‘I Cried but I didn’t quit’ - Lessons learned from taking the year 2 resits

Taking a resit in medical school is generally a hush-hush event. It can be hard for those without connections to find out if there is anybody else going through the same thing. It also doesn’t help when people blurt out “oh wow I’m shocked/surprised to see you here” hmm, yes indeed that’s a boost to the confidence.

I knew I’d failed, but what I didn’t know was to what extent. What caught me off guard was that it wasn’t a scenario where I was 1 or 2 marks away from the pass mark, something within reach, attainable. I was literally miles off the pass mark. Did I have doubts and thoughts running through my mind saying “Can I do this” “Am I a lost cause” “Am I just not smart enough”…

If you find yourself in the situation here is what I did and it worked.

1. Allow yourself time to be upset: The day I found out i’d failed I just sat and sobbed for a good hour. I’d calmed down only to later become more overwhelmed when my boyfriend arrived at my house. He said to me “Steph just let it out and be upset, don’t worry about taking any actions today just feel”. So I did. He was right.

2. Reach out to people in the year above to guide you. I knew of one student from a year above who was in the same situation a year prior. I reached out to her. It helped me with two things, first, not feeling so isolated and second gaining extra resources. I found these resources to be priceless, I later found out that people in the cohort had access to these prior to the first exam sat. Hence, things aren’t always a level playing field.

3. Get notes / question banks from others. With the time constraints I was under I started to spend less time trolling through notes and spent more time trying to recall the new information i’d learnt. I amalgamated three documents into one, one document had only a set of questions and the matching document had those questions with the respective answers to check my work. Having a bank of questions from others helped cover things I may have otherwise missed. I chose to share the resources I had with others as a “pool” to prevent others from missing out as I did in the first exam. Not everyone will chose to be as open or helpful with you are you are with them. It’s your decision to maintain a higher moral standard, you’ll find not everyone is able to reach the same standard as you. That’s Med school.

4. Test for learning difficulties. I had been through school, college and a first degree and a professional job without the possibility of a learning disability even being questioned. Long story short I was found to be dyslexic with a slower reading speed. As a result I was given extra-time in the resit. Without that extra time in the exam I wouldn’t have progressed.

5. Don’t congratulate or berate yourself too harshly, understand you are not on a level playing field with the rest of your cohort. Medicine is a very middle & upper class dominant profession, you’ll find most of your peers won’t need to take up work on the side to cover their expenses or worry about generating some form of income. During my second year, I worked minimum 16 hours a week online, I tutored 3 students every Wednesday and 2 students every-fortnight on a Sunday in addition to my 100 mile daily commute. I’m not the hardest working student, nor do I have the most demanding time-table compared with those who work as HCA’s / Nurses in addition to studying. But I am aware that compared to the general medical student I have more on my plate. Such is life.