Categories
The Application

Where to Apply to This Year?

Last year, I applied to Nottingham, St George’s, Swansea and Warwick. All these programmes were the graduate entry, 4 year route (A101).

I’m starting to think about whether I would change my approach this year. It’s still early days and some medical schools have yet to finalise their 2022 entry requirements.

Nottingham A101:
2020 entry cut off: 55
2021 entry cut off: 58 (Rounded up the Notts scoring method)

St George’s A101:
2020 entry cut off: 58
2021 entry cut off: 60

Swansea A101:
2020 entry cut off: 60
2021 entry cut off: 62

Warwick A101:
2020 entry cut off: 2570
2021 entry cut off: 2720 (+/- depending on what you read and where…)

As you can see, there’s been some increases in admission exam cut offs. This is where the difference of an overall score point, makes all the difference and let’s not talk about Warwick’s huge, 150 point increase for their UCAT cut off this year.. I know a lot of people told me that an application will never be a waste but coming straight off the 2020 entry and into 2021 applications made me feel depressed. I knew there was a strong chance of increased cut offs and this is exactly what’s happened this year. I doubt that I would have been interviewed by any of these universities had I applied again for this year – hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Do I apply for the same places?

I’m still considering all 4 year, GEM programmes. As Warwick require the UCAT and the results are given on the day, if I score less than 2750/2800, then I risk being too low for Warwick, meaning it’s a wasted application. So.. Step up Ulster University! They’re in the process of interviewing for 2021, which is their first ever cohort for their graduate programme. Reading through threads and research, the GAMSAT cut off for 2021 was 55/56. A very obtainable score, similar to Nottingham, making them a really suitable place.

If I score high enough for Warwick, I will still consider exchanging Swansea (historically high GAMSAT cut offs) or St George’s (London living expenses), for Ulster. Ulster have become quite a favourite for me whilst researching the campus, the course and the location of Northern Ireland!

Why Ulster?

Ulster are a brand new medical school and 2021 will be their first cohort. A lot of people would see a new medical school as a bad thing however, it’s far from negative.

Their GAMSAT cut off has been amongst the lowest for graduate entry (similar to Nottingham).

The course is overseen and linked with St George’s in London. If on the rare occasion that Ulster do not get accreditation from the GMC, then you will receive a degree from St George’s University London instead. Essentially, the worst case scenario, is a degree from a university I would have applied for anyway. It’s the same course, qualification but without the London living costs.

Location-wise, Northern Ireland is a bit of a change but by no means impossible. Other than the initial moving fees, Derry/Londonderry is affordable and a beautiful place to live! If I have to relocate around the country anyway, why not Northern Ireland?

Will this change?

Probably! Let’s face it, UCAS opens next month, GAMSAT registration opens next month and UCAT registration opens in June. The deadline for UCAS is October (usually the 15th). That’s a long time off just yet!

Categories
The Application

Undergraduate Medicine or Graduate Entry?

When talking about applications to Medicine as a graduate, it’s often referred to as ‘postgraduate medicine’. The reality is, a medicine degree is still an undergraduate (UG) degree, regardless of whether it’s completed as a graduate or direct school leaver at 18. As a graduate you are fortunate to be able to apply to both degree programmes.

A100 Medicine:

A100 Medicine is intended for direct school leavers. The course is 5 years long and funding is provided by Student Finance England if it is your first degree. Applicants to an A100 course usually need to meet GCSE, A-Level, work experience and admission test requirements to be considered for interviews and offers.

Applying to an A100 Medicine degree as a graduate:

Many A100 medicine degrees will accept those with degrees already completed to their programmes. It is important to remember that the course is 5 years long (a year longer than most GEM programmes) and you still need to meet the course degree requirements. A100 would count as a second degree, there is no funding through Student Finance England for the tuition fees. Students may qualify for the maintenance loan but would have to self-fund the £9,250 annual, tuition fees themselves. This is usually a big disadvantage to graduates and a reason why many do not apply to the A100 courses. The bonus of an A100 degree is that the admission test (UCAT) cut off is often a lot lower than those needed for the Graduate Entry courses.

