Sunday, 16 March 2008

A Vision of Revision

I've spent this weekend camped in a lecture theatre at a finals lecture course, not only that, I paid for the privilege. At £95 a weekend, its not cheap, especially when there is one for surgery and one for medicine. I guess whether or not they're worth it is a personal opinion, perhaps sitting at home reading a book would be just as effective and £95 cheaper for some people. A few thousand students each year attend one of the finals revision courses run by companies like the MDU so there must be something about them that makes them popular, perhaps its the misguided vision that attending such a course is a one-way ticket to finals success. I'm not as naive to think that and if anything this weekend has made me more scared than I was before.

You do get comprehensive notes but its a bloody expensive text-book! The lecturer, who was a most charismatic surgeon from Imperial, must do rather well financially out of the weekends although he does have to give up 5 or 6 weekends each year in order to lecture around the country. He didn't strike me as someone who was doing it for the money, he seemed passionate about teaching which is perhaps what made it so good, he also seemed like quiet the high flyer and had accomplished rather a lot for his modest age. He was adamant that it shouldn't be just a session about finals and paid more attention to things which will be useful if we actually get through finals to our foundation years. His lecturing style was very clear and concise with the occasional humorous anecdote to keep us all awake. He did well, lecturing by himself, to keep my attention for 2 whole days. It was odd being back in a lecture theatre having not had a proper lecture for almost 3 years (not that we had many lectures before that). There were a number of comments from the audience, made up of students from various Northern medical schools, about a percieved lack of knowledge. Without saying it explicitly, the lecturer was rather critical of some of the modern medical education methods, there was no shortage of students who agreed with him either. Many students, and not just from my medical school, are worried about serious deficiencies in their knowledge. I imagine medical students have always been worried about how much they know as they approach the end of the course and I suppose you might say its as much the students fault as the universities - but is it though? Not in my opinion, I recognise the importance of self-motivated learning, but there is a different between being self-motivated and having to teach yourself EVERYTHING! I could sit here and rant about things as I've done so in the past, but I won't, I'll leave it there but I really wished I'd been lectured to a little more in the last 5 years!

It is no wonder such intensive revision courses are so popular with a promise to prepare you for finals and personally I think it was worth every penny. I've learnt a lot and revised a lot over the last couple of days. Admittedly I missed my lie-in and doing physiology on a Sunday morning is not something that I particularly enjoy. One of the things I've realised is that there are more important things than finals, what about when we actually become doctors? It isn't going to matter who knows about Landau Kleffner syndrome, its going to matter who can actually deal with patients and who is competent.


missbliss said...

You know I think they're for lazy buggers (and that people should be revising for 14/15 hours a day like I did :p). But I do agree that if you haven't been taught it in the first place, you cannot reasonably be expected to teach yourself everything.

If anything, it's another 32 hours to add to the revision tally, but I think a handbag would have been a more satisfactory investment ;)

p.s. I'm pleased that the focus has shifted from needing knowledge for finals, to needing knowledge for giving patients good care

Xavier Emmanuelle said...

MissBliss took it right out of my mouth, but I was going to say that I'm really pleased to hear that your focus has shifted from how to pass exams to how to take good care of patients.

Glad you had an interesting lecturer!! Such things make so much difference.

Elaine said...

I found tht very interesting. I took a maths degree with the Open University (1st class honours statistics0 when I was about 40. Maths students had a society which, inter alia, arranged revision weekends before the final exam for each course. As with yours, they cost a lot, but the money was used to pay the tutors and hire the facilities at a university campus.

Each of these weekends provided lectures covering every maths course and were full time for each subject, so I went there for several years. The lectturers were Open University staff, and were brought for their hight quality teaching.

I reckoned that it made all the differeence to the quality of my degree.

So (draws breath!) I think you will find this money wewll spent.

Good luck anyway!

Ms-Ellisa said...

My opinion is that you need lectures to keep you "wanting" to study by yourself...

Like if someone makes you feel the importance of being competent, then you are much more likely to open your textbook and be excited about what you do and in the end do it better...

The Ignorant Student said...

Normally I'd say that such revision courses are generally only useful for encouraging the work-shy to actually get some work done.

But £95 for a weekend of real teaching in such a "modern" course? Bargain, I'd imagine (especially compared to spending it on useless tech-junk). Besides, in comparison to other costs, £95 is a drop in the ocean.

dr_dyb said...

To rip the piss out of Mastercard...

2 weekends revison £180
textbooks £1,000 and counting
not looking like a tw@t on your first day as an FY1, Priceless.

izzywizzy said...

I've heard other people say the same that these courses are really useful so I'm thinking that after laying aside my thoughts about how the university should really ensure we are taught at least to a standard where we should pass and so should not have to pay for extra tutition, I think I will be signing up for one of these weekends when the time comes next year!

PhD scientist said...

I'm sort of with Ms Ellisa here.. you need SOME lectures in courses, but their purpose is not just to teach you what you need to know (tell you stuff). It is also to show you how much you don't know and therefore make you understand a lot more info about just about ANY topic is out there somewhere). And of course a dash of entertainment helps too.

If we want to talk about degree course styles (which we've been round before) I have to say that ALL lectures, directed at a class of 19 yr olds... well, you would have to have been there to know just how bored they (medical students on trad courses in the old days) mostly were.

Anyway, FWIW, my empirical experience as a teacher / lecturer / tutor in both trad and PBL systems is:

All trad lectures: students are bored and wish they had interesting stuff linked to cases and diseases (like PBL).

All PBL: students worry about knowledge gaps and wish they had lectures, or more lectures.

So in many ways you can't win... though a "compromise" solution is clearly possible.

BTW, the PBL-lies (the real keepers of the flame, among whom I don't include myself) would probably concede that PBL intrinsically leaves gaps in knowledge - but they would counter that:

i) it is teaching you "better learning and problem solving techniques for lifelong use" or similar; and:

ii) trad courses still leave / left gaps for the times you were not listening/asleep/away/hungover/just forgot it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not really sure how many lectures we'll get in our clinical years, but I hope there'll be a fairly constant stream of them. DIY medicine drags.

Best of luck with the finals, the finalists here finished a few weeks ago, but it was obv a very stressful time for them.

Calavera said...

You're so right, medicine is totally not a homogeneous experience from university to university and even from rotation to rotation within the same year in the same medical school. There really is a lot of self-teaching going on and therefore loads of deficiencies and gaps in our knowledge. I think revision courses like these are good in that they (should, at least) highlight areas that you need to pay more attention to and level out the playing field a bit.

... Good luck for finals! I'm so glad that it's not me yet!