Monday, 9 May 2011


Currently listening to: Live Forever - Oasis

PBL (problem based learning) is a form of student-centred learning which is very popular in medical schools and engineering departments. Some medical schools (e.g. Peninsula) only use PBL, some use a mixture of PBL and lectures (e.g. Barts and the London) and some don't use it at all (e.g. Oxbridge). What QMUL biomeds do is take a PBL module during second and third year, which basically means having six assignments during eash year which you do in your own time, a tutorial, and a test three weeks later. The marks of the second year assignments count for 10% of the total module grade, the marks for third year assignments count for 40% and the final exam at the end of third year counts for 50%.

So off I went to do the exam today. Having concentrated solely on Cellular Pathology and Haematology until Friday, and being dead tired on Friday afternoon I only started my PBL revision on Saturday. Luckily we know which topics are coming up (the six assignments we did this year), and we had to answer three questions, so being short of time I decided to revise three topics (Cirrhosis, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Multiple Myeloma), knowing that they were guaranteed to come up.

Well come up they did, but I still can't shake off a feeling that this exam did not go so well. Each question had seven parts, A-G, with part A being a 30 mark essay question on the pathology of the disease in question. I think I managed to do these all well. There were also two parts per question which were a 10 mark EMQ and 20 mark MCQ question. Which again went well. So in short I think I made a good attempt at 60 marks out of the hundred. The remaining 40 are a mixed bag. For example, on Question 6 to do with multiple myeloma I ran out of time so wasn't able to do the question on antibody diversity (10 marks gone). Also on the question on cirrhosis I had missed some of the biochemistry in my notes so whilst I did attempt the question (also 10 marks), I think I've done it wrong. So as you can see I'm feeling a bit touch and go about this exam...I could have done alright...but then again I might not have. I can only hope (what I think was) an excellent 30 mark essay on multiple myeloma pathophysiology can make up for all the areas I did badly in. I'm certainly not expecting any As.

Given that the majority of biomeds want to eventually study medicine, SBCS decided to introduce the PBL module a few years ago so we would be familiar with medical school teaching styles. I quite like the thought of following a PBL based curriculum if I ever get into medical school, but I haven't enjoyed biomed PBL much. The difference is that when medical schools run PBL courses, they do it well, whereas SBCS...don't. The module is fairly disorganised, and the individual tutors often aren't familiar with the case studies (in one or two cases I suspect this might be because they haven't bothered to read them before the tutorial), and the exam marks and papers are always handed back really late. For example I did the multiple myeloma in-course assessment in March...I got the marks back last Friday, three days before the final exam. How on earth is that helpful? I would say PBL has been the one module at SBCS which I've disliked, not because of the content, but because it's badly run.

Anyway, it's all over now, and I have endocrinology to look forward to in 10 days, a nice traditional subject with powerpoints and textbooks. Time to go do some hardcore revision.

PS: Thank you for all your good luck messages in the previous post :)

1 comment:

  1. Imperial's PBL is a waste of time, luckily as a grad we don't have to do the exam (which makes it even more of a waste of time). The first years are allowed to bring 20 pages of notes to their PBL exam, and the "case" is released a month before.

    You're doing really well if you know anything about the pathophysiology of myeloma or cirrhosis. I haven't a clue about either and hopefully will never be asked about it.. just learned how to diagnose MM for "exam purposes" last week