Graduate Entry Medicine:

A101 Graduate Entry Medicine is an accelerated course specifically designed for graduates who have already achieved a degree or are in their last year of study. The course is 4 years long and whilst students have to pay £3,500 towards their first year tuition fees, the rest is covered by Student Finance England, NHS England and they are eligible for the maintenance loan and NHS bursary too. Graduates are expected to have met their degree, A-Level and sometimes GCSE requirements, as well as work experience and admission test cut offs.

Whilst GEM seems like a far better option for graduates, it’s a LOT more competitive than A100 Medicine and the cut offs for admissions exams (GAMSAT/UCAT) are a LOT higher.

How competitive is it?

Each year, roughly 10,000 applicants apply for GEM. The number of places available changes each year but is roughly 900. Some of the GEM courses also can’t be applied to unless you meet specific requirements e.g. Cardiff is part of a feeder-scheme that is only available to students from select Welsh universities and completing certain degrees. This restricts the number of places available even further.

Recent statistics show that there can be up to 35 people applying for each place on a single GEM programme (QMU, Barts).

For every place, there can be up to 11 people interviewing for the single offer ( Cambridge University).

Where to apply?

It’s always sensible to apply to universities that cherry-pick your strengths. If you scored exceptionally well in the UCAT, Newcastle A101 is a good choice. Their UCAT cut off this year was higher than 3020 which is stupidly high – keep in mind that the UCAT is scored out of 900 in each section, so 3600 is the maximum score attainable. A score of 3020 would put you in the 96th percentile, meaning that you scored higher than 96% of candidates. Meaning that Newcastle A101 targets the top 4% of UCAT candidates.

If you scored particularly well in the GAMSAT you could apply to Exeter A100 as their cut off is 66. Whereas, for a GEM course, you could apply to Swansea with a score of 62. Likewise, if you scored on the lower side of the GAMSAT, you would apply for places such as Nottingham A101 who have their cut off at around 58/59.

It’s important to remember that this year has shown a significant increase in both the number of applicants and the admission exam cut offs.

Is getting an interview good?

Yes! Of course it is! Medicine is still the most competitive degree programme that you can apply for. An interview can be the last hoop that you have to jump through to be offered that much desired place (if a graduate)!

There are 10,000 applicants each year and the majority of those are not invited to interview due to missing their grades/ degree classification, do not meet the admissions test cut off or do not have the relevant work experience. Getting to an interview is a huge achievement. The University of Nottingham claim that they cut the applicant numbers down by 80% simply by rejecting those that do not meet their GAMSAT cut off for the year. They then invite the top 20% of applicants to fill in a work experience questionnaire before shortlisting to interviews.

Can I apply to both A100 and A101 courses?

Yes and you should. If you meet the requirements for an A100 course and feel comfortable with working whilst you are learning, then an A100 course shouldn’t be hardship. Apply to a mix of A100 and A101 courses that suit your strengths and give you the best possible chance at interview.

Categories
The Application

Application Timeline for 2022 Entry

Explaining the timeline for Graduate Entry Medicine can sometimes be confusing – a lot of work happens the year/s before!

As of now (March 2021) this will be my (rough based on last year) timeline:

May 2021 – GAMSAT registration opens for September 2021 testing.

June 2021 – UCAT registration opens for 2021 testing (July – October).

July 2021 – UCAT testing begins.

September 2021 – GAMSAT testing.

October 2021 – UCAS deadline for Medicine & Dentistry applicants. UCAT testing ends.

November 2021 – UCAT results sent to universities. GAMSAT results released to September candidates.

December 2021 – Communication from Universities – Interview invites, pre-interview rejections and work experience evidence.

January 2022 – Interviews begin. GAMSAT registration for March 2022 opens.

February 2022 – Student Finance applications open for new students. Deadline is roughly the end of May 2022.

March 2022 – Offers and waiting lists begin being allocated. GAMSAT testing.

July 2022 – Most offers/ rejections sent out. Waiting lists still operate.

September 2022 – Waiting lists close and courses start for 2022.

Exceptions or other time constraints – work experience must be completed by the October 2021 UCAS application deadline to be counted towards your application total (e.g. Warwick University).

Some universities send correspondence throughout the application cycle, others operate under radio silence.

