Saturday, 9 April 2016

1st year MBBS: How to pass it without breaking a sweat.

- Pratap K Das.

Pic Credits:Flickr.

Lots of congratulations to you. The fact that you are reading this post is conclusive enough that you have cleared your way through amongst the countless medical aspirants and finally made your way into a reputed medical college. I fondly remember a senior teacher saying, “  The fact that you have cleared the medical entrances means that you have already won fifty-percent of the battle”. Well guys, buckle up for Stage 2. No doubt you gotta invest lots of time from now on but your biggest ally in your journey will be to keep a calm mind at your disposal. Most of you must have already started off the classes and now you are going hammer and tongs over the internet googling about study tips, learning procedures, shortcut tips, and many more.  So, I have decided to write in short, how your 1styear in MBBS would be like, what the books to read are, and how you will go about studying. Well, let me make this clear that the things said here are based upon my personal experience as well as the inputs from many of my friends here in Gauhati Medical College, touted  as the top medical college in the North-East and which has carved out a niche as one of the premier medical institutions in the country. This post is aimed to equip you with the common minimum requirements in order to clear the 1styear professional exams. While there are some who aim to excel and others for whom passing is their motive, I have created this post to provide them the common minimum tools which are required and I believe that the information shared here will cater to the needs of all my lovely juniors out there.

The System
I still remember the day when I cleared my entrances and got a seat in GMC. It was such a nice feeling. The thought of being a future doctor, with a stethoscope slung around your neck walking through the hospitals and patients alike. It was surreal. Your family, relatives and friends are all happy for you and I believe somebody has even told you to do their check-ups for free in the future. Kudos to you, for now an amazing doctor is going to be carved out of this little genius.

Medical colleges have subject-wise departments. For the 1st year, you will have the subjects Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry. Anatomy involves the architecture of the incredible human body. Here you come to know about the various structures viz. muscles, organs, bones, musculature, etc.. Physiology teaches you the processes going inside this amazing human body. The whys and hows of processes are dealt with here. Biochemistry deals with the chemical processes taking place in the body.

So, if we go from inside outwards, you have first Biochemistry dealing with the cellular processes, then Physiology involving the various processes occurring at different parts of the body and their inter-linkages, and finally Anatomy which tells you about the various parts of the body.

In any department you will have the faculties in the following distribution:
1.       Head of Department (HOD)
2.      Professors
3.      Associate Professors
4.      Assistant Professors
5.      Demonstrators
6.      Non-teaching staff  like peons, clerks, etc.. Even though they are non-teaching staff but you will require their help time and again. Trust me.

( From here on, the post is more specific to GMC. Other colleges may or may not follow similar guidelines. There are lots of things I have discussed about in this post. If you aren’t able to finish in one go, then bookmark it or see the details under the specific headings for time being. But I would recommend you to at least to go through the entire post at least once in entirety.) 

You will have morning lectures in the main lecture hall. I remember our ex-Anatomy HOD telling us that the lecture hall is a medico's temple. Many top doctors have come out of this hall and many more will come out in the future too. Such was his degree of reverence.

Of the 6 working days, you'll have:
        Lecture classes of 1 hour per subject in rotation
        Practical classes subject-wise in rotation
        Dissection classes for Gross Anatomy
        Tutorial classes subject-wise in rotation
Lecture and Tutorials are dealt with before the recess. While, practicals  and dissection are conducted post-recess. In the 1stsemester, post- recess, dissection is followed by practicals while in the 2nd semester, post-recess, practicals are followed by dissection.

The Newbie-wala Feeling
You’ll have the 'orientation session' in which you will be given a speech by the Principal. And then you will be introduced to all the faculties of the respective departments supplemented by a short address by subject-wise HODs. You will probably be handed over your college routine that day itself or within a few days. That’s the first feel as you would be introduced into the world of Medicology.    

