A subject rarely touched upon in the admissions process to Medical School is the examination system. There’s good reason for this – after all, when you’re applying from ysear 13 your life is chocker with exams, some of which I still believe are harder than those you encounter at any point in Medical School (indeed, I still shudder at the prospect of revisiting organic chemistry). The last thing you want to hear about is the wonderful array of tests and trials you’ll encounter once you breach the ballisades of medical education.
That being said, I thought it might be nice for readers to get an insight into how exactly we got about proving we’re competent doctors at Leicester.
Being in my fourth year, I’ve just had the pleasure of completing my Intermediate Professional Exams (also known variously as IPE, “you-know-what” and oh god, why hasn’t it finished yet).
This exam is split into three separate parts, each more annoying than the last. A written short answer question paper tests everything we’ve learnt to date in the course, and this is swiftly followed by a layer of single best answer questions, which is like multiple choice but with added crippling uncertainty.
After a weeks break, during which you will inevitably have dissected your answers to each and every question and had several existential crises, you then get thrown into the OSCE.
If any of you have been to a Leicester University interview you probably know what this is like – you get rotated between different stations and tested on your clinical aptitude. These happen at fairly regular intervals throughout the course. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was just how gruelling the IPE OSCE was. You get subjected to 4 continuous hours of questioning, made to do doctor tricks like sticking a catheter up someone with entirely aseptic technique in 10 short minutes, explaining drugs to patients you’ve barely heard of, let alone seen prescribed, all the while keeping up a calm and competent looking facade (unless you’re a future patient of mine, in which case I reassure you that it was all 100% genuine competence).
The most important thing about this exam is that it determines where you get ranked in the great medical school ecosystem, and therefore what jobs you can expect to get when you graduate. All the fun! Finals next year are reassuringly a simple question of making yourself a safe and effective doctor, rather than proving intricate knowledge of an obscure medical condition never seen within the boundaries of Leicestershire.
That being said, exams are faced by everyone, and so simply become a part of the fabric of your medical school life. That isn’t to say they’re not scary – they are! – but you are reassured by the fact you have lots of other people around you who look like they’re going to be excellent doctors who are equally terrified. This is definitely a calming factor.