What I wish I had of known starting my fourth year

by Aisling McCarthy

Tips on wellbeing, learning and your career

Location: Northern Ireland
Published: Wednesday 14 October 2020
Aisling McCarthy

Look after yourself

  • Don’t be put off by a certain placement block if you are struggling with it. It will only make up a fractional percentage of your end of year exam. Be kind to yourself and try your best.
  • After a long day of placement take some time for yourself. If you are tired, recognise that you need to rest and cut back your study time for that evening. An hour or two every evening all adds up.
  • There is a lot of core knowledge to learn the entire way through fourth year but take it in bits and look after yourself at the same time. Do your daily meditation, run/ walk/ HIIT workout, cooking, Netflix programme and take time on the weekends to see your friends.
  • Please talk to previous year four students and ask them for any advice. They have navigated the year already and are in the best position to give tips.

Learning in fourth year

  • Don’t feel overwhelmed looking at what you need to know by the end of the placement block. Break it into small chunks every day. If you know the subject of your teaching session the next day in the hospital, read the topic in the recommended textbook the night before. The teaching session will be a test of your active recall which is easy revision for exams.
  • Use a recommended textbook for each specialty as the material on the QUB med portal is not enough to get through the exams well.
  • Practice multiple choice questions online using Passmedicine or Pastest for each specialty as you go through them – even starting in September. The year goes by very quick.
  • Don’t worry if you did not have a lot of time to study during a particular placement block - focus on the current placement block and staying up to date with that. You can always go back to whatever you didn’t finish on weekends/ holiday periods. Try not to let it happen during every placement though or your work will build up.

Career planning – ThinkAheadMed in fourth year

  • As you go through the year, think about the specialities you are enjoying and if you could see yourself in that career pathway.
  • Talk to the doctors that are teaching you in the hospitals and GP surgeries. Ask them the obvious questions, eg do they enjoy their job, what do they not enjoy about their job, did they always want to end up in that medical specialty etc.

Aisling McCarthy is a final year medical student at Queen’s University Belfast and chair of BMA Northern Ireland medical students committee