The first day in college…OMG!!  The fear, excitement, curiosity, adventure, and all those superlatives would fall short of describing 'that feel' on the first day. You have arrived at the college premises along with someone or some of you made the ride alone. You knowingly or unknowingly (with the help of others) enter the lecture hall and Voila! Hundreds of eyes and bodies stare at you as you make your way inside and take a seat. Most of you are strangers to each other while some buddies made their way through together. Irrespective of what, most of you think of striking a conversation with the nearest person, eyes ogling here and there to lock into a prospective good-looking boy or girl, judging people based on first impression and selecting your prospective future friends in your mind. Hats off to this human psyche. Just when you are getting accustomed to your surroundings the teacher walks in and starts off. Bang!! Class is in full flow and you are just not able to find your feet. But wait did I forget to tell you that each lecture is for an hour. An hour, man! One hour!! In paper 9am-10am looks good, but after so many days of laid back living, the first class after your honeymoon period will be a tough pill to digest for sure. Some of you will be yawning, others with eyes wet and yet some heroes in sleep mode. But you will somehow make through the first 3 classes before recess.

People say recess means break, but nobody forgets their first recess. All of you come out of your classes to be surrounded by seniors in the recess. Those 'devilish' eyes, fuming breaths, hot and crowed atmosphere. We are monsters right? Take a chill pill, this seems only in the looks. While most of them are there in search of prospective 'business deals' while others are there to just give you the chills of intimidation, but nobody will really 'rag' you.

The dreaded R- word for any newbie, the fear of being ragged is hard to escape. But its just a fear guys. We have strong anti-ragging measures here in GMC. One or two seniors may ask you for introduction. But I believe that’s nothing to be cribbing about. We seniors must know too who are the newbies, right? Be a sport and try to enjoy the interaction process. If you strike the right chords and build up a good rapport with the seniors, it is you who will be hugely benefitted in the future. Study tips, priority topics, pet questions of teachers, how to make a good impression in vivas, 'commons' for exams and many more. Don’t ever ignore these 'gurus' of your college. You will surely need their help. The feeling of getting intimidated on seeing the seniors does go on for a few days but soon it subsides and you will readily enter the canteen in the recess.

The canteen, the buzzing hub of medicos. A place where you can just let go and relax. Those moments with friends, teasing people, birthday celebrations, 'coupling spot'. Name it, what not. You may remember those lectures or not but I can assure those 'canteen moments' will stay along in your memories for a long time. After the canteen got a revamp due to some of us students (ask me, I will tell you for sure about the rodent saga), the food quality has improved substantially. So don’t compromise on food.

For some others, there is 'The Central Library'. The name gives me chills. Na re baba nothing frightening. Its the only place where you will feel so cool (AC throughout, yoohooo). It sure is a very beautiful place and I mean it. You will be awed by the vast collection of books here and you will be double awed by realizing that it is more of a lover's paradise than a bookworm's heaven. Oops!! Do make a library card all of you (by filling in the application form, ask them for it) and you can issue books of your choice if you are lucky enough to find them.

Fast-forward to post recess and you have Dissection. Ohhh Woww!! Cadavers, formalin, Yuck!! Will I survive? Can I not faint? Will I vomit? You enter and feel a rush of emotions and thoughts inside your little mind, and Boom babyyy!! Nobody faints, no vomiting and guess what you made through the dissection period without even realizing it. No doubt there is the excitement of cutting through a cadaver's skin, exploring its muscles, and stuff. Formalin in all its might tries to suppress you, but you somehow manage to stand strong. While in the initial days, all of you stay super excited and fight for a chance at dissecting, let some days pass by guys, and you will be fighting to get a seat inside...Seats not for studying but mostly for gossiping right under the 'AC' zones inside. While some of them are born with those serious genes and would still go overboard to study in the dissection time, a vast majority of you would talk of all other things in this world except academics. That’s the power of 'Dissection'. Long-lasting friendships have been forged here, brainstorming debates have occurred here, phone numbers are exchanged here, life-changing discussions have taken place here. The dissection is your “temple of solace”.

Practicals!! Lets rock it!! Is it a theory or practical class? Blink Blink! The name is practical alright but you will learn more theory here than even the lecture classes. In Anatomy practicals, you will learn about Histology, i.e. the microstructure of various structures. You are explained about the slide and then you make a line to view the slides. 'Photo kheechna mat bhoolna'. Before exams, browse through your mobile. Your mobile will be your last minute saviour. In Physiology, you have the practicals divided into Haematology (study of blood and related topics), Clinical physiology ('asli practical yeh he bhidu' , you will learn of general and systemic examinations on a subject. The BP, pulse, pallor and all those)  and finally Experimental Physiology where you will learn of various experiments to be conducted on a frog. But where’s the frog? The frog is in your imagination fellas. Teachers will explain about various experiments and you gotta go on imagination mode. 

