>September 09 2001

>The third week of Medical School culminated with our first exam. It was in Biochemistry and I think I did well. I spent a good portion of my study time preparing for it, and while I feel like it paid off, I now find myself a little behind in Gross Anatomy.
The test consisted of 51 multiple choice items and will only count as 9% of our final grade for the course. I feel like I should definitely be in the 80s on it but apparently it will be a few days before we get our scores back. I have been told that the professors like to statistically analyze the results to check for ambiguous questions and such before giving you a final grade. I also have learned something I find a little unusual about the grading system at UMC. It is entirely numerical. There are no letter grades such as A, B or C. You must make a 70% in each course to pass and maintain an overall average of 75% to advance to second year. Instead of dividing the class by means of A’s and B’s and such, progress for each student is measured by what third of the class you rank in. In other words, the high performers are noted to be in the top third of the class and so on. I have heard that many medical schools in the country are going away from grades and having only a pass/fail system. I really don’t like that system, as I get a lot of motivation from the idea of competing with my classmates for rankings. I have heard many of them say things like, “I don’t expect to be in the top ten, I just want to be in the top half,” or “I just want to pass!” I want to win though! I want to be first in the class, and if I’m not I want to be second, and if I’m not in the top 50 I want to be number 51! Going in to this test I felt a little bit at a disadvantage to many of my classmates who had a Biochemistry class in their undergraduate education. I got the impression that many of them were sort of blowing off this course and concentrating on Gross Anatomy. In fact I’ve heard many comments to the effect that Biochemistry was going to be relatively easy, and that they just hoped to get a passing grade in Anatomy. When we go get our grades, a histogram of the entire classes performance will be given, so I am interested to see where I will rank.

After the exam Friday morning, I realized that even though I had that euphoric feeling I always get when a test is over (I really got to love that feeling taking Actuarial exams over the last 10 years!), I had no time to celebrate and needed to get to work right away on Anatomy. My fears were confirmed Saturday morning. We had a “practice” practical exam first thing Saturday. Our first real exam is next Monday, and the examinations in Anatomy are comprised of a written portion and a practical portion. During the latter, each student goes through the laboratory and has to identify structures that have been tagged on all of the cadavers we have been working on. Since most of us were a little unsure of what to expect on these exams, the professors gave us a little dry run through one. I definitely learned one thing … I have a LOT to do this week!


About Marcus Lee

Child Neurologist
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