for a bit of variety sometimes? It would be great if some current students could give some insight into this.


    Studying at St George’s.


    This is definitely something I can see myself doing. I’m writing about visiting St George’s now as I want to be able to look back on my initial thoughts and feelings when I’m applying. I left the open day wanting to see more, as it was a general open day and not specific for medicine I did find that I didn’t get to see all of the facilities I would have wanted to and I would have liked to have been able to chat to more current students. However I did come away feeling really positive, I could see myself fitting in with the course. Most of my concerns about studying here are financial as opposed to anything else and if I was offered the chance to study here, I would grab it with both hands. The biggest plus of the day was that I came away feeling like getting into medicine will be hard but I could do it. I do have a chance of getting in and potentially, I could actually become a Doctor.

    M150
     
  4. M150

    M150 New Member

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    GAMSAT worries.

    Getting a place to study medicine is hugely competitive and simply being accepted represents a huge challenge. I already know I meet the academic requirements for the 4 courses I want to apply for. I have a reasonable amount of medical based work experience and as I’m not intending to apply until October 2014, I have plenty of time to get some more. I recently wrote about attending an open day at St George’s and that they want work experience to be very recent so this is not something that worries me at the moment. The biggest hurdle I can see at the moment is the GAMSAT.

    When I first began to look into the GAMSAT it looked like hell. It is made up of three different sections testing reasoning in humanities and social sciences, written communication and reasoning in biological and physical sciences and is designed to test you problem solving abilities. Although I have a strong science background, the last non science based essay I wrote was for my A-Level General Studies exam. I’m hoping for an average of at least 65 (The cut off for an interview at Nottingham for candidates with a 2.2 is 5 points higher than those with a 2.1 and has been 64 for the last couple of years) and the essay section really does worry me.

    The next GAMSAT UK exam takes place on 18th September 2013. My current plan is to sit the exam then and if I don’t get the results I need, I still have another 2 chances to take the exam for 2015 entry (GAMSAT Ireland in March 2014 and GAMSAT UK in September 2014). If I can get the GAMSAT out of the way then I can focus on getting experience and I’m hoping this might also help reduce some of the pressure and stop me panicking and fluffing the exam. I’m also not working at the moment so have the time to spend revising. This however does mean that I am broke – the GAMSAT is a REALLY expensive exam, it costs £228 just to sit the exam once (if I need to sit it three times than that’s about £700 not including transport, a place to stay near the exam centre if needed or revision materials). I’d been looking at getting the Griffith GAMSAT review which seems to be the book that is recommended most by people on the New Media Medicine and The Student Room forums. That is another £35 and I no longer have basic science text books or A-Level revision guides – my Dad got sick of them cluttering up the house when I went away to university and dropped them off at the local charity shop. Even if you pass the bloody exam and get a place to study medicine you then have to find thousands of pounds to fund your studies.

    So, I want to do everything I can to make studying for and sitting the GAMSAT as cheap as possible.

    I re-joined my local library (and had to pay £15 in lost book fines that I don’t remember anything about, ugh!). I’ve borrowed a couple of A Level revision guides and I’m currently half way through AS Level Chemistry. I’ve also been able to borrow a load of other interesting books on the history of medicine and medical ethics and start reading around the subject a bit more. From what I’ve found being able to understand and compare both sides of an argument is key to passing the written communication section well and I’m hoping that reading around will help provide me with the knowledge for a successful essay as well as let me examine different writing styles and understand what is most effective.

    I enjoy reading books written by Doctors and other medical professionals to gain a bit of insight into their day to day lives. Most of them are amazingly well written and I’ve been interested enough to read over and over again. This blog is the first that I have ever written and although I have loved reading blogs by other medicine applicants and medical students, I’ve often stumbled across these once and never found them again. I’m enjoying being able to ‘follow blogs’ so I can continue reading. I’ve found that these tend to be much more honest about the day to day lives of the people writing them as they have not been attacked by an editor aiming to make the book as entertaining as possible to make people buy the book. If you go to my profile on my blog, you should be able to see a list of blogs I’m following (let me know if you think I’m missing any).

    I’m also following blogs on topics such as ethics to find out more about local events that I might find interesting (I love a good argument). I spoke to my GP who agreed to give me her old copies of the BMJ once she was finished with them to make sure I’m reading about current issues within medicine and the NHS. I’ve been in touch with a clinical trials company who will pay blood donors in an attempt to raise money for the exam itself – otherwise it’ll have to go on my credit card. My birthday is at the end of July and I’m hoping my sister will get me the Griffith GAMSAT review as my present.

    One of my biggest targets is to do as well as possible in the GAMSAT itself, if I only need to sit the exam once then that is one of the biggest savings I could make. I haven’t sat the GAMSAT yet so I have no idea if what I’m planning to do will actually be effective. If you have any feedback about what I’ve said I’m going to do or any other ways of sitting the GAMSAT on a budget, I would love to hear your comments though my blog.

