Sunday, 14 August 2011

Perpetual uncertainty: Is this life?

Currently listening to: Time - Pink Floyd

Sometimes I like to treat this blog like a sofa in a psychiatrist's office. I use it to reflect, debate, analyse and go over things in my mind to do with my future. I swear I'm not drunk when I make these posts, I just need somewhere to contemplate freely I guess.

Ten weeks have passed since I completed my BSc exams, got my grades, graduated, got accepted onto a masters degree and sorted out my accommodation for next year. The one thing that has constantly been on the back of my mind through all of this has been the UKCAT, which I have been preparing for. I have completed two revision books, a Kaplan pdf test, several free online tests, and hundreds of (paid for) online UPO questions, and now I've started them all again. I see patterns everywhere, I work out percentages whilst on the bus, and analyse newspaper articles for inferences and relationships.

Up til now I've been pretty laid back about the UKCAT, and I still am...after getting through the hell that is a biomed degree, I think few things will ever make me feel as nervous as my second year Immunology exam. But it would be silly to deny that - 12 days before the test - I'm getting nervous. I suppose it's because today it finally hit me just how important this test is. I was browsing some student forums (as you do) and stumbled on this post about the exam. The graduate in question had got 630 in his UKCAT and was wondering what he should do with this rather average score. The harsh, but honest, response?

"To be honest, that is quite a low score on the UKCAT for entry onto a 4 year program. I think you would struggle to get interviews for a 5 year program too. Your best bet will be to look at applying to unis that do not use an entrance exam ( Cambridge or Birmingham) or that use the GAMSAT. It does not matter how qualified you feel you are, the entrance exam plays a very large part in shortlisting for interview and with that UKCAT score I'm sorry to say you will be below the cut off for the majority (if not all) the UKCAT unis."

Of course I know that the UKCAT is important, I've never treated it less than seriously, but seeing this very honest advice 12 days before the exam finally crystallised what had been in the back of my mind for a long time: this exam is very, very significant and I really, really do not want to do badly, but what if after all this preparation I do?

Since getting my results, I've had nearly 8 weeks of un-nervousness. And now it's back. Is this life for me, forever? Stressing about my degree, stressing about my UKCAT, stressing about interviews, stressing about offers, stressing about rejections, stressing about med school yrs 1-4, stressing about MRCP 1, 2, 2A, stressing about registrar I need to continue?

Sometimes I wonder whether it's all worth it. Whether it's even healthy. I'm not looking for sympathy in this post, I'm just hoping that all this uncertainty and edginess is a temporary part of my life, not permanent. Then again maybe everyone feels like this...


  1. Everybody does feel like that. I think what you've just wrote on a pretty regular basis. Is it all worth it though? I don't know. Ultimately I just think that if you enjoy doing what you do, and want to be a doctor then carry on with it. Worrying comes with the territory. Because for all the days you spend thinking about it being worth it or not you spend ten times more days loving every second of it :)
    Also, come to Birmingham! Although I'm sure somebody told me that for the 4 year programme they do look at the UKCAT, but don't for the 5 year programme...double check that bit...
    Good Luck :D

  2. These were my exact feelings this time last year! I really feel what you're going through and I know how overwhelming the whole process seems. I think the best way to get through it is to remember that there is no other way around it - these are just the hoops that you have to jump through! Stay tough!

  3. Good luck in the UKCAT Grumpy - As Graduate said, once done, one less hoop to jump through!

    Kick ass :)

  4. @itcomplicated: Bham want first class degrees, I have a 2:1 :P I *know* it will be worth it if I ever get in, it's just jumping through the hoops which stresses me out, it really worries me that like the other graduate I could get a really average score which would void my desire and committment to study medicine. I hate the uncertainty.

    @TGM: Cheers mate, good to know I'm not alone in feeling like this. I'm trying my best, I hope all the preparation pays off. It's like final year all over again, I just hope the effort will yield the necessary result.

    @IO: Long time no see! How are things? Thanks buddy, I'll no doubt update on the 26th to let you know how I've done :)

  5. Argh, the UKCAT. (I still have major issues with this test.) I found the actual exam to be much easier than the practice questions (especially the QR section) and at least you get your results straight away so you can apply strategically. Best of luck!

  6. @Violet: Hello, don't think I've ever seen you comment here so welcome :) I really do hope the questions are nice, if they're anything like the UPO practice questions or the Kaplan practice test I'd be happy. What I'd hate is paragraphs of data to decipher in QR before you can even attempt the question. There just isn't enough time!

    Yes, I'm planning to apply strategically but my first choice (Barts and The London) places a lot of importance on the UKCAT, so I really want to do well.

    Out of interest, how did you do?

    Cheers for the comment.

  7. Hi, firstly good luck :) Secondly, I honestly believe that as aspiring medics stressing about things is our lot. If we didn't have things to stress about we wouldn't be truly happy :) We love a good stress. Peninsula prepares us for it well by having 4 exams a year. Seriously though, it helps to keep things in perspective. If you're nervous it means a lot to you, and as it should. Isn't it better to be worrying about this then if you had some office job where all you had to stress about was how many windows you sold that day? Best of luck Grumpy!

  8. @ILHC: Thanks...yeah, I see where you're coming from and I guess I'm used to it by now, but I just hate the thought that after all of this I could get a really average/below average mark which would make it impossible to get in. I can't afford a five year course and the GEPs which aren't UKCAT heavy often want great A levels, which I don't have. Anyway, I guess there's no point stressing about it, I think things will be much clearer after next Friday :)

  9. Hi Grumpy :)

    Please don't be stressed about the UKCAT - I'm sure you'll do marvelously if you've been practicing for such a long time!

    If the worst comes to the worst - try to get at least 600 minimum in each section, then apply for Leicester 5yr.

    Also - would you consider doing the GAMSAT? I found the UKCAT difficult because although I improved my result this time, it still wasn't amazing - at least with Gamsat you can prepare and realise how much you have done. Maybe an exam based on your knowledge might work for you?

    Anyway sorry about the essay :P. Also quick question: Who fills out our UCAS ref this year? Is it still QM advisors?

    Good luck! (for tomorrow?!)

  10. Hey Rawr :)

    Thanks for the advice, yes it's tomorrow and tbh I've done my best so I can only hope that I get some nice questions :P

    I would do the GAMSAT if it weren't for chemistry...I can do well at biology and physics, but pure and organic chemistry is just incomprensible to me. So I'm hoping I do well in the UKCAT instead. Are you doing the GAMSAT?

    I think you can ask your old adviser for a reference, mine's agreed to do mine so send them an email. Well done on getting your UKCAT done btw, I'm sure you did well!

    Hope your Summer's been good!