Details about important topics of practicals and other practicals related stuff  have been discussed subject-wise later in the post.

Practicals over. College over. Pack your bags and rush to home or hostel. Now what you do after college is your forte. If you wanna enjoy which I did, do it. If you wanna study like some others did, do it. No ones gonna complain.

'Roll no. 1 ?', 'Present ma'am' , the hand goes up. The teacher or your CR (Class Representative) goes through the monotonous routine and all of you respond in the same vein. The daily practice goes on and on and you sure gotta make this practice perfect.

Its an order and I mean it.

A minimum attendance  of 75% in theory and 80% in practicals, tutorials, demonstrations, and dissection classes is mandatory according to SSUSH ( Srimanta Sankaradeva University of Health Sciences) rules. It is applicable for GMC and all the other medical colleges of Assam. And you have to maintain it. Attendance is one of the single largest reasons why most students are 'not allowed' and barred from appearing in the final examination. You don’t want any hassles later on. I suggest you to start maintaining a record of your attendance month-wise for all subjects. If you do need a day off, you can analyse and decide accordingly keeping in mind the proper arithmetics.

The Allow List- The most important piece of paper
'Cometh the hour, cometh the paper.'
'The allow list' or in fact 'the not-allowed list' is the one single precious piece of paper which yields the power of determining a medical student's future course of action.

Now what exactly is this list?
The not allowed list consists of names of students who are barred from appearing in the 1st Professional MBBS exams i.e. the final exams for your 1st year. 

I still remember the anticipation amongst us friends regarding the allow list. There was this constant cloud of fear hovering over the heads of all GMCians. Every day we went to college expecting the allow list to be put up any moment. And till that very day, each day went upon serious discussions on the permutations and combinations of what it took to clear the allow list and reassuring ourselves, 'Guys, we sure gonna make it through'.

Guess what happened when that day finally came. Someone said, 'Oie! Allow list lagise' (the allow list is up) and boy did it not trigger the 'Fight or Flight' mode. There were hordes of students running towards the 'Examinations and Admissions' room in the 'Admin' block to get the first look and more importantly to know whether or not he/she was allowed. We were nudging, elbowing and squeezing amongst the hundreds of students. The ones who cleared the list, i.e. those whose names did not come up as being barred from the exams were smiling, some laughing, some making gestures of excitement but most importantly heaving a sigh of relief. I came to know from someone that I had cleared the 'allow list' before actually seeing it for myself. But when you had many people rejoicing the moment, there were some of my less fortunate buddies who had their names put up in the 'Not allow' list, i.e. they were barred from appearing in the 1st Professional MBBS Exams. 

It was heartbreaking to see many of my friends and others whom I know well in tears. Some of them just couldn’t believe it and were aghast that they were not allowed. While there were some who knew beforehand that they wouldn’t be allowed. Irrespective of all, the feeling that some of us were not allowed hurt each and every one of us. The GMCians are like a family and even if a single one of them is separated, even if for a few months only, the others are naturally bound to feel sad.

For my friends in 1st year, remember that if you are amongst the 'not-allowed' ones, its not the end of the world. You will be giving a Supplementary exam within a couple of months from the 1st Professional Exams and you sure can clear it if you have got basics right. As they say, in GMC, being allowed/not-allowed is part and parcel of medical life. For a doctor, and more so for a good doctor, it is the skills that matter and not the marks. What matters is expertise.
“Be more practical, less theoretical”

To the ones who have cleared the allow list, congratulations to all of you. You have sure got the monkey off your back. Now, focus on the task a hand and prepare well for your 1st Professional MBBS Exams so that you come out with flying colours.


You'll have 3 types of exams.
One, the internal assessments for each subject. 
Two, the semester-ending exams and finally, the 1st professional MBBS exams.

The papers for internal assessments and semester-ending exams are set by the college itself while the 1st year final exams are set by the University.

A minimum of 50% is required separately in theory and practical exams to pass and believe me, its not as easy as it sounds.

If you don't pass, it’s important that you don't fall into the 'Bottom 25' of the lot. Since about 30-35 students are not allowed in the 1st year, it’s imperative and equally important to be in the safe zone i.e. above the bottom 25 students in as many exams as possible if you do not pass. The bottom 25 figure is in regard that never in the history of GMC more than 25 students have been detained subject-wise. The numbers may vary accordingly in other colleges. This is applicable only to all other exams apart from the finals. In the finals, its absolutely mandatory to pass by bringing 50% and above.