    M150
     
  5. M150

    M150 New Member

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    So yesterday I was mugged. I was heading back home from the pub while chatting to my boyfriend on the phone, the only advance warning I had was a moving shadow behind me and as I turned around to see what was happening someone grabbed me around the neck and demanded my phone. I handed it over and he let me go unharmed with a warning to ‘leave it alone’. Physically I was fine although I ended up spending my Thursday night giving a statement to the police (and getting my phone blocked.

    Two things I’ve been thinking about since.

    The first is that I am really, really annoyed that people keep implying that it was my fault. I had been drinking but I would have been under the legal drink-drive limit at the time. I was walking through a relatively deprived area but it was one I know well. I was walking along a well-lit main road with a fair few other people around and it was only about quarter past ten. I was talking on my phone at the time and although it is not a top of the range model, it looks like it could be in the dark. I took a number of risks that night and had I got a taxi or not had my phone out at the time, it is likely that this would not have happened. But why should I as the victim be considered responsible? Why should anyone have to constantly live their lives worrying about what could happen? I have never been concerned about walking around on my own but I am now being treated like a silly idiot for not getting a taxi. If we do all have to change our lives in anticipation of random acts of cruelty, haven’t we lost a lot more than what was stolen? I would argue that being attacked is never the victims fault and the responsibility lies with the perpetrator.

    The second thing that concerns me, I didn’t fight back because I didn’t know if he was armed. My phone wasn’t worth enough to risk getting hurt (or for him to decide to snatch my bag which contained things worth a lot more to me). However, that phone was worth a lot to me. It contained all of my contacts, photos of my late Nan and me as well as my calendar. I can’t afford to replace it with a similar model and the replacement I do have just doesn’t have the same functionality. I’m angry, frustrated and if he was in front of me right now, I could quite happily scratch his eyes out. As a Doctor, I would be responsible for treating a range of patients with different backgrounds with the same high standards of care. Criminals are more likely to need medical care (especially within mental health services and A&E) and I’m interested in how healthcare providers deal with this. I was just mugged, I would happily kick him between his legs but I don’t want him dead. If I walked back around the corner and he was lying in a pool of his own blood having been stabbed, I would help. But how do you deal with treating a murderer? Or a rapist? Could you help save Hitler’s life? Or do you simply see this as one of the less pleasant aspects of the job that still need to be done?

    I would really like to hear your views on this topic. If you want to comment you can here.

    M150
     
  6. M150

    M150 New Member

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    Initially I wasn't going to add this post on here. I've been a bit lazy and although I've been updating my actual blog, I've not always posted them on here. This was initally because I didn't really think this post was relevant to my medicine application so might not interest anyone reading on here but I'm not sure additional posts will make complete sense without it.

    Saturday, 22 June 2013
    Auntie Mia

    I got home from a job interview yesterday to a really weird atmosphere in my house. My little sister, my daft baby sister who still cuts the crusts off her sandwiches and screams when she sees a spider has just told our parents that she’s having a baby with her boyfriend. His parents are over the moon and my Dad is really chuffed he’s going to be a Grandad. My Mum is worried about how they’re going to cope (my sister goes pale at the sight of bodily fluids and I wouldn’t trust her boyfriend to look after a hamster on his own).


    I’m trying not to be judgemental and instead try to help them practically but my sister and her boyfriend are only 22. He’s just lost his driving licence due to a medical issue and has had to leave his job (driving). She is still working full time but where she works is not very secure at the moment and there are a lot of worries about how long before the place runs out of money and shuts down. They both have relatively serious medical conditions and her boyfriend is now registered blind. They’re hoping that the council will give them a flat but this won’t be until after the baby is born.

    I don’t think they’ve ruined their lives but they have gone and made things as difficult as possible for themselves. I’ve never really been the type to chat about boyfriends and girly stuff and now I feel really guilty that I didn’t talk to my sister more about contraceptives and the different and more effective options that are available. Even though I know that I was perfectly able to work things out for myself, I feel bad that I didn’t try to help her and assumed she would be fine as well. I feel guilty that she couldn’t confide in me, she waited for three months to tell our parents and I didn’t find out until afterwards. I wish she could have told me sooner and had me there for support when she told Mum and Dad.

    I know it’s selfish, but I’m really worried about how this will affect me. I don’t mind babies generally as long as they’re not screaming themselves silly or toddlers running around Starbucks (I would say it’s more the parents who really make me angry by ignoring their children when they need something or are at risk of knocking into me and my huge mug of coffee landing on their head), but I’ve never had any experience of them and I’ve always been clear that I don’t want my own. The last baby I held was my sister who is less than 3 years younger than me. She also ended up in A&E after I dropped her by standing up and running off to play. Although I worked with young children before, it was exhausting and they always went back to their parents at the end of the afternoon. I’ve moved back home since finishing university because a) I’m still looking for a proper job and b) I owe a lot of money to a lot of different places including my Mum and the bank. Now it looks like my sister, her boyfriend and the baby (when it comes) are moving in.

