A Guide to Picking Papers
This post was last updated on 20/2/16
With so many paper options available for you to choose from, planning the second and third years of your Medical Sciences degree, whatever speciality it may be can be a daunting and confusing task. Usually when you finish your first year of OLY1, there are three main routes of thought people go through, and whichever one applies to you will be in my opinion the major deciding factor for how you go about choosing your papers. These are:
1). You didn’t get into the programme that you were hoping to transfer into after OLY1 (usually MBChB) and wish to complete the remainder of your degree in order to apply again as a postgraduate student but is unsure as to which papers to pick that will give you the best chance (i.e. highest G.P.A) when you graduate. Keep in mind that aside from MBChB, other clinical degrees like BOptom have allowed students to transfer mid-way through their degrees in the past so it do contact the relevant course advisors for more information!!
2). You want to continue with your Medical Sciences degree (Biomedical Science, Physiology, Pharmacology, Medicinal Chemistry…) but is unsure about what specialisation you wish to pursue and how to choose papers which will align with your interests.
3). You’ve realised that a Medically related science degree is not for you and wish to pursue something entirely different.
If you’re thinking along the lines of 3), then the best advice I can offer would be to contact the relevant course advisors for more information on how you can transfer to that degree or specialisation. If 1) or 2) sounds more like you however, read on.
If you are 1) and is DEAD-SET on applying for postgraduate MBChB and unfortunately didn’t get in after first year, as a Biomedical Science or Physiology Student you must decide whether you want to forgo the potential of Honours eligibility or not, as to be eligible for Honours after your BSc you MUST take six stage III papers instead of the five just to graduate (see here and here). Taking five stage III papers instead of six should give your G.P.A a boost and increase your competitiveness for postgraduate MBChB entry but dare I say it, be mentally prepared for what may happen should it not work out. That’s not to say you cannot continue as a postgraduate Medical Science student without doing Honours however, see page 3 of the postgraduate prospectus for more information about postgraduate pathways after your BSc.
If you fall into the 2) category and wish to eventually pursue Honours, then realise you’ve got to take six stage III papers in your third year of study to be eligible.
Whether you are in category 1) or 2), start your paper picking process by deciding which stage THREE papers you may wish to do first, because your choices here will determine which stage TWO papers you should or should not do.
The first step you should take is having a look at the table below and other very useful information which can be found here:
Thankfully for Biomedical Science students, the second year of your degree is still quite set in concrete and with careful planning of papers you can easily choose a combination that leaves most, if not all your potential third year papers of interest open. For a list of BIOSCI courses and pre-requisites, check this link here and for the MEDSCI papers click here. Do keep in mind however, that you may not have to take EVERY recommended core course to get into a particular research area as the table above suggests – to get a more realistic idea I recommend you contact the relevant lecturers/researchers in the particular field(s) that you are interested in going into for which papers they see as essential and which are not. I strongly recommend that you keep your options as open as possible here because you will most likely find your interests changing as you dive deeper into each area. Personally, after stage 1 I was very interested in the Genetics and Development area but upon taking the BIOSCI 202 Genetics paper I realised that I didn’t find genetics that interesting after all compared to the year before. Don’t limit yourself more than you have to!! If you are really looking to jump ahead, don’t be shy to look at potential postgraduate BIOSCI and MEDSCI papers to help structure your stage III options, being mindful with the fact that your interests can change as you progress in your studies.
Now that you’ve identified possible areas you may be interested in, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of picking the individual papers that you will be studying. The very first step is obviously find out what each paper is like, which reading the S.A.M.S paper reviews will help you immensely with. Aside from that, utilise all the commonly overlooked sources of information around you – friends who have taken the papers in the past, reading Student Course Reviews (while being aware of the bias present) and of course you can always ask us, the S.A.M.S committee members and fellow students for their advice either publically on facebook or privately via private messaging or email.
Finally, be prepared to do a little bit of reading in between the lines and applying common sense when choosing your papers. Try and choose papers which fulfil multiple pre-requisites of higher stage papers that are not overlapping with each other to keep your options as open and wide as possible. Be wary of the unspoken and rules assumptions - If you are looking to study immunology at a postgraduate level, taking MEDSCI 708 – ‘Advanced Immunology’ is probably a good idea.
And although it does not explicitly state any pre-requisites, it would be wise to take its predecessor course, MEDSCI 314 at stage III. After all, if you’re going into an “advanced immunology” course at postgraduate level there’s a good chance the lecturers expect you to have some basic foundation knowledge already. If that is not an option, consider borrowing the course guide off a friend who did take it and reading through that over the summer holidays. Take the initiative and ask the course directors for how they recommend you best prepare. Apply for summer studentships and experience for yourself what science is really like beyond the textbooks. And in case you haven’t guessed already, ask, ask, and ask again!! That includes your friends, your lecturers, and even us. They really weren’t kidding when they said that the only stupid question is the one that you do not ask.