Things That Kept Me Going Through Exams

I’m waiting on exam results (nail-biting!) but I remain surprised and grateful that I actually survived TWO hell-weeks this year. Our exams don’t only assess our competence as future doctors, but also our nerves. They are an emotional game, pushing us to our limits in the span of a week. I mean, they won’t admit it, but that’s pretty much what happens.

When you’re studying and it feels like you will never know it all, this helps:

Some days, I managed to get though entire rotations. Other days, it was a miracle if I got through 100 pages. But doing some studying was better than not accomplishing anything!

 * * *

In the week before exams, one girl in our clinical group said something that really stuck with me:

“We can do this. We ARE doctors and this is just a small hurdle in our way.”

It was good to remind myself that none of these things I was studying was pure theory. I had experience in all of it. I had SEEN the disease-processes in real patients. I had examined them and treated them. I had written up the medication and ordered the tests and yes, I had had supervision, but it was not a game. It was real.

 * * *

Exam time really is the only time that I can’t read. I’m too stressed to focus when studying is so urgent. I did however take out a book from the library, Suburban Shaman by Cecil Helman. I’ll write more about the book in another post, but one chapter is called The Green Mask and essentially addresses the anthropological importance of masks and theorises that the surgical mask has a purpose greater than simple infection-control.

“In this setting, the mask helps transform an ordinary doctor into the archetypal superhero, someone daring and brave.”

It kind of reminded me of a saying we have in my class, “Fake it til you make it” or – a bit more crass – “Bullshit with flair”. Basically, half of the battle is putting on a mask of confidence and making not only your examiners, but YOURSELF believe that you are competent, that you are ready for the title of “doctor”.

As I walked into each exam venue, I envisioned myself pulling a mask over myself, and becoming a doctor.

 * * *

Then there was “Only A Mountain” by Jason Castro. It definitely kept me going when I hit a slump in the middle of the week.

 * * *

And finally, of course, was the support I had from my family and friends. I don’t know how anyone could get through med school without support and confidence from their families. My mom’s favourite thing to tell me is, “Remember, thousands of people have done this successfully, and so will you.”


  1. The Rider says:

    Trots op jou, Dokter! Hoop die punte reflekteer die harde werk!

  2. harveylisam says:

    Very good point to remember, what you said about none of this being pure theory. 🙂 Congrats on getting through!

  3. Peace says:

    Oh dear Lord. That will be me in 2 months.

  4. Ek hou al my duime en tone vir jou vas! Sterkte!

  5. Jason Castro’s “Only A Mountain” and that encouragement from your mom are very similar to my experiences in Med school (though I am just still at first year). Anyway, thanks for sharing this post! That quote, “Aim for progress, not perfection” has a lightning bolt effect on me! Ahaha! 🙂

    1. barefootmegz says:

      Best wishes to you, dear! Never to early to accumulate inspiration to keep on keeping on 🙂

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