    As much as I love my sister, I’m dreading this and seriously considering moving into my car. Being woken up at all hours of the night by a screaming baby is not my idea of fun and I’ve already said that I won’t be babysitting all the time. Financially, I borrowed a significant amount of money from my parents for my MSc and I know they want to help support the baby which will be easier for them if I can pay that money back as quickly as possible. This means that I can’t really justify renting and giving money to a landlord instead of them. I have no idea how long it will take for my sister to get her own place with the council and she is picky about where she will live as neither of them now has a driving licence and they wouldn’t be able to visit family or friends. Five adults and a baby in a small 3 bed terrace house with a single bathroom and a tiny kitchen doesn’t sound like the most fun living experience ever.

    Practically, I’m trying to help. My sister has asked me to teach her to drive but I’ve not had my licence long enough, my boyfriend has offered to take her out in my car as long as she gets insurance so I’m calling Diamond on Monday to find out how much it will cost to add her to my policy. I’m spending tomorrow with her boyfriend to re-write his CV and a covering letter for him. I’ve gotten them the phone numbers for the council housing people and the citizen’s advice bureau. My sister already has an appointment to see the doctor booked and I’ve offered to drive her.

    I’m still really in a bit of shock, although most of her friends already have children and we live in an area where this is the expectation rather than a problem, I didn’t think she’d have children this young. I think it is also hammering home how we’re both responsible adults (I’ve still not gotten over no longer being a teenager). I want to do things to help but I also need to get used to the fact that I’m going to need to watch my sister live her own life, struggle and make her own mistakes. I think she’ll be a great Mum, and if I can help I will although my strengths lie with checking CV’s rather than changing nappies.

    If anyone else has any experiences or suggestions that they want to share then I will be glad to hear them.

    M150

    PS – My sister does know that I’ve written this and is happy for me to make this post public.
     
  7. M150

    M150 New Member

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    Wednesday, 10 July 2013
    Yes!

    Apologies in advance for any typos in this post (fingers crossed the phone autocorrects) but I'm over half way through a bottle of wine.

    I've been offered a job. A proper graduate job with proper graduate pay. I cant say exactly what it is because if my employers find this blog I will be in trouble, it's based in London and involves working in hospitals but not in patient care.

    Since finishing my previous temping contract I've not had a pay check since March. I've been living solely on my savings as the job centre had decided I had made myself intentionally jobless after turning down a second contract that would have involved 4 hours on buses each day and wouldn't have paid enough for me to rent anywhere but at my parents.

    I start on August 1st. This means I get paid on the 30th so I might have been slightly hammering my (previously untouched) credit card. I bought season 8 of Grey's Anatomy on DVD, and I finally managed to buy the Griffith GAMSAT review.

    I hate working from computer screens so I printed it off and got it bound. Word of warning - it is 190 pages in total and I used an entire black ink cartridge (only the cover page is coloured). I haven't sat the exam yet so I have no idea if it will help or not but I like the writing style and the layout. It has useful tips and I really like the suggestions for the essay section. I might just be me being hugely cheap but I just don't think it's worth the £35. Although if I get a place to study medicine I don't think I'll be complaining.

    I've also ordered A level revision guides in biology, chemistry and physics second hand on amazon. I got the Lett's guides recommended by Griffiths as I've used them before and liked them. I got slightly older editions because they were much cheaper and I don't need the exact up to date syllabus as I'm not actually doing A Levels.

    I've got until the end of the month with no distractions so I can get some solid work done. I also know I'll be able to afford to sit the GAMSAT which was a big worry. Credit card to the rescue! I can use it now because I can afford to pay it off in August.

    Very happy - off to finish the bottle of wine and enjoy the sun for the rest of the evening.

    M150.

    PS - The reason this post wasn't put on here initially was because I use my phone to write it and didn't get around to putting it on here. This is the last of my 'missing posts' and the next post is one I've written today and is far more relevant to my application.
     
  8. M150

    M150 New Member

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    8 weeks 3 days...

    As of today (21st July 2013), there are only 8 weeks and 3 days before the UK 2013 GAMSAT. Sorry if I have just shocked anyone but I slightly terrified myself when I realised how little time there is left. That’s only 59 days before test day.

    Argh!

    I thought I had plenty of time, I decided around January/February time that I wanted to sit the GAMSAT in September 2013 with the idea of applying to UCAS in September 2014 for entry to Medicine in 2015. I shouldn’t be panicking, I have a science background and should I think have enough time to study for the exam. I also have no plans to apply to UCAS this autumn so I still have 3 attempts at the GAMSAT before my first medical application. I still however have that slightly queasy, panicky feeling in my stomach and at the back of my throat.