Internal Assessments

Each department conducts various internal assessments in the span of the entire 1st year course.
You'll have the following:

1)  Physiology :  2 Theory + 2 Practical assessments.
The first theory assessment will infact be your first proper exam in GMC as well as in other colleges. It will be based on General Physiology and Blood.
 The second theory assessment will be based on CNS, CVS and Endocrinology. It is held a couple  of months before the release of allow list.
Syllabus is subject to vary college-wise and batch-wise.

You'll have 1 practical assessment on Haematology. It is a time-based test where you will be  given a minute for each of the 10 questions.
Another practical assessment will be based on Clinical Physiology. It is one of the most fattu exams where literally bachchon ki fatt jaati hai! The reason being that it’s more of an assessment judging your practical skills, your way of directing your subject and also vivas testing your knowledge. Naturally, fategi hi na.

2)  Biochemistry : 2 Theory + 1 Practical assessment.
The first theory assessment in Biochemistry has the exemplary achievement of being the most challenging exam prior to your 1st semester -ending exams. The syllabus is that of 'Chemistry' (the first unit) in Biochem. Though it’s regarded tough to pass, if you put in a bit of effort and actually study for it, you can shine bright.
The second theory assessment is that of ' Nucleotides : Chemistry and Metabolism ' along with 'ETC'. It offers you a better chance of boosting your marks for internal assessments. Hence, I would recommend you all to study well for it.
Again syllabus may vary

The only practical assessment is infact a cakewalk. You will have to perform easy and basic tests for analysis. The crossing part is mostly practical based and one can easily prepare for it.
3)  Anatomy :  6 Part Comp. Tests ( PCT ) + 1 Histology assessment.
There will be 6 PCTs for each region. The PCTs are time based tests where you will go from one table to another and you will be allotted a minute at each table for writing the answers. The questions are fairly objective and a one word answer or a sentence is enough. The trick to do well is in optimum time management and being quick to think on your feet. And as I said earlier you need a calm head to save from the unnecessary silly mistakes.
  Semester-Ending Exams
You will have 2 semester-ending exams for each of the 3 subjects respectively. Your 1st sems will be around January while the 2nd sems tentatively around June. For each subject you will have 50 marks theory paper and 50 marks practicals totalling to 100 marks per subject. For the theory papers you will be allotted 2 hours time during which you have to complete the answers. The 1st semester exams were our first big test in medical and there was lots of hues and cries amongst the fraternity. We would be breaking our heads, slogging through the topics and past question papers, discussing ‘importants’ and ‘commons’ in our pursuit for passing.  Some students did perform really well while there were many who failed. You got to take these exams seriously as they have weightage in determining your Internal Assessment marks for the finals. Do run the hard yards and try to make these exams count.

1st Professional MBBS Exams— The Final Frontier

This is your MAIN!! MAIN!! MAIN!! Exam. You just cannot let your guard down even for once. Once you clear the allow list, you become eligible for appearing the 1st MB. You get a break of 1 month between the 2nd sems exams and the 1st profs. These 30 days are your make-or-break moments. Its really really important that you put your heads up and take charge of your future. It is the preparatory time before the exams that is the toughest. Some days you will feel charged up to study, while on some you may not remember a single thing which you tried to remember. Some guest or the other invariably pops up when you feel like studying. A birthday party or a trip may be planned just prior to your exams. Never get bogged down no matter what. Try to use all your days wisely. If you plan what you wanna do in the last month and finish portions of your course accordingly, you will surely succeed in preparing well for the exams. ‘Small milaate jaao, Large banate jaao.’ Ultimately the read before the exams is the best read as they say.

The format for the exams is slightly different from all other exams you have appeared till now in your life. Each subject is of 200 marks and each mark is worth its weight in gold.

