/ Life Advice

Exams are a game

I’m writing this with 2 days to go until my final exam in my penultimate year of studying Medicine. I’ve just bashed through ~120 psychiatry and obstetrics questions, with around 700 left to get through by tomorrow night.

A friend of mine got a lovely email from her grandmother giving some advice about the exams. Here’s what it said:

I’ve been thinking about you for days and wondering how your studying is going and when your exams are. Are you feeling ready? Or just tired and grumpy? It’s such a huge pressure. I do hope you can keep it in perspective - it’s not necessary to be top of the class… you’ll still get to do the type of medicine you want wherever you want… It only matters that you have a family who loves you and dear friends who support you - all unconditionally.

No one will ever know, or probably care, how well you do on these exams. It sounds crazy to say, but I think it helps to approach exams as a fun personal game, just seeing what you remember… then, when it’s over, just let it go happy: finished!

While I’ve never been one to ‘stress’ about exams particularly, I’ve found myself thinking about this ‘fun personal game’ tip several times over the past few weeks.

I still want to do well in the exams, of course, but treating them as a game helps keep them in perspective.

Those of us lucky enough to be studying Medicine in the UK don’t have much to be worried about when it comes to exams. Our performance in exams contributes around 10% to the overall scores that let us apply for the most competitive jobs in the most competitive areas. And sure, if you’re the sort of person who’s going for an illustrious academic career that requires you to be top of the year and work at specific jobs in Central London teaching hospitals, then it makes sense for you to try and squeeze every last mark out of the exams.

But for the rest of us, who may or may not have a clear idea of which career we like, and may not be overly attached to the idea of working in London, treating our medical school exams like a game seems like a pretty healthy way of going about things. It means we work hard and try our best, but hopefully also retain a sense of perspective.

No one will ever care about the handful of marks we dropped in a paper by taking the evening off, but we’ll always have fond memories of the lovely night eating sushi and playing board games with friends.

Ali Abdaal

6th year medic, YouTuber, web designer, aspiring musician. Trying out this blogging thing.

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