    I’m also not working at the moment, I start my new job on the 1st August and this is only 2 days induction before starting work for real on Monday 5th August. My 25th Birthday is on the 31st July which is a bit of a shame as I can’t be hung-over the next day.

    This should mean that I have plenty of time to revise my socks off before I start but unfortunately it doesn’t, now I have a job lined up and don’t have to run around the country looking for interviews I’m being seen by my family as not having anything to do so I can do things for them instead. I’ve been volunteered to take elderly relatives I’ve never met shopping (I don’t mind mostly but one of my Great-Aunts was rude, insulted my car and expected me to pay for all of the parking). I’ve been helping my Mum around the house to ‘earn my keep’ (but I pay rent!) My sister has been getting really bad morning sickness so I’ve been up with her everyday holding her hair back and cleaning up afterwards – I got fed up of doing this and yelled at her boyfriend who was too lazy to get out of bed and look after his own girlfriend but the sight of vomit made him throw up too. Plus it’s been YEARS since we’ve had a decent summer and I’ve been enjoying the sun and even when I take my books out with me I know I get less done.

    So much for my month of solid revision, so today I’ve barricaded myself in my room and I’m taking action. My DVD player has broken so no chance to procrastinate there. I’ve left the wii-mote at my boyfriend’s so his sister has a spare for friends to use over the summer. My notebook doesn’t have a DVD drive so I can’t use it to play DVD’s. I’ve also set up an account with limited access and installed site blocked on Chrome to prevent procrastination. My Dad is now the only person who knows the password to my main computer account and has promised not to tell me until after the exam. I’ve also got a hammer out and now have a notice board with my ‘To Do’ list hanging next to my bed and grabbed a cheap academic diary to use to plan my revision timetable.

    I’ve boxed up anything I have left that could potentially be interesting. It’s all off to go stay with my Aunt in Southampton until September (So no chance I can sneak anything back). I have kept my library card for books and I can watch the TV downstairs if I want to relax but hopefully I should be more productive now. I’m thinking I can do 4 3 hour sessions per week, one on Biology, Chemistry and Physics with the final session on sections 1 & 2. On top of this I’ve been buying the Guardian or reading the Metro daily and I’m downloading various podcasts to listen to on the tube or in my car. I've also volunteered to house/cat sit for my cousin who is off on holiday for 2 weeks, she lives in the middle of no-where and I'm hoping that the peace and quiet will help me get loads of work done.

    I do however appear to have quite successfully procrastinated by writing this blog post though. I’m trying to kid myself it’s relevant but I’m not entirely convinced. I have however been working through the Griffiths GAMSAT guide today and I’ve worked my way through the guidance on sections I and I’m feeling quite relaxed about that so hopefully I’ll still feel like that later on when I begin revising AS Physics.

    Wish me luck and let me know any revision or GAMSAT tips you think might be helpful.

    M150.
     
  9. M150

    M150 New Member

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    I've just booked my GAMSAT exam.

    I had been wavering over whether or not I should book it. I'm not 100% confident (but then I have always thought I could have done more before exams - no matter how hard I had worked) and if I do well then it will be worth it, if I fail however then it is a huge waste of money that I badly need.

    I do think however, that since the GAMSAT is aimed at widening access to medical school, the cost may be an issue. Medicine as a graduate is a hugely expensive path to take so I can see the argument that if you can't afford the GAMSAT then you should reconsider if the course is something you can do, however it is possible to cope - I'm working for a couple of years first to save a considerable amount of money and I'm living with my parents at the moment to help towards the £15,000 I've calculated that I need to save to be able to do this. If I do manage to get a place then I would investigate any additional grants and bursaries I could apply for, the UKCAT - a much cheaper test - has a fee waiver programme. The GAMSAT is only open for registration between 3rd June 2013 and 9th August 2013. This is a really short time period and the £228 fee is significant. Even simply being able to book the test and pay an initial deposit before spreading the cost over a couple of paydays would have helped. As it is, to be able to pay for the test on my credit card so I can pay it off once I get paid next month, I couldn't book the test until now. This meant that my preferred test centre (Bristol) is fully booked and I've had to opt for London instead.

    But I've paid now - I couldn't actually justify buying Practice Test 2 which is part of my revision plan but I will do closer to the test when I've scheduled in a practice run. I'm just going to point out however that the Practice Questions you get when you book the test has a watermark on every page of your name, date of birth and email address. Bloody annoying and a bit distracting - I would have preferred to buy a paper copy and it seems like this is being done only to protect profits and prevent people selling on their exam papers once they were finished with them. Plus I now need to find somewhere to print the paper off - all 60 pages!

    Agh - I'm actually doing this! Slightly terrified.


    M150
     
  10. M150

    M150 New Member

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    I got a bit behind on updating my blog on here, I really wish there was a NewMediaMedicine app because I rarely use a computer anymore and the site isn't the most phone friendly. I've recently sat the GAMSAT so here these are mostly posts about the build up to the exam and what I thought about it. There should also be some helpful information for people sitting the exam later on.