Theory (100 marks) + Theory Viva (20 marks) + Practicals (40 marks) + Internal Assessment (40 marks)

You will have two theory papers Paper-I and Paper-II. Each paper is of 50 marks and you will be allotted 2 hours for each. And each paper will have 2 halves, First Half and Second Half of 25 marks each. Take for example you have your Anatomy theory exam tomorrow. So you will be rushing to your college examination hall as close as possible to your exam start time. We had our Paper-I from 10-12 am and Paper-II from 1-3 pm on the same day. So now imagine yourself sitting for Paper-I. You will have 2 halves in Paper-I which you will be answering separately in 2 answer booklets. The same thing again applies for Paper-II. The important thing to remember is that the Paper-I and Paper-II cover different topics. So you should be revising the topics which haven’t come in Paper-I during the 1 hour break time as you will get questions from them in the next paper. The most important thing in the theory exams to keep calm and make optimum use of your time. You must know exactly how to use the time available to you and how much to write for each answer. No matter what don’t leave any questions unanswered. The teachers must have something to give you marks for. And you MUST!!MUST!!MUST!!  go through the past question papers of 1st prof exams. Try to get your hands on the papers as early as you can. ‘Commons’ are our favourite and traditional route. If you solve the past 10 year papers then you may get 50-60% questions common, though the percentage may vary according to subjects.
Theory viva consists of two table vivas where different teachers will be asking you questions on the various topics under that subject. They may potentially ask you anything under the purview of that particular subject. There are some HOT questions of the teachers and some important questions which you must never forget to go through once before the exams. Take cues from your seniors on the important stuff. More importantly, try to ask your peers the questions they were asked so that you can look them up quick as questions are bound to be repeated in the course of the vivas.

Practicals are easy as you will be mostly in touch with the stuff which comes for the pracs. You will have spotting (identifying objects and writing points regarding them), practicals proper ( where you perform the practicals provided to you) and crossing (where you will be asked practical specific questions). Practicals are easy and you have ample opportunities to take help from your peers. The teachers also help you to correct something if you have wrongly done.

Internal Assessments marks are provided by calculating your internal assessment marks, semester exams marks and your attendance percentage.

Books : Neccessity or Formality

Whoa,whoa,whoa !! Did I just call books a formality. Oh,yeah. I just did.

Wait, what about those sermonising lectures of this book being the best or that book being better? This book is for concept and that one for exams. 

The solution- Any book is good if you actually know it in entirety from first to last. Its not about the number of books up in your shelves, but how much have you actually used them.

All books now available in the market are good enough. The recommended ones amongst the lot are brilliant even in standalone. So leave apart all comparisons and stuff. Just follow the book which you feel comfortable and be sure to read it through. A book per subject is enough, trust me. You ain't gonna be a librarian that you need to consult a plethora of books.

There are many, many books on this particular subject. There are so many of them that your entire lifetime will fall short. Compounded to that, the numerous subdivisions of the subject will leave you in doldrums. But what if I tell you that I learnt most of my anatomy from the dissection classes and histology practicals. Yup, you bet. Since, these are very much practical oriented and you will be taught using models and cadavers, you remember the anatomical stuff better. So guys and girls, do pay attention in your dissection and demo classes. Try to grasp as much as you can. You will have endless gossips and discussions but do take some time to listen to what a teacher has to say if you find someone teaching to a student group. You listen here, and listen there. You pick up something new, you revise something old. All this goes into the making, my friend. Finally at the end of the day you would find yourself knowing many things even if you don’t consult a book.    
Let me tell you from my personal experience, that I was not an avid reader of our books as much as I love reading other non-stream books. I just read some of the very very important topics from books only. For the miscellaneous topics,I trusted my teachers teachings more and boy, I was rewarded.

But even then you just can’t let go of books. Can you? As I said earlier this post gives you the minimum requirements for passing. No doubt I would mention some extra points on how to excel ,but its better to be safe first. Isn’t it? 

So,the first book that you absolutely need to get your hands upon is the TABERS CYCLOPAEDIA. It’s a dictionary. Common a dictionary…. I can use the net too for searching. But no you must have it. The Taber’s is the best dictionary I have ever seen. Apart from the normal aspects of a dictionary that of providing you with origin, meaning and synonyms, what Tabers offers to you is etiology, disease progression, treatments and preventions along with clinical teachings. Wait, there’s more. You have numerous colour illustrations to supplement your understanding. For me, the Tabers is no less than a book itself and it’s something which you will need throughout your life. So make sure of buying one.

