DONE. That’s really the only word to describe the feeling of finishing exams. To me it’s almost like an indescribable numbness. It’s as if I finish my last exam, submit the test in to be graded, and somehow float back to my apartment. You can imagine me walking inside, removing my shoes and walking to my bedroom where I sit on the edge of the bed for a moment… followed by an inevitable collapse of exhaustion!
Let’s back up for a second. I feel as if I should fill you in on what a typical exam week is like. The week before exams, Friday is given off, as are the following Monday and Tuesday. Sort of a calm before the storm. This is the period when you rush to fit in all those little tidbits that have evaded your brain through the first four weeks of the information fire hydrant. When I get to this point, and look back over all that we have done over only the first four weeks of school, I am amazed… and completely overwhelmed. People tell you to prepare to step up your study game after undergrad. Well it’s no different coming into MS2. The workload, the detail, the stories, the names… they all triple. AGAIN. Those couple of days before exams you basically do nothing but eat, sleep, and think about medicine. Then Tuesday night comes, and you realize what you now know is hopefully enough to carry you through.
Wednesday morning then comes, and leaving my notes behind as I bike to the test center is kind of an unsettling feeling. I try not to think about what’s going to be on the tests, so I don’t suddenly throw myself into a panic because I can’t remember something I feel I should know. I quickly find my spot in the testing center, one seat over from last year. I have this sort of pretest ritual where I just spin around in my nice little desk chair, maybe hoping the centripetal forces keep the knowledge inside my head, or maybe because I’m really only 5 years old. The proctor states test procedure while I spin, then I stop so we can say a prayer over our exam. And with the final ‘Amen,’ I turn to my friend Karisa, sitting next to me, we shake hands for good luck, then my mind is suddenly (hopefully) thinking the facts of lymphomas, beta blockers, gram-negative bacteria, and other ‘joyous’ things.
Tests at Loma Linda are interesting. You don’t just get one thing at a time. Here we like to do a fun little variation called “integrated testing.” This last quarter our classes included pathophysiology, pathology, neuroscience, pharmacology, microbiology, and psychopathology. ANY one of those classes could pop up in our test. So you basically study for everything at once, hopefully preventing the cramming that is so tempting for if we had one class at a time. It’s extra stressful, but simulates Step I well, and should help us in the long run.
What happens after I finish that first day? Eat lunch, keep studying, keep praying, and just keep pushing on! It’s a nonstop uphill battle until Friday and its relief roll around. 3 Tests. 6 subjects. 240+ questions. One epic adventure! And then the constant refreshing of my web browser as I anxiously await grades to be submitted. But aside from that, the weekend is usually free to enjoy before we start again. And not wanting to get behind, I’ve really been pushing hard this week, hence the post-test blog coming one week after the testing experience concluded. How did I do on exams? Ha, well that’s for me to know and you to wonder… I will say this, as a medical student, there is always, ALWAYS, room for improvement. No time to look back, only time to keep learning, and always move forward.
As I approach another weekend, another Sabbath, and another chance to rest during this arduous journey, I just thank God for how blessed I am to have come this far. This is rough. Med school is harder than I ever imagined it would be. Sometimes I feel like all I’m doing is drowning as I try to barely keep my nose above the surface. But this is just one step in the journey, and before I run out of cheesy clichés, I just want to say how glad I am to be on it. Onward and forward!