    GCSE Results - 23rd August 2013

    While I might be nearly a decade older than the average teenager waiting for their GCSE results, I was really nervous yesterday morning too as I was waiting for the results of my English GCSE.

    My original GCSE results were not fantastic, I was a stupid idiot who thought I could do all of my coursework at the last possible minute and not bother revising. I ended up with 7 B's, a C, 2 D's and an E. I wasn't fussed about the D in Drama or the E in Art (I was always rubbish at both and didn't want to take them in the first place) but the D in English Language shocked me.

    I got this grade purely on the basis of my coursework. I handed it in so late that my teacher refused to mark it so I couldn't get a higher grade. It was all my own fault but the thing that really upset me was how difficult it was to find anywhere to let me resit. My own sixth form refused to let me do A Levels if I redid the GCSE and while I was still in full time education, there was a funding issue that meant I couldn't study anywhere else. Luckily when I applied for sixth form and university, they were willing to accept my B grade in English Literature instead.

    I finally managed to retake my English GCSE last year via an online distance learning course with The Sheffield College. I know that the graduate medicine courses I intend to apply for don't consider GCSE's or A Levels but I felt like I had enough black marks on my application without adding to them. The course I studied involved doing homework on my own and spending three days in Sheffield over the year to do the controlled assessments and the exams. It worked fantastically for me and I couldn't recommend the course enough to people in the same situation.

    And yesterday I got an email letting me know I got an A! This is my first GCSE at grade A and I was really happy with it, until I got my exam slip through the post today and found out I got 179 UMS and was only a single mark (both raw & UMS) away from an A*.

    One bloody mark! Had I phrased something slightly better or worked faster to get an additional point across I may well be sitting here with an A*. It has been a long while since I've taken a subject without right or wrong answers and having read around a few Internet sites, I'm wondering if getting a remark might be a good idea? I would just get the one paper remarked as I got 38/40 in the other paper and don't think it is likely to increase. I've emailed my tutor and I'm waiting for a response.

    In the meantime, any comments? Considering I've sat this exam so close to applying to medicine (whereas all of my other poor grades will be over a decade old by the time I apply), do you think an A would be considered acceptable or do I really need the A*?

    M150

    PS - I ended up requesting the remark but I haven't got the results back yet.
     
  11. M150

    M150 New Member

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    Panicking just a little - 28th August 2013

    With only 3 weeks until the GAMSAT, I'm well into my revision and I'm really starting to panic now, this wont be the last chance I have (applying for 2015 entry) but the exam costs so much and I'm feeling significantly underprepared although I don't think I've ever not felt like this before an exam so it's hard to judge if I'm right or not. There always seems to be more I need to do. I really considered postponing it for a year but its now too late so here I go. Below is a bit of a breakdown about how I'm finding each section. I'm planning to take a week off before the exam to really get my head down so hopefully I will feel better then.

    Section I - I'm hoping here that the ACER practice papers are a good reflection of the standard of the actual GAMSAT. I've been doing these under timed conditions and averaging over 90%. The question I have got wrong have been where I wasn't sure between 2 answers and picked the wrong one. I know I don't know how to convert the percentages to a GAMSAT score but I'm pretty happy with this section.

    Section II - I hate this section, if I fail I think it will be due to this. I've been doing practice essays for half an hour in the morning while I drink my coffee and I'm finding it a struggle. Firstly, I'm finding actually being able to write the essay quickly and neatly a struggle, my hand aches most of the way through and I've only been doing one essay at a time! The other thing that throws me are the questions, if I get a good topic then I'm away but if I get a dull one (this mornings was about modern art) then I'm sunk.

    Section III is a bit more structured in terms of my revision so I'll break it down further.

    Biology - Seems to be going well, I'm revising a lot less material for this than I thought I would need too. I'm using the Lett's guides recommended by Griffiths and Biology seems to be one where there is more flexibility between courses and I'm only revising the core content. It's just a shame the content I find most interesting is often not core. On top of this, I've mostly been skipping the genetics sections as they seem so basic and I know the answers without needing to revise them. I've got my fingers crossed for a nice long clinical genetics section in the GAMSAT. But I do have the Krebs cycle to look forward to once I get home tonight. Joy.

    Chemistry - Like biology, I studied this to degree level already. Unlike Biology I loathed it, just because I found it so bloody boring and didn't like the way it was taught. So it was a nice surprise to remember that I actually really enjoyed A Level Chemistry. I'm happy with the AS stuff but I haven't yet managed to start A2 and I'm worrying myself by how late I'm leaving it.

    Physics - bit annoyed. I did it to A Level so luckily for me I will be purely revising rather than learning new information. I knew that the GAMSAT would be a calculator free paper but I didn't really think that through until I realised that a large chuck of the information I was learning won't actually be on the exam because it would need a calculator so lots of time wasting going on here.