For General Anatomy, you can either consult the first 20 pages of CUNNINGHAMS dissection manual if you have the patience to do so. Teachers and senior teachers would even bet their property on Cunningham and no doubt it is a good book. But a little bit too dry and flavourless for the first year. For those impatient freaks like me, who likes everything to be systematically served on a platter for you, go for GENERAL ANATOMY BY BD CHAURASIA. It has the same things as that in Cunninghams first 20 pages but in a more orderly and point wise manner. Topics are nicely divided into subtopics and then into point-wise explanations along with amazing line diagrams which are easily reproducible in your exams.if you can make your own points from Cunningham, you can give general anatomy from BDC a miss.

Time for Gross Anatomy.  It’s a really vast proportion of anatomy and undoubtedly forms the largest chunk of marks in your anatomy teaching as well as the papers. Gross is what you see macroscopically. It is the anatomy which you can analyse and understand by your naked eye.

You need to buy a bone set in originals. The POP casts are useless. And don’t go about comparing and seeing who offers me a bone set at the most minimum price. Bones ain’t your party clothes which you will wear once in a blue moon but they are your bread and butter without which your survival in first year would be difficult. We seniors know the rates and have that competition amongst us too. You need to get a bone set as quickly as possible once the classes start because understanding bones and its landmarks takes a lot of time and forgetting them is super easy too. And to study bones, who will be your guide? Consult Human Anatomy BDC. It has section for bones and contains all essential points for understanding. For the more curious people , you have PODDAR OSTEOLOGY HANDBOOK ,it has many details and explains all the intracacies of the bone structure. 

You will need to carry CUNNINGHAMS MANUAL for practical anatomy to your dissection classes. The language is tough to understand. Consult your teacher for help. Especially BRAIN part from Cunningham is excellent. Make sure to see it at least once. Your main guide book will be Human Anatomy by BDC. A power-packed package of 3 volumes consisting of point-wise descriptions of various topics along with various line diagrams . The clinical notes corresponding to a topic is of supreme importance. Perfect for exams as well as understanding. The only drawback is its diagrams. Even though the diagrams are good for exam purposes but not enough for understanding. This is where the need for an atlas comes. The diagrams are of supreme importance and detailing pictures are of supreme importance and detailing. Pictures of atlas looks like the real stuff. There are many of them but the most trusted one is NETTER’S ATLAS OF HUMAN ANATOMY. Heavily detailed , very real , life like pictures and amazing for understanding. Then there is THIEMES ATLAS OF ANATOMY and GRANTS ATLAS OF ANATOMY. Another amazing practical oriented atlas is the McMINNS ATLAS OF HUMAN ANATOMY. It contains real cadaveric dissection pics invaluable  just before part com and practical exams. Those who want a balance of information and understanding photos , there is Students version of GRAYS ANATOMY. You can refer it but the details are not enough actually. A BDC is a must. 

Now for histology you simply get hold of Textbook of Histology by IB SINGH. It is the one stop solution for all your histology doubts and understanding. The DIFIORE’S atlas is the one used for diagrams. Also it contains information on various topics. Buying it or not is your choice. 

The study of embryology needs concept building and relating them. The concept building book is LANGMANS’S MEDICAL EMBRYOLOGY. Its good for understanding. But IB SINGH EMBRYOLOGY is best for passing and last moment revise. The topics taught using models are the ones most important. You can skip the others. Pay attention to your model teaching teachers.

There are some miscellaneous topics on which you may or may not buy books
1)     Neuroanatomy
n  Clinical neuroantomy by Vishram Singh. Amazing book for understanding. Best explanation of ‘Circle of Willis’ I have seen. It’s a small topic. Buy the book or pay attention to the concerned lectures.

2)    Genetics
n  ‘Genetics by Emily’ is the recommended text. It has detailed information supplemented with awesome diagrams for understanding. If you don’t buy, pay attention to the lectures and learn the important topics properly. You will get only one question or a couple from it.
n  Genetics by Gangane can also be used.

3)    Radiology
n  See and learn from BDC Human Anatomy or from Snell’s Clinical Anatomy text. It would easily suffice.

Physiology, the subject of various processes occurring in the human body requires you to build concepts and linking them. It is rewarding if you understand and not memorize as physiology is something which you will need in the future too.

Try not to miss the lectures of this subject as the topics taught are interrelated when belonging to the same unit. You can’t understand the dynamics of equilibrium without understanding the ascending and descending tracts. Neither can you understand arrhythmias without knowing the normal conducting system of heart.

