M1s, how was your first exam?

I’m a new M1 at the University of MN-twin cities. Our school begins with 7 weeks of anatomy (plus a “physician in society” class). We had our first exam on Friday and I passed with an 82%. I want to be excited about that, but our instructor said that 40% of the class got 90% or higher, and that this was the highest average ever for the first exam. It’s intimidating to start off in the bottom half of the class. The first half of the test was the written component - multiple choice and fill in the blanks. I did fine on that portion but I did really poorly on the lab practical. I guess I need to spend more time in the lab, but I’m not really sure how to organize myself when I’m there. Any suggestions?

It will be okay. I failed the first anatomy exam. It was also a new high average. Made me feel very inadequate right from the getgo. Med school can be a very tough transition. Nearly everyone in your class is used to being in the very top percentages of their classes and now half of you will be in the bottom half. I’m not saying that you should accept that and not do your best - just that its a reality that a lot of your classmates are facing.

As for doing better on the practical - I’m not sure that spending more time in lab is necessarily the way to go. It varies from person to person, but I found lab time to be very low yield. What ended up working best for me was spending lots of time with my atlases memorizing and a lot of time on this website. It has actual dissection pictures and follows Grant’s Dissector very closely. I also spent time in the library with Rohen’s photographic atlas (our school had a copy on closed reserve so I didn’t have to buy one). The regular atlases weren’t enough for me, because I was having trouble connecting the idealized pictures with the actual cadavers. After the first exam I spent NO time in the lab outside of scheduled lab time and did fine on the rest of the lab practicals.

You might also check and see if your school has a subscription for access to “NetAnatomy”. It also has labeled pictures of real dissections. It used to be free, but it is apparently subscription only now. I also found Netter’s flash cards to be good for learning the extremities.

One of the suggestions our anatomy prof made was to learn RELATIONSHIPS. If you don’t recognize the tagged structure, but recognize some of the nearby structures, you should be able to figure out what it is if you have a good knowledge of the relationships of the various parts.

Good luck. It’s tough. Med 1 was absolutely brutal for me. I never studied so hard to get such low grades in my entire life. I got to where I was thrilled to death if I got the class average. Fortunately, Med 2 was much better for me. Hopefully, you figure out what works for you quicker than I did. I can’t imagine doing anatomy in 7 weeks!! Are you guys doing the dissections or using prosections? We had 12 weeks, and I thought that was pretty intense.

Thanks Emergency! Those are useful tips. I suddenly realized I’m decent at finding conceptual relationships, but I’ve never bothered concentrating on visual relationships. Comes with living in my head too much, I guess. My boyfriend is an artist and he picks up on visual clues that I entirely miss.

Although it’s a lot of work I’m enjoying med school so far. It feels so much more rewarding to be working for myself rather than as a worker bee in an office.

btw, I wish it was just prosections! We’re in groups of four and have three hour labs everyday, but most of the time is spent dissecting. By the time we’re done dissecting, I’m so exhausted that I haven’t been good at looking at what we’ve just uncovered. Hopefully it will get better now that we’ve finished the upper & lower extremeties and the back. Taking the skin off the hand is a lot of work! Seven weeks is pretty intense, but we’re not taking any other science classes until anatomy is over.

Get used to being “average” in medical school and your life will get much easier. You are now competing with the top students…good luck!

I made a list of every part I needed to be able to identify. The list was grouped so that it made logical sense (major arteries and it’s branches, so I could logically trace them, nerve groups, muscle groups, etc). Then I spent 4-6 hours in the lab every Saturday making sure I could identify those items on my list, both on my cadaver and the ones of classmates who were also in the lab on those days. I also had the Netter flashcards and would drill myself while riding the lightrail home or while waiting for classes to start (you know those 2 and 3 minutes of wasted time between things); I had to be able to identify every structure without looking. I’ll brag a little here and say I did fantastic in that part of anatomy (the histology portion kicked my but however). Repetition is the key (I think) to success for the anatomy practical. This repetition will get you to th epoint that you can visiualize the structures in a 3-D way in your head.

Now when it comes to physiology, can’t help you there, seeing as I almost failed :slight_smile:


After the first exam I spent NO time in the lab outside of scheduled lab time and did fine on the rest of the lab practicals.


Oh man, that’s seductive!