    I am using the Griffith Review much more than I thought I would and one of the best decisions I've made was printing out a copy and getting it bound. I can scrawl over it and fill it with post it's to my hearts content and I don't get annoyed with a slow running PDF reader. I've also got hard copies of the ACER material and I find that it makes it much easier to have the actual paper in front of me rather than relying on a computer screen.

    Wish me luck
     
  12. M150

    M150 New Member

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    And the madness sets in - 16th September 2013

    I shouldn't be blogging, I don't have time. I don't have time for anything now but I'm waiting for the kettle to boil and there is no chance I can cope without caffeine.

    It's now Monday and the dreaded GAMSAT is on Wednesday. I've done mock tests, I've written essays, I've read entire textbooks and written reams of revision notes. But I'm still not ready.

    My hair is greasy, I'm sat in my pyjamas because all of my other clean clothes are in the wash and my skin is a state because of the excess junk food I've been eating and the lack of sun I've seen. I can feel myself getting (much) fatter and I'm longing for Thursday when I can actually cook again. No more ready meals!

    I'm on annual leave because I wanted to dedicate my time to revision but its not exactly been peaceful. Due to budget cuts my local library reduced its opening hours last week and was only open for a limited time on Saturday and is shut on Sundays and Mondays which is not helpful. For anyone considering applying to study at the University of Glasgow, I can't say how much I miss the medical library right now. 24 hour opening, an instant hot water machine and good company. Also no screaming kids wanting to run around but stuck inside because of the weather.

    So, my revision. For section 1 I've mostly been doing practice papers. I've stuck to the Acer mocks so far and luckily got given the old paper copies for free. I've been averaging 90% in those with at least 30 minutes to spare so I'm not too worried about that section.

    Section 2, I've gone through the Griffiths guide and I have 2 essay structures, one for A and one for B. I've also been reading some of the 'Short introduction to' books on things like medical ethics and philosophy. The bit I'm most worried about in this section is pain from trying to scribble down everything as quickly as possible.

    Section 3, I have struggled a bit here because there is no set GAMSAT syllabus. I grabbed the Lett's A Level guides recommended by Griffiths, I made an A4 page of revision notes for each 'section' and I've finished these for everything but A2 Chemistry. I've then tried to got back through my revision notes to make an A5 notes page for each section.

    Physics, I'm done with apart from playing with some flash cards to try and remember the important equations before the exam. I'm happy with AS Biology and I just need to finish my short notes for A2 but I did a biology degree and as I only went thorough the first revision notes recently, I think I'll be ok.

    I'm struggling with Chemistry, it's not that it's difficult, it's just that there is so much to remember. I revised AS Chemistry so long ago, I don't remember everything. I'm going through A2 Chemistry at the moment and I was quite happy to realise I was halfway through. Until I realised I was ONLY half way through. Tomorrow I check into my hotel and that is where I'm planning to do one last mock.

    Argh, looking forward to this weekend SO much.
     
  13. M150

    M150 New Member

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    GAMSAT Test Day 2013 - 22nd September 2013

    I'm writing about the GAMSAT from the perspective that I would have wanted to read before I sat the exam. I'm one of those people who wants to know as much as possible in advance and I think the same is likely to be true for lots of people applying to medicine. I’ll write more about how I found each of the sections in a separate post. What I want to write about more in this post is the experience of taking the exam. No-one else will have the exact same experience of the different sections as I did but my experience of the day itself is likely to be more useful to people taking the exam in the future.

    I sat the exam for the first time last week. After all the hype and comments I've seen about the exam on various blogs and forums, it was not nearly as intimidating an exam as I thought it was going to be. One of the things I really did enjoy about the GAMSAT was the opportunity to chat to people in a similar situation to me. I've been keeping quiet about my hopes of studying medicine because I don't want anyone to tell me to stop being silly because I will never make it. I loved getting to talk to people who don't think it's a daft idea and even if I don't get the score I need this time, I've got more confidence that I could actually be a Doctor.

    I checked into a hotel for the night before the exam and I would definitely recommend this. I sat the exam in London and although I only live on the other side of the city, the travel time was ridiculous. Despite only living 15 miles away from the ExCeL Centre, it took me over two hours to get there the day before on public transport. This was outside of the main rush hour and I would hate to think about how horrible the same trip would have been if I was crammed into a sweaty, overheated carriage and forced to stand for the entire time before sitting the GAMSAT. You also then run the risk of something going wrong, I've been on my way to an important interview before and missed it because someone has jumped onto the line further up. Fortunately I was able to rearrange the interview but as the GAMSAT is only once a year then you wouldn't have this option.

