Dr Matt Morgan: Advice for first year students

We have all heard about the 10,000 hours it takes to become an expert in a skill, but how about the 10,000 exam questions you will sit to become a doctor? Here are my top five tips to help you pass first time.

Facts are boring but people are not

Learning dry facts can be really dull and hard to remember. Try to link concepts to patients that you have met or read about. When you try to remember those tricky details, your brain’s power of association with humanity will kick in.

Buy a hanger before a dress

If you buy a really expensive dress or suit, it would still look terrible if it wasn't cared for and hung correctly. It's the same with complex medical facts. Make sure you have a good solid basis before spending your expensive time on the finer details. Understanding the fundamental concepts will help those tricky ones to stick around.


The common analogy that 80% of the benefits can come from just 20% of effort is sometimes true in medicine. There are certain topics that are very likely to come up in your exams, and your time should first be spent on these. It's the same for drugs. With thousands to learn, start with the common ones or those that exams particularly focus on.

Remember it is a game (with no end)

Think of exams a little bit like a computer game. There will be levels that are easy, there will be levels that are really hard and occasionally a big boss at the end. You wouldn't enjoy playing a computer game that was the same all the way through so don't worry about finding some things hard and some things easier.

Learn about exams (not just for them)

Finally, as well as learning the medical facts, learn about how you best learn. Some people make notes, some people draw diagrams, some listen to podcasts. Everyone is different. Also learn about your exams. Know when they are, what kind of questions are in them and make sure you prepare the silly things like the location, the times and the equipment you need to take.

Good luck!

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