Categories
Uncategorized

Rebrand/ New Logo

I’ve now branched out onto just about all social media. It’s spurred me on to have a bit more of a professional image/ logo so, here it is!

Categories
Work Experience

HCA Interviews – What Will They Ask Me?

Recently, my temporary contract (from my redeployment) came to an end. My Trust and manager informed me that there would be permanent band 3 HCA posts being advertised shortly. In January, the posts were advertised on the NHS Jobs website. These were open to both internal and external applicants. They were also a different number of positions for all the wards, not only mine.

I filled in an application and sent it off. It took about 4 weeks before I was shortlisted and invited to interview.

There were some HR related issues and my interview was cancelled on the morning it was due and I was offered the permanent role by my manager instead. Which was very convenient for me.

However, I was able to find out some of the questions I would have been asked. All candidates that were going to be interviewed would have been asked the same questions and their interview performance assessed by people they did not know or work with. This meant there was a very real chance that if I had interviewed poorly, I might not have gotten the job I have been doing for the last 11 months. A really scary possibility and something my manager was not informed of either. (She was interviewing too but kept away from our interview panels. It would have been better for the ward managers to interview the candidates for their own wards, to know who would be a good fit for their team and patients.)

Regardless, HCA work is deemed the ‘gold-standard’ of work experience. It’s invaluable. It’s hands-on, patient care. It’s patient centred and the chance to work as part of a multi-disciplinary team. It really sets you up for all aspect of working within the NHS.

INTERVIEW:

Will I need one?

Yes, you will. Every band and role requires an interview.

Who will interview me?

This depends. For my interview it was a Clinical Lead Occupational Therapist, a Nurse Consultant from another ward, and a Ward Manager from another ward. Sometimes there will be HR involved or people who already do the job. Usually it will be a Ward Manager or Team Leader for the ward/ department.

Will the interview be in person or online?

I’ve know of interviews being held in both formats but mine was offered online via Microsoft Teams.

How long will it be?

Mine was scheduled for 30 minutes.

WHAT WILL THEY ASK/ LOOK FOR?

All the way through an NHS interview there will be questions that should allow you to showcase your skills and why you are best suited to the job.

WHY THIS ROLE/ DEMONSTRATE YOUR SKILLS?

For a HCA role, you’ll be prompted to draw on your precious experiences to demonstrate you’re a good fit and can do the job. For example: I had the experience from doing the job previously but they would still look for the aspects of being caring, compassionate and competent. Have you done a caring job before? Do you teach or mentor? All really transferable skills!

SCENARIO QUESTIONS:

So, the NHS/ Healthcare LOVE these. I find they’re often easier to answer as you can put yourself in that situation and explain what you’d do. You don’t have to necessarily find appropriate examples of previous skills.

A PATIENT ASKS FOR FOOD/ DRINK OUTSIDE OF THEIR MEAL TIMES, WHAT DO YOU DO?

This is quite a common question. A patient makes a request for something that you don’t know what to do with. How do you handle not knowing something?

Refer to their care plan. It’ll detail if they’re on any restrictions or special dietary requirements.

Check their food and fluid chart – they may have missed a meal or been a significant amount of time since they’ve had a drink/ low on hydration.

Most importantly – ask your team. You’re not completely on your own. The staff you work with may be experienced and able to guide you, that’s why we work as a team. It’s all about support. Always ask if you’re unsure. It may seem really simple such as someone is thirsty and wants a drink but I have previously worked with a patient who is on restricted fluids. They may also be restricted for medical reasons e.g. an upcoming appointment or due to medication.

YOU’RE IN AN MDT AND THE CLINICAL TEAM ARE MAKING A CHANGE TO A PATIENT’S CARE THAT YOU BELIEVE IS NOT IN THEIR BEST INTEREST. WHAT DO YOU DO?

Again, really common scenario. Linked with professional disagreement/ how to challenge professionally. You may be applying for a band 2 position or a band 8b, it doesn’t matter. Everyone should be able to work and communicate what is both safely and in the patient’s best interests.

You can professionally challenge ensuring you explain why you believe this is not in the best interests of the patient. Give examples, if you’ve worked with them before then that helps.

Suggest that this change be made temporarily or on a trial basis. This will show that you’re open to change but aren’t fixed to a permanent care plan change should it not work.