    I picked a hotel on the basis it was cheap and advertised as being within a 5 minute walk of the centre. What I didn't realise before was just how BIG the ExCeL centre is. The docklands light railway runs alongside it and there is one stop at the west end of the centre and the next stop is at the east end of the centre. So be careful when you pick a hotel - it could well be at the opposite end of the centre which is still a walkable distance for most people. If I have to sit the exam at this site again, I'll be booking the Ibis purely because of its location. The hotel I stayed in (The Prince Regent) was cheap but it was noisy because of its location and the room I was in was tiny and didn't have a desk which wasn't helpful for the GAMSAT. Stupidly, I hadn't thought to check if all rooms had a desk as standard but I will do next time. The flip side of this was that instead of panicking and trying to stuff more information into my head, I allowed myself to relax and calm down before the exam.

    I got to the exam centre for 8:15am which was the time given on the ticket. I personally feel more comfortable doing this because time-keeping is not one of my strong points but if you do end up running late, I wouldn't panic. This is the time that registration for the exam opens not the time you must be registered by. The exam was held in an exhibition hall and it was HUGE, at least twice the size of the sports hall at my old university. I would have estimated that between 500-1000 of us sat the exam at the London site this year, all of us needed to have our ID checked and our names ticked off a list, to do this we had to join a huge queue and took a while. I got a cup of tea instead of joining the end of the queue and waited for it to calm down before joining the end. I still had time to relax and calm myself down before taking my seat in the exam room. I was sat down by about 8:45AM but people were still taking their seats at 8:55. I know me writing this isn't likely to reassure people not to get to the exam centre for the time on the ticket, I read the advice that it would be fine if I turned up later in the Griffith GAMSAT review and it still didn't stop me from worrying, but once I saw the sheer number of candidates waiting to sit the exam, I knew I didn't have to worry.

    The exam room itself had 4 huge rolling doors which were closed at about 9AM. The head invigilator then began reading the exam instructions out. Some of these were quite (and in my opinion, unnecessarily) strict. These included no eating, so no sugar sweets to keep you going, no drinks other than water, no going to the toilet in the last ten minutes of the exam, no posting questions on the internet (so if you are expecting me to post the actual questions from the exam then I’m sorry, but I won’t be), and no pulling the paper apart which was very annoying when I had been used to doing mock papers that had been printed on single A4 sheets and I could separate the questions or put questions together as I liked. I specifically asked about medication and I was told that was fine to have on my desk as long as it wasn’t in the box. Where I was, they were enforcing the ‘no drinks but water’ rule and the reason they seemed to be giving was that spillages would stop the paper from being marked. Not sure how much I buy that answer but I took still flavoured water into the exam with me so that I could have the slight sugar hit if I needed it and there didn’t seem to be any issues with that. There is a giant clock projected onto the front of the exam room and I didn’t find I needed a watch but I was near the front and I do have good eyesight so I would probably get a watch if I need to take the exam again.

    Sections one and two take place in the morning session and section three took place after lunch. There isn’t a break between sections one and two so you are sat down for around three hours working on the test and waiting for papers to be collected in and handed out. There is a rule that stops you from going to the toilet in the last ten minutes of the exam, I found that I finished section one in plenty of time and I wish I had used the time to have a break before section two but I wanted to make sure I was completely finished with my answers and checking the paper before I got up. Annoyingly, I was completely happy with the paper just as they announced that no-one could leave anymore so I spent 10 minutes bored and not being able to do anything constructive. If I have to do the paper again, I will take the time to stretch my legs and use the bathroom before the start of section two.

    The answer paper for section one was a single A4 page so that I could see all of my answers on the same sheet of paper all at once. For section two, there was only one paper with both the questions and space for the answer in the same booklet. The booklet ‘flips’ over so that question 1 starts at the front of the booklet followed by the space for your answer. To get to question 2, you closer the booklet and flip it over so that question 2 appears to be at the start of the pamphlet. This makes it easier to flip between the initial quotes and the answer space but did slightly confuse me to begin with. It might be useful information to let you know that each question in section two consists of 6 pages: a page of the questions, a blank page for rough work, and four lined pages for your answer.

    The emails you get before the GAMSAT warn you that there might not be anywhere to buy food during the hour lunch break but where I was in London had plenty of places to buy food. There was a lot of choice and the queues were not nearly as bad as they could be, but if you are on a budget, bring your own lunch. The prices were extortionate because the shops know they have a captive audience but I really didn’t fancy living on my squished, slightly warm sandwiches that had been in my bag all day.

    We had an hour for lunch and I got chatting to a couple more prospective medical students. Some of the people I spoke to were just finishing degrees in things like Biomedical Sciences but others had been working and building their careers for over a decade but wanted to chuck everything in and get into medicine. It is a bit scary when you realise the calibre of the other candidates you are up against but also I found it helped me realise I am good enough to be competitive.

