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What to expect in your first year studying Medical Science

Emily Yeulett

Faculty: Health, Medicine and Social Care
School: School of Medicine
Course: BSc (Hons) Medical Science
Category: Sciences nutritional and pharmaceutical

8 April 2021

I, like many students, did a lot of research when choosing Medical Science. I looked at the different modules across all three years for the course, what they would entail and I also looked at different career prospects that could come from the course. I felt prepared that I knew what to expect from my first year however, from my personal experience and from helping out first year students when I was in my final year there is always something unexpected in the first year that raises questions. Therefore, I will be answering some of the most common questions and misconceptions that those starting the course sometimes have.

1 – How will I be assessed on each module?

Medical Science contains a mixture of exams, lab reports, presentations and essays. Written assignments will range from anywhere between 1,500 – 3,000 words and the exams may be multiple choice or written answers but they usually consist of both. The exams will always cover the content you have learnt in your lectures BUT there will always be questions that will test if you have done further reading and your critical thinking. Answering these questions correctly are likely what will bump your exam grade up to a 1st.

The lab reports will usually be based on an experiment you do in the SuperLab, which means you will do a write up using the methods you used and the results you obtained to draw a conclusion to why the experiment is important and what the results may imply. These lab reports are usually around 2,000 words, and will ALWAYS include data analysis so make sure you are comfortable with using mathematic equations and concentration or volume conversions.

The presentations will either be individual or as part of a group and can range anywhere from 10-15 minutes. There will always be a Q&A at the end which will give the class and the markers an opportunity to ask about anything you may not have covered or to expand on any points you have made. I know presentations cause a mixed bag of emotions but these types of assessments are very important. If you decide to pursue a career in research you will have to present your research project at some point, probably multiple times. These assessments give you a great opportunity to improve your public speaking and presentation skills which are also transferable and can apply to any career.

The essays will usually be a topic or title that you have to research around to draw some sort of conclusion. The resources you will need to use will consist of both primary (published papers from journals) and secondary (books) resources. Throughout your first year it is expected that around 60% of your references will be from books but try to get comfortable looking for and using journal articles because in your third year it will be expected for you to heavily rely on these (especially for your dissertation). Which takes me on to my next point….

2 – Get comfortable with referencing

Every time anyone asks me the one thing, I wish I knew before I went to university I always answer that ‘I wish I knew how to reference’. When I studied my A Levels, we rarely wrote essays, let alone referenced them. So, when I got to university and was told I had to use Harvard referencing for all my assignments, I felt pretty lost and it took me the whole of my first year to learn how to reference properly (which made me miss out on easy marks for all my assignments). Referencing is simply just making sure you give credit to the authors whose work you have used to get information for your assignments. Below are a few of my top tips to help you feel a bit more comfortable with the idea of referencing and avoid making the same mistakes as I did.

  • Reference EVERYTHING. This may seem overboard but plagiarism is a very serious issue that has considerable consequences. Even if you are able to write a whole paragraph without using a single resource, take the safe route and use a resource for it and reference! You should use references throughout the whole assignment (apart from the conclusion).
  • References should be listed at the end of the assignment AND in text. In text referencing is just referencing a specific sentence or sentences from a source (book or paper). Your reference list should consist of every source you used to get information even if you haven’t used them as an in-text reference. Remember this list should be in alphabetical order!
  • The library runs workshops or has a lot of information on their website on how to Harvard reference – use it. This will make sure you don’t miss out on easy marks like I did.
  • Don’t leave referencing to the last minute, reference every source as soon as you use it. Referencing as you go along ensures there are no sources that are missed out.
  • To save time you can use referencing software such as cite this for me. This saves you from having to type every reference by hand, which can be extremely time consuming. I didn’t learn about this until 2nd year and I couldn’t believe how much easier it made everything.

3 – You won’t have any placements

When asked about what Medical Science involves, this question comes up a lot. Medical Science is often confused with Medicine which does have hospital placements. However, Medical Science covers a wide range of topics and scientific disciplines, which involves a different kind of lab work than the Medicine students experience and the course as a whole deliver’s medical subjects in a different perspective to the Medicine course. Therefore, the course doesn’t require a placement to be delivered successfully. If you did want to go on a placement, in a lab for example, there are a wide variety of summer placements available, but you have to organise these by yourself.

4 – You share modules with Pharmaceutical Science

This one surprised me when I first started my course and throughout my whole first year every module I had was shared with the pharmaceutical science students. This is because both courses need the same knowledge basis, such as anatomy and physiology, in order to understand the more complex components later on in the course. This arrangement also means it is possible for students studying Medical Science to transfer to Pharmaceutical Science and vice versa during or at the end of their first year without having to stay back a year or take on any extra modules. Of course, students that do carry on with their Medical Science studies still have two modules based around pharmacology in their second and third year, so you will still learn valuable information that can be incorporated into a future career.

This list definitely is not extensive as there are always more questions that crop up throughout your first year of studying, but nothing that can’t easily by answered by previous students or the very knowledgeable staff at ARU.


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.