HOW DO YOU KNOW A PATIENT HAS DETERIORATED?

Classic!

Deterioration is anything below the ‘normal’ or baseline presentation of your patient. If you have worked with them for a long time, you’ll know what is normal and what is not. How do you tell if you don’t work with them? PHYSICAL OBSERVATIONS/ PHYSICAL HEALTH! Check their BP, Pulse, O2, temperature. Make sure it’s written up in their NEWS chart and any scoring escalate to the NIC. If significant scoring, the on-call doctor will review, if life threatening, always call 999.

Little signs such as a patient not looking well – colour being off, sleeping a lot, not quite themselves are all signs of deterioration. THIS IS HOW I ESCALATED AND HELPED TO DIAGNOSE THAT MY PATIENT HAD COVID LAST YEAR.

HOW DO MAINTAIN PRIVACY/ DIGNITY AND/OR CONFIDENTIALITY?

A very common question.

Privacy and dignity can be anything from washing/ bathing/ dressing/ changing clothes or dressings and ensuring the patient is covered or kept away from an audience.

If breaking bad news to a patient, ensure they’re in a private or quiet area so that they can process this and display their emotions without fear of people watching.

In mental health, incidents requiring physical restraint are usually handled by ensuring the patient, staff and peers are safe, if this occurs somewhere communal/ busy, clear out the area of non-essential staff and patients that don’t need to observe someone at their worst.

These are only a few examples and not a complete copy and paste of the questions I was due to be asked but very similar.

Be sure of your skills, show how much you care, know the priorities and values of the NHS. Most of all RELAX AND BE YOU! If you don’t know something, be honest but explain what your steps would be to solve the situation, despite not knowing/ how you would expand your knowledge for next time. 30 minutes might seem like a long time but it’s definitely not long enough to sell yourself completely!

Categories
gamsat The Application UCAT Uncategorized Work Experience

Becoming Dr Bex..

Thanks for stumbling upon my blog!

I’m documenting my journey through the application process of Graduate Entry Medicine, the admissions exams, the responses and outcomes of the application.

About me:
I currently work fulltime as a Mental Health HCA.
I volunteer as a Community First Responder, Adult Hospice Ward Volunteer, Rainbows/ Girguiding volunteer.
2019/2020 application and entry was my first attempt at GEM applications. I was interviewed and reached number 1 on the Nottingham waiting list. Sadly, I did not get a place.
I started a blog to log everything down, hopefully to help and as a good place to vent!

Back for 2022 entry – GAMSAT September 2021, UCAT summer 2021.

Follow my journey on social media: linktr.ee/BecomingDrBex

(Not always this moody, I promise!)
Categories
UCAT

UCAT 2019 Final Scores

On the 7th October, the UCAT Consortium released the final statistics and results for 2019 testing. As the interim results had shown, 2019 took a slight decrease from the average and the 2018 scores.

The 2019 scores are as follows:
Verbal Reasoning: 565
Decision Making: 618
Quantitative Reasoning: 662
Abstract Reasoning: 638
Total Mean Score:: 2483

My Scores:
VR: 580
DM: 640
QR: 670
AR: 660
Total: 2550

Compared to the mean:
VR: +15
DM: +22
QR: +8
AR: +22
Total: +67

My percentile was calculated at 62%, meaning that I scored higher than 62% of the 29,375 candidates who stat the UCAT this year – a total of 18,213 people.

That’s great right?!

Yes, it’s great. For a first time UCAT taker and Grad Med applicant, that is a good score. My only Uni choice that will take the UCAT is Warwick and whilst I was close to their lowest cut off last year, there is still a chance that I won’t make it for this year. The positives that I have are that I am above the average for VR. I will then be scored on being in the 62nd percentile and given extra points for holding a masters qualification. Hopefully, this will give me an advantage over those with a slightly higher UCAT score and only an undergraduate degree.

 

What’s Next?

My reference came back earlier this week and I only need to perfect my personal statement and then submit my application to UCAS. After that, it’s a waiting game! I’m confident with my work experience and I have met the required minimum hours that Warwick are looking for, this will need to be submitted before selection takes place. Warwick have confirmed that selection dates for interview between the 17th-19th December. Of course, Warwick and the UCAT are only one of my options. I still have 3 GAMSAT universities in play although I do NOT feel confident about my GAMSAT score! I fully expect 3 outright rejections and should the case be that I am also rejected from Warwick (which is highly likely) I’ll be more than happy to admit defeat for 2020 entry. I will however, be back in the running for another application cycle for 2021!