I hate gross anatomy lab-- the stench, the gore, the feeling of being rushed, the feeling of being inept, ruining structures for the rest of your table, keeping the rest of your table late with your slowness, nasty faculty flunkies looming around to criticize how behind you are and how the structure you just spent thirty minutes digging through grease and fat to dissect is clearly, obviously not the right one: rush, don’t mess up, rush, memorize, for hours and hours and hours of classtime, plus the “open lab time” which you are urged to take afterschool.

I should add I am in the tiny minority-- most of my classmates adore anatomy lab and can’t wait to get in there. One nice thing about med school: there are no true dummies, and everyone moves from strength to strength. The courses I love (Clinical Practice of Medicine and Medicine & Society) are disdained by the same majority.

Matt, I truly think it varies from person to person how high yield lab time is. There are those that insist you need to practically live in the anatomy lab in order to do well. I found that if I spent extra time in the lab, I spent it all working diligently on dissecting out some little thing perfectly instead of using the time to learn the structures. I also found it very difficult to figure out the structures on my own on our dissections. However, if I spent lots of time with pictures of prosections and memorized the structures there, it was much easier for me to then identify the structures on our mutilated dissections because I knew where the structure should be and what it should actually look like. As nice as Netter’s and Grant’s atlases are, I found it very hard to translate those beautifully drawn pictures to the real thing.

And - it’s not abnormal to not love lab. By the last exam, my table (and several others) were splitting up the dissection time. Two people would dissect on Monday - then they would come in for the first few minutes on Tuesday and show everybody what they dissected the previous day. They would then leave, and the next two would stay that day and dissect. Obviously, the anatomy faculty was less than thrilled about that, but they never said anything.

I’m always amazed when I hear people talk about how evil the anatomy faculty/TA’s can be. Our main anatomy prof was absolutely fantastic about never saying anything negative about a dissection. You could totally mutilate a structure and he would say something like “that’s an interesting presentation” or “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this structure displayed like that before”. He would always find some positive, even when you thought you had totally screwed it up. The rest of the faculty was pretty good about that too.

For me, I loved being in the lab. It was truly my favorite part of my first two years. Ironnic that I didn’t like surgery. When I went in for extra time, I definitely didn’t disect-- I had a great group and we finished our disections during lab time. And I wasn’t a big fan of dissection. I loved the three dimensional puzzle of fitting all of the structures together.

Good luck!!

You guys, thanks for the pep talks! It’s just been a rough couple of weeks-- I’m hoping something interesting or elegant will happen soon that will make me cease to dread that loathsome stinking slaughterhouse. I think the teachers are so afraid of slackers and goofoffs that they stress everyone else out to the nth degree. They’ve put the fear of god in us that if our presentations aren’t really stellar, the whole group’s grades and knowledge will suffer. But I don’t keep a bad attitude about anything for long, I hope to be my happy-go-lucky self by October maybe…

Hey! We just had 2 exams (biochem and genetics combined) and written clinical and OPP combined!

Biochem I was exactly average (88%) and I have not heard about the rest. It has been humbling to be “average” but the previous posters made this easier to accept.

Anatomy exam is a way off…what a gross class! I have afternoon labs and have learned not to eat lunch (i’ll just lose it anyway!) To make matters worse, the AC in the building has not been keeping up with the heat, so our adipose is a tad liquidy…

Just do your best! In practice grades don’t really matter, and, from what I heard, residencies can not truly compare graded schools with so many gone P/F. Learn it to know it, do well on boards. Many times doing well on school tests does not correlate with KNOWING it and passing boards!

  • Emergency! Said:
I spent it all working diligently on dissecting out some little thing perfectly instead of using the time to learn the structures.

That's me too! After class I spent about 5 hours in the lab yesterday dissecting the heart to make sure all the cardiac veins and coronary arteries were clearly displayed. (We don't get graded on our dissections so it wasn't really necessary to be that anal). The thing is, even though it was a low yield way of spending my time, I felt really good about it because I was making it my own and developing a relationship with this heart. Also, it felt good to come in this moring and have everyone ooo and ahhh over my beautifully displayed anterior cardiac veins!

I guess I've been feeling so overwhelmed over the newness of my life that I haven't felt connected to what I've been doing. I'm going to look for ways for me to gain personal insight and connection to the material and I think this will help me out.

I did really well on our biochem exam, well above the class average. I was only one point below the class average for the combined score on the gross anatmomy written and practical. I did much better on the practical than the written, which I was quite surprised about. The way our instructor writes anatomy questions is completely bizarre.