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Keeping Up With Medicine While Intercalating

Intercalating is a great opportunity for medical students to study a degree in which they are interested in. It’s a chance to pursue another degree that is related to or not related to the medical field. It can open doors into the research world and offer additional FPAS points (Points used to rank all medical students). However during the time taken out, it is important to also take time out to revise the medical knowledge you have learned over your years at medical school.

It can be easy for intercalating students to see the year as a “break form medicine” especially if the chosen degree allows you to have much more free time compared to the medical course. However, it is very easy for students to forget what they have learnt during their previous years especially if their revision methods were based solely on memorising what is needed for the exam rather than understanding the topic and therefore without continuous repetition that retained information can be forgotten.

Looking back at my intercalated year, I realise now how important it is to keep up with your medical studies at the same time and wish that I would have spent more time going over my medical notes to ensure that I would not be too behind when I joined the medical course again.

So, to make sure you don’t make the same mistake, here are 4 tips to help you efficiently revise your medical knowledge while intercalating.

  1. Schedule a time for revision

Remember your chosen intercalated degree comes first, so plan to revise when you have no exams or stressful periods e.g. during writing your dissertation. Taking time out a few hours one day a week or every other week is a good start. Remember that your aim is to only refresh your memory as you go along.

2. Choose how to best revise

An easy revision method would best for example going over previous notes or flashcards you’ve made or simply reading through textbooks or the oxford handbook of clinical medicine. This allows you to quickly and efficiently revise topics. Don’t stress yourself with a heavy workload, small chunks of information every so often will be fine.

3. Test yourself

Using sites such a can be really useful in determining what you know and don’t know. You can also make your own questions/flashcards to test yourself with using sites like PassMed is especially useful because when you get a question wrong, it provides information alongside the right answer. Repeatedly going over this will help you to retain the information.

4. Be organised

Having a good standard of organisation is incredibly important and will help you to plan out your work so it does not become stressful. Making lists or creating a timetable can be helpful when checking what topics/modules you’ve covered.

If you find your chosen intercalated degree is very demanding, it is more important to focus on achieving your desired results. Revision before you jump back into medicine can always be done over summer as well.

My university allows students to intercalate between years 2/3, 3/4 and 4/5 which means all intercalated students will be returning to a clinical based year making it especially important to keep up with our medical knowledge.

Going straight onto wards after a year out can be daunting but as long as some preparation has been done beforehand you should be fine. Revising clinical skills is also important because you may be called upon to perform any examination regardless of what ward/rotations you are based in first. Forgetting what to do in front of consultants and colleagues is a situation I’m sure we all want to avoid if we can!

The take home point is to enjoy your intercalated year! There are endless opportunities available to you. However, make sure you keep revising over your medical notes, so you have the best start when you return to complete your medical degree!

Written by Racheal Osei


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