Keep positive, realistic and work hard!

Categories
gamsat

The end of GAMSAT 2019

As many of you will be aware, GAMSAT testing for 2019 came to an end with the September sitting on the 11th. I booked the exam and felt optimistic that this would be my chance to see progress from March. I booked for Liverpool as I had sat there previously and had been advised that they use the same venue consistently for the GAMSAT testing – this saved me hunting for a hotel when the admission tickets were released and paying almost double the price. It also saved me making a gamble that might not pay off and having to travel to the venue in the morning, which again, could have posed a problem/ delays.

The Day Before:
As with March, I was in work the day before the exam. I work full-time and hadn’t wanted to take unnecessary time off that wouldn’t have been productive. Other than travelling down to Liverpool early, I wouldn’t have spent the day prepping or doing any further revision. Work kept my mind off the exam and the day went quite quickly. Now, I could tell a significant difference in my stress levels. Whilst in March I was quite tense and was obsessing about the exam, I managed to get through the day with my only concerns being related to travel.

It must have been a sign as I made the first half of my journey to find that Northern had cancelled my second train with very little notice (it wasn’t showing online and the station admitted that it had only just been relayed to them). This meant that I had over an hours delay/ wait before I could continue my journey. It wasn’t the smoothest of trips but luckily I did manage to navigate via an additional train journey and got into Liverpool just after 9pm.

I headed straight to the hotel (conveniently passing the nearest McDonalds), checked in and got everything sorted for the next day.

GAMSAT Day:
I got up and went for an early morning run around the streets of Liverpool before returning to the hotel for breakfast, which I had booked in advance. After plenty to eat, I checked out and made the walk down to the test centre. Registration opened at 8:15am and I arrived just after 8:20am. Registration was very quick and a smooth process. After depositing my bag and getting settled in my seat, there was still time to kill.

Once 9am approached, we were all eager to get started however there was delay due to travel (there had been a train broken down on the rails near Lime Street) and the weather wasn’t particularly good so the invigilators were allowing extra time; especially as candidates were still due to arrive.

At roughly 9:15, the announcements began.
“Hello and welcome to GAMSAT”.

The Morning Session:
Section 1 was relatively typical of what I expected following on from March. The texts covered medical labeling and autism diagnosis. Poems comparing nature and death. Themes of war posters and their meanings. Poems highlighting how underappreciated poetry is and a Greek comparison of Athens and Alexandria.

Overall, I didn’t find this section too challenging. It had been similar to previous tests and didn’t throw too much text heavy passages. Very light on the cartoons for interpretation. My only worry (which I realised later on during Section 3, did I put my signature in the ‘candidate signature’ box? Who knows? Definitely not me but I’m hoping for £262, my name and identifiable information will be enough for them to justify marking it).

Section 2 began straight after section 1 was completed. Topics weren’t great. Comments relating to taxes and tolerance.

Taxes touched on how tax policies are a reflection of a countries values. Tax evasion and tax avoidance. How if people are not relying on support from others (government/ society) then they will support themselves.

Tolerance was based around whether there should be limitations on tolerance and whether society is too tolerant.

Again, this was manageable and whilst I didn’t enjoy the topics, I was still able to write good amounts.

LUNCH!:
My favorite time of the day. Luckily, next to the venue in Liverpool, there is a little Tesco which must make it’s fortunes on the sheer number of GAMSAT-ers twice a year that frequent for much needed snacks.

At this point, my appetite was rather small. I knew that this was half of the testing day over. I also was well aware that this lead on to the dreaded Section 3 which was my downfall last year. In all honesty, I had very little hopes for this next half of the exam and again, I wondered why I had bothered to sit it in the first place.

The Afternoon Session:
After joining the queues and replicating registration again, it was time to be seated back in the exam hall. The afternoon session is Section 3 – Sciences.