    We were told to get back to the exam room ten minutes before the end of lunch to get ready for the afternoon session but in reality this didn’t happen. Everyone was checked to make sure they should be in the room before they were allowed in and all I did by rushing to get back was spend my time standing in yet another queue. Section three was the longest and I think most challenging of the sections in terms of maintaining your focus. The length of the exam also meant I wasted time because I needed to break to use the bathroom two hours into the exam. Again the answer sheet you fill in only covers a single A4 page so you can see all of your answers at once.

    I’m writing another blog post about the questions themselves (in general terms) but these are my tips for anyone taking the GAMSAT:

    ·Stay in a nearby hotel if you can afford it.
    ·Don’t panic about running slightly late – all you will be doing is queuing less.
    ·If you are going to have time left at the end of section 1 – take a bathroom break.
    ·Take a watch.
    ·Take flavoured still water with you for sugar.
    ·Don’t be intimidated – the exam isn’t fun, but it isn’t an impossible task.
     
  14. M150

    M150 New Member

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    Test Breakdown

    I realise you must be getting bored of me rambling on about the GAMSAT so this is going to be my last post about it for a while (until the results turn up anyway). I did say however I would write about how I found the individual sections so here goes.

    Section 1: This was my favourite section during my exam prep. I'm lucky in that I'm a fast reader and I read widely without needing to force myself to. I did the ACER practice papers and kept reading as I normally would for this section. I did make use of my library card a bit more than usual as I justified spending time reading as it was exam prep.

    I was pretty happy with this section, I did think it was a bit harder than the ACER papers but not impossible. I worked my way through the paper skipping the question I didn't immediately know the answer to and going back to them. I found this helped me get in the right mindset to do the exam because once I'd done the easy questions I found I had no issue with the harder questions. I finished this paper with time to spare and I was happy with all of the questions. I found when I was doing the practise papers that I tended to lose marks when I went back over the paper and second guessed myself so I avoided doing this during the test.

    Section 2: I really wasn't looking forward to this section because I am not the best essay writer in the world. I've only recently redone GCSE English which may have helped as the techniques were fresh in my mind but I was really dreading this section.

    I'd practised by doing mock, timed essays but I'd had to force myself to write them. I got up half an hour early each morning so I could practise for the exam and I don't think this helped me hate this section any less.

    I had gone through the Griffiths review and planned the structure of my essays in advance but I found I only used it for the second essay. The first essay was much more argumentative and I found myself writing well because I cared about the argument I was being asked to make, this was a much easier essay to write because I was sure of my own opinion but I did end up drifting away from my essay plan which might not have helped my structure.

    I had a big problem with the second essay in that I didn't really have an opinion about the topic raised by the quotes given. I really struggled to form a question in response to the quotes and I wasn't really sure what to write about en ended up wasting a lot of time. Hopefully I was able to write a more balanced essay but I ended up concluding that a balance between the two ideas was best and that people should make their own decisions for them. Not sure how well that section went.

    Section 3: This was the section that I spent most of my time preparing for and I think was probably the hardest section for me. Section 2 was alright except for me panicking a bit that I didn't really care enough about the topic of essay B. Section 3 takes forever, you are tired after the morning session and the adrenaline has started to wear off, your eyes are tired and you just want to go home.

    During the reading time I had a flick through the booklet, I was lucky this time and got a number of genetics questions which I found pretty straightforward because of my MSc, I didn't actually manage to read through the entire paper in the ten minutes just because there are so many questions and so much information, instead I flicked through and answered as many easy questions as I could in my head during this time.

    I was pretty comfortable with most of the biology questions although a few took me a bit longer than I wanted to figure out the results. I was especially annoyed when I ended up wasting time with a question which was so easy I thought I hadn't understood it properly.

    The physics questions seemed a lot simpler than those in the past papers following the no calculators rule BUT I also found that you are now given less information and you needed to know the equation to work out the answer. I answered all of these and I think I was generally alright but I'm not sure I had all of the equations completely right.

    My weak point in this exam was the Chemistry, I hadn't revised enough and I didn't practice with the equations enough but lessons learnt for the future. I could do some of the questions and I was puzzling my way through the rest but I just didn't work quickly enough to find the answers.

    I ended up guessing about 15-20 of the questions (I guessed C, not just because of the GAMSAT review but also because it is the initial of my first pet - a goldfish called Chloe) because I ran out of time so I'm not expecting miracles from this section.

    Overall: I don't think I did as well as I could have this time around and I would be shocked if I get a score I am happy with. 3 of my choices rely on me doing well in the GAMSAT so I will probably be redoing it in March.

    However, I think that doing the GAMSAT once is the best thing I could have done to prepare for getting the result I want next time. I know what to expect, I'm not terrified I will fail miserably, I've revised the core science content and I know where my revision was lacking and I have the background knowledge to keep practicing calculations instead of memorising facts.

    Now I just need to wait patiently for November... I hate waiting.

    In other news, I've managed to talk my way into observing surgery as part of my job. I can't wait!
     
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