The subject is easy if you follow it up from time to time as you need understanding of concepts which ain’t easy in one go. Try to follow up the topic the day itself it is taught. That would relieve you of a huge burden which would otherwise pile up just before the finals.

Many people say use Guyton for concept building and A.K.Jain for mark scoring. But for me and numerous other friends our go-to-book was Sembulingam. Some teachers would curse the book and would say not to follow it. Others say it’s a ‘nurse’s best companion’. But trust me if you want to just pass or aim for mid-range achievement, you must get your hands on Sembu. This gem of a book has saved millions of lives and will definitely continue to do so in the future.

Medical physiology by Sembulingam offers you pointwise, very systematic approach to each of the topics. The language is lucid and very easy to understand. There are ample amount of flowcharts which provide you easy, clear and concise explanation of various topics. I found respiration and CNS very easy when I consulted Sembu.

Naturally for those who aim high and have hopes of excelling in their exams, a tried and trusted combination of ‘Guyton + AK Jain’ is there for the taking.  ‘Medical Physiology by Guyton and Hall’ is regarded as the Bible of Physio for Undergraduate students. It’s a textbook which is comparable to the smooth flow of water. The presentation of concepts and explanations seem to be very natural and flawlessly interlinked which makes it an interesting read. You can even start reading it before your classes start in the 1st year.
The noticeable drawback is that its descriptive approach doesn’t offer you point-wise solutions for the exam papers. Moreover certain details are lacking which are must for high scores. This is where AK Jain comes into the picture.

‘Textbook of Medical Physiology by A.K.Jain’ consists of 2 books Vol.1 and Vol.2 which has the topics divided. Many people use it as a Guyton substitute while I never felt the need to do so. This is the biggest hotcake for a 1st year student when he or she enters the college. The rush of students for buying this book eventually males it go ‘Out of Stock’ for a couple of months or so. I was amongst the chosen few who were the ‘left out bandwagon’ of A.K.Jain enthusiasts. I believed that AKJ would be my saviour in Physio and didn’t study anything till the time I would get my copy of AKJ. The fateful day finally came. Dad bought me an AKJ. I thought here goes; this is my moment of greatness. Now I too can get honours. Book opens. Chapter blood. 15 minutes gone. ½ page done. 30 minutes. Still ½ page. Its 1 hour. ½ page still. That’s it. Book closes… I still don’t remember myself opening the book again till the finals. I asked many of my friends and they said only one thing, its ‘Boring’. Upon analysis I found that it’s a book which contains everything as point-wise descriptions aimed for high marks scoring. It has many line diagrams, differences tables and flow charts which makes it an examiner’s delight. Almost the entire class bought AKJ but only a chosen few used it. Ask the chosen few and they would speak highly of it. The reason, they used the Guyton + AKJ formula. A quick reading of the topic from Guyton followed by a reading of AKJ and they hit Jackpot. No doubt those who followed this from the starting days of 1st year indeed performed excellently in their exams. I tried this formula too, but you have to invest loads of time into it and it was just before the 2nd semesters. For a few chapters which I did in this manner the results were awesome. I understood and had detailed knowledge of those chapters. But, my bad that the time was lost and Sembu had no issues in coming to my rescue.

For Practical Physiology, either Shrivastava or AK Jain Practical Physio is good. Though personally I paid more attention to the teachings in practical classes. I just used teacher’s practical notes and it was more than enough.

For some, it’s the easiest of all. For many, it’s the toughest of all. Say hello to Biochem. The chemistry part is a sort of repetition of what you learnt in Class 12 or during coaching for medical. What’s new is the detailed metabolism, reactions and pathways in this subject. And obviously they form the largest chunk of marks in your exams. Don’t break your head after biochem lectures. Even the toppers didn’t catch everything the day a particular chapter was taught. Since you mostly deal with pathways, the only way to remember them is by writing and rewriting these on sheets of paper. That’s the best possible way of remembering these numerous pathways. Sometimes you may become entangled with the various intermediates and products. When you face such a situation, just give yourself a break. Hear a song or watch a funny video and chill yourself. Then again get back to pathways. There are many chapters which contain more of subjective details than pathways such as vitamins, nucleotides and DNA, Immunology, Cancer, etc. which you can cover up with less pressure. Most of biochemistry