As reading time commenced, I skimmed the paper and began starting to read through and work out some of the questions. At first the paper seemed overwhelming. So. Many. Questions. So. Little. Time. Where were you supposed to begin? I don’t even understand the question, let alone the answer!

I began by really concentrating on the questions – these are supposed to be answerable with actually very little science knowledge which meant that the answers were actually in the question somewhere. Look closely or you’ll miss it.

I set off at good pace and started to tick the questions off. I felt joy and relief when my questimated/ worked out answer was one of the options provided on the multiple choices.

2 hrs and 50 minutes goes incredibly quickly when you’re concentrating and giving your all to the questions. Inevitably, I began to run out of time. I was rushing towards the end to ensure that I at least had an answer marked on the answer sheet for every question. I went back and made somewhat educated guesses (let’s hear it for letter C!).

Before I knew it, we had the final time warning. I did what I could in the time and with a sense of accomplishment and relief, GAMSAT 2019 was done.

What I Leaned:
Sitting GAMSAT as a trial run/ more than once is absolutely priceless for expelling the stress and uncertainty of the exam. I was incredibly calm in comparison to March and I could definitely tell the first time exam takers.

GAMSAT is a gamble. You really don’t know what you’re going to get. After the curve ball of an exam in March, it would be easy to assume the same would be applied for the September sitting. This is not the case. Acer are cruel and they make you work for it. Don’t underestimate the exam.

So what? It takes you 8 attempts to ‘pass’ GAMSAT? I remember being told that someone had sat GAMSAT 8 times. Regardless of the financial element to this, 4 years of GAMSAT testing is hard going but not impossible. The majority of people who sit GAMSAT do so multiple times before they are ‘happy’ with their score/ get into University.

You’re never ‘too old’. I hadn’t really noticed in March but certainly in this sitting, there were a few people sitting who were middle-aged/ older than your average graduate at 22/23. Let that be a lesson that you’re never too old to attempt to follow your dreams or make a drastic career change. Life experience is why Grad Med doctors are so fantastic.

I made the right decision to sit the UCAT early and to not book it for after GAMSAT. Before most people had even booked their UCAT, I had sat mine in July. Whilst I felt out of the loop and extremely premature with testing (one of the first people to take the test at my chosen test centre), it helped hugely to get it out of the way. After the stress of GAMSAT, the last thing I wanted to have was the stress of having to cram for my UCAT, whilst having to finish off my application. It hugely paid off for me and I ended up scoring well in the UCAT despite being an early tester.

You never know how you do. I left the exam and felt that it was tough but I also felt a lot more confident than I did with the March sitting. I know many other GAMSAT-ers that felt it was the most brutal, soul-destroying exam that they have ever taken (including multiple GAMSAT attempts)! Acer will email to confirm that results have been published online but if you have applied, you will also get notification from your Universities as to how you’ve done.

Overall – I felt as content as I could be with the September 2019 GAMSAT. It was by no means an easy test nor an easy option. I’m applying for this year’s applications so will know when my Universities know. Am I worried that I might not get in? Absolutely not. Am I worried that I might get in/ an interview? Absolutely!

I have a personal statement to polish off and I’m awaiting my reference to be completed. It’s a month to go until the calm before the storm. I’m cramming in some extra HCA shifts to help wish the time away, my sister is also getting married between now and the 15th October.. Wish me luck!

Categories
Uncategorized

Let’s Talk Mental Health

I’m a big advocate for mental health. I have been through my fair share of breakdowns, I’ve self-harmed and I’ve hit (what I thought was) absolute rock bottom.

Recently, I’ve felt as though my mental health was taking a bashing. I’ve been concentrating on work (I work with vulnerable people within the NHS’s mental health system and community services) and have recently taken on an additional full-time service to my current full-time service. Alongside this, we have had a patient in crisis and suffering from suicidal thoughts and attempts. I’m preparing for my UCAT (previously UKCAT) which is booked for the 27th July and have felt like if anything, I’m getting worse rather than better. I have felt tired all the time and spend very little of my social life with friends, having any aspect of a dating life, or any activities at all.

At that moment, I felt like I was worthy of nothing, that I had completed and achieved nothing. That I would never amount to anything. Why was I even bothering with Medicine when I would never get there?

