Pharma: Check!

December 15, 2015 § 2 Comments

After some heavy weeks, I’m finally done with pharma. At least for this semester. And even then, I’m not really done. It will come back during my dermatology, pulmonology and cardiology exams. It will always come back – this is medicine!

Now that it’s over, I’m really, really happy with my decision to push my exam to this week. I feel like I have a better handle on the material, a much better general overview and feel much more confident for the final exam (which we will have at the end of next semester). I would still like to add to my knowledge, but I can work on that once exams are done.

Here’s a glimpse at what my study process has been like. I feel I was more prepared for this exam than any exam so far and yet I still don’t feel completely confident in my knowledge.

I starting studying from the topic lists from the beginning of the semester and used them to prepare for each of the midterms. There are some students from previous years that have prepared notes for the topics, but I always find other people’s notes a little hard to stick to as a main source. I like to use them when I am having a hard time honing in on what needs to be covered for a certain topic, but other than that I like to make my own.

Our first midterm covered the topics in the “A” column and the second the topics in the “B” column. I decided to use the lectures as my main source for the topics in the “C” column and completed my notes about a week before I was supposed to have my exam.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 21.49.46

This is what the topic list I used while studying for the semi-final looks like now, after several rounds of going through the material.


For List A, my notes were mainly charts and “quick note” pages with drug names and main points. I love taking notes on my iPad but I’ve noticed that when I’m cramming I prefer to have a hardcopy.


For List B, my notes were almost completely based on the lecture slides. It was good in that I got a good grasp of the theory and felt like I was getting the main points.


To add to the lecture notes, I made some mnemonic sheets for quick reference.

I was inspired by my friend Jules to make sheets with the drug names in large font that I could pin on the wall. It was really good trick for getting some of the names in passively. Every little glance made a difference.


For List C, my notes got a little crazy. I’d taken my first round of notes from the lectures and then brought them with me to my practical lessons. There, I would add in any details that my teacher mentioned. I got a bit frustrated with these because I felt like some of the lectures included way more information than what we needed to know (or could memorize). IMG_1779IMG_1778

During this last week, I prepared a set of mini-notes for each of the topics. I know that I struggle with whittling down a topic to “just what’s important”, so I felt that limiting myself to 1 little piece of paper would be a good exercise for me. Plus, something about holding a thin pile of mini-notes made me feel more in control ;).IMG_1770IMG_1771

Here is an example of my lecture notes + my teacher’s comments on the left, the mini-note version in the middle, and the topic I prepared for my exam on the right.


Lastly, here are the notes from today’s exam. They were topics that I really didn’t feel very strong about – especially the epilepsy topic – but I’m happy I was able to recall what I did. My exam was supposed to start at 10:30, but I didn’t go in until around 12:30. I even went to school early because I was too nervous to review at home. That meant 4 hours of stress-ridden review time before.

The exam took place in my teacher’s office. It was a small room with a desk along the window and a couch and two large sofa chairs surrounding a low coffee table. There was enough room for 3 students at a time, one being examined and the other two busy writing their notes. It’s a bit of an awkward situation to sit there in such a social setting while being examined, but there’s a comfort knowing that we all go through it.

During the exam, I blanked on some really simple things (like indications of beta blockers, other than arrhythmias and hypertension). That’s one of those things that you hop over while you’re studying because it’s just “so easy” and then you can’t find it in your head when you need to. Luckily, I was able to recall it with some help, but it was still pretty embarrassing. My teacher is a really friendly guy who loves teaching, but he also wants us to know the material – and know it well! He asks a lot of questions and is quite demanding. IMG_1785At the end, he motioned to the other girl in the room (she had finished her exam already, but stayed as a “witness of fairness” as is done in most exams) and said, “If she was heading up from a 3 to a 4, then you were heading down to a 4 from a 5. Oh, Bianca, Bianca.” He sat in thought for a few moments and finally said, “Ok, I’m going to give you a 5, but with a little side note: needs improvement.” I joked that I was on probation and would make sure to be better next semester. We are examined by our own teachers for the semi-final, but at the final exam, we are examined by one of the other professors.

I got home around 13:30, ate and then crashed for a couple of hours. Now I’m off to bed, with sweet dreams of my weak, probationary 5, so that I can wake up fresh and ready to cram for Saturday’s surgery exam. Will be easier knowing that I have this monster one behind me!

P.S. I have a FitBit (an activity monitor) that measures my heart rate throughout the day. When I looked at it this afternoon, I burst out laughing. Check out my heart rate this morning! Me? Nervous? 😀


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