What I did next:

As bizarre as it may be, I posted to Instagram about my spell of depression. I wanted my studygram to be as real as possible. It’s so easy to get caught up in the happiness and perfection on social media, especially in Medicine. The truth is; life is messy. Medicine comes with setbacks and rejections.

I was overwhelmed by the supportive comments and messages that I received. More importantly, I had messages from other pre-meds or med students who have been in the exact same position.

We are all human, we all suffer the downfalls and relish the rises. We swear to live by the life quotes. Want to meet our soulmates. Live for the moments. Reach the dreams.
We’re hit by heartbreak and disappointment. We fail. We’re rejected.
And this is okay.

My tips for mental health care:

Remember what’s important.
Remember that YOU are important.
Your goals are achievable.
Everyone has been in your shoes at some point.
AND they’ve overcome it just as you will.
Find your passion again.
Take time to be you.
Find silence and peace.
DON’T recluse.

 

 

Categories
gamsat

March GAMSAT Reflections

The March sitting of GAMSAT has been and gone and whilst results are not due to be released until the middle of next month, it’s given me some time to reflect on how it went.

Things you need to know:
March was my first sitting of GAMSAT.
I have read many horror stories about this exam, full blown excruciating pain-worthy stories.
I spent a lot of time procrastinating and felt rather underprepared.
Despite having some science background, I felt awfully underprepared for section 3.

The Decision to Take GAMSAT:
I booked my GAMSAT registration on New Years Day, 1st January 2019. A little New Years resolution to myself and the kick I needed. If I didn’t book it now, when would I?
I plan on applying for Graduate Entry Medicine in September for 2020 entry. After hearing all about GAMSAT and how grueling it could/ would be, I was determined to have a ‘trial’ run with the exam for the experience and general know-how. I’m currently in the North of England and so I booked for Liverpool as my test center.

The Preparation:
I wish I could say that I spent weeks of hard work and determination spent on the run up to GAMSAT. In reality, I did what any other person does, procrastinate, put off and prioritized topics that I liked or got the hang of. I kept countdowns and a calendar view of the days running up to the exam date. I found the biggest flaw for materials and prep are the overly expensive courses and books. I unfortunately do not have the money to join numerous prep courses or online seminars, nor do I have the time to spare when working a full-time job, Mon-Fri, along with all the other necessary volunteering and general social life that I have (or lack of).. My local library was a huge help for getting books and materials that I could never have afforded.
Materials:
A-Level text books – Biology, Chemistry and Physics.
Books – for reading, wide varieties and topics.
Gold Standard – I bought this a while ago and so use it every now and again.
AC Grayling – The Meaning of Things – Good prep for section 2.
Hebe’s Notes – A webpage designed by Hebe who sat the GAMSAT herself and she now shares her notes openly (if you find them useful then please donate.)
Des O’Neil, Acer – Past papers.

The Day Before:
I worked my day as usual. I hadn’t felt stressed until I suddenly realized that this was it. There was no more time for cramming, or anything that would be useful that is. By the time I left work and made my train it was just gone 18:00. In 24 hours this would all be over.

I made it into Liverpool by 21:00. I had already looked into what was near that I could grab food from before heading to the hotel (I stayed in the new Premiere Inn at Liverpool Lime Street). There was a handy McDonald’s down the road (healthy, I know) so I picked up some food before checking in for the night. Ideally, I would have gone for a wander to have scoped out the venue and where it was before tomorrow morning but by this time I was tired and just wanted to shower and get an early night.

I watched some TV and tried to do some light revision but I guarantee it did not go in.

GAMSAT Day:
I woke up just before 05:00. I had dreamt that I was due to take GAMSAT and was running late and was going to miss it. I remember it being such a vivid dream and waking up panicked! I tried to doze off again but with no luck.

By the time I got everything sorted for the day and packed up, checked out, It was just before 08:00. I used Google Maps to track where I was going and managed the quick dash to the venue. It was easily spotted by everyone lurking outside and looking equally as nervous. I tried to distance myself away from everyone as I didn’t want to fall into the trap of overhearing conversations and getting anymore put off. There was a girl there with her parents and her dad was anything but supportive, my idea of the nightmare pre-exam scenario to have a parent telling you how badly you’ll do if you don’t know X and Y by now.

We were let into the building and started to queue down to the registration desks. They were organizing candidates by last name groupings. ID and tickets were checked and you were ‘ticked off’ as attending the first session. We were given seat numbers and told to report into the hall. After dumping bags in a separate room, I found my seat. It was gone 09:00 before everyone was registered and seated to begin. There was easily 300 candidates sitting in Liverpool and I had heard that candidates wanting to sit in London couldn’t due to the London venue being fully booked.

Then the exam invigilator said those dreaded words “Welcome to GAMSAT“.

Section 1:
I didn’t really know how I was going to get on with section 1 but the passages didn’t seem too bad, no long winded passages, over and over. Some even had medical themes so were genuinely interesting. There were texts that were more ‘wordy’ and required more reading time. Overall, I actually found it not too bad and definitely a good ease in to GAMSAT.

Section 2:
Section 2 followed section 1, there were no breaks in between and you could not leave to go to the toilet. The two topics were actually quite good, I was able to find one topic that I felt would be manageable and that I could write about for each. Reading time was really useful here for picking my choices and deciding my arguments for and against. I found that I could have built a better structure and made it sound a bit more articulated but overall again, it was relatively painless.

Lunch:
There was then an hour lunch break and luckily there was a Tesco round the corner to grab some food. I hadn’t eaten breakfast but hardly do and now I felt more at ease, was starting to feel a little hungry. I knew section 3 would be a large push to the end so I needed all the help I could get in the nutrition side of things.

Section 3:
After coming back from lunch, we all queued again and were registered in for the afternoon session. I couldn’t help feeling nervous. Out of all the sections, I knew that section 3 would be my downfall. Reading time came and went and all I saw was a blur of graphs.
If you have read anything about the March sitting, you’ll probably have already noticed that it was far from your usual and predictive GAMSAT syllabus. Whilst I won’t go into specific questions, I will say that there was a large amount of graphs, Maths, Physics and interpretation. The general feeling was that Acer were trying a new approach with section 3 and that it was very much a curve ball. I don’t think any amount of my preparation made me ready for section 3. Everyone was thrown in the deep end and we were all hazarding guesses.

After it Was Over:
When we had finished up, everyone darted off on their separate paths. No-one was coming away bragging that it was easy, no-one was trying to put people down, everyone really did feel in the same boat. The same boat without a paddle, heading for waterfalls very, very quickly. A lot of talk about guess work and a lot of talk about September…

What Did I learn?
GAMSAT is absolutely a tough exam. I came away feeling drained, my back and neck hurt from being hunched over an exam desk and writing all day, followed by the hours it took to journey back. It was a long day and GAMSAT is a worthy adversary.

The experience was priceless. At the end of the day, GAMSAT is an exam, a test, just like any other. The rules are the same. The format is similar in terms of marking results on a piece of paper. It is so easy to get worked up and feel passionately about the exam and that’s okay! The reality of it is that you can only do what you can on the day.

Sitting the exam, in itself is a big achievement. I hadn’t fully believed it when I was told by a now-GP trainee, that sitting the GAMSAT is an achievement in itself. As the room was filling with candidates and papers began to get handed out, I couldn’t help but notice empty chairs. These chairs were for people, just like me, who had paid a lot of money to sit an exam that could potentially get them into Medicine. The difference? For whatever reason, these people did not turn up to take the test at all. Already, you are better off than these people.

The wait for results seems like ages. Here we are in the middle of April (just) and there’s still probably a month to go. Take this time as a blessing. Remember what it felt like to be cramming and stressing over one day? Appreciate that you have time to self-care and regenerate while you can. Whilst I want to spend this time cramming and getting ahead again with revision, there’s plenty of time to pick it back up in May.

It’s absolutely okay to not know what to do or to fail! Every step is a step in the right direction. It’s not easy to decide to take on GAMSAT or to even decide on Medicine. It’s not a straightforward line of travel, we can go off and do different things, come back again or even decide that this isn’t for us. For the time being, I’m happy to be taking some time away from GAMSAT until a few more weeks have passed. I also have UCAT to book and prepare for. I’m working on my work experience and volunteering and generally living life. I fully expect to have to retake GAMSAT in September but without a doubt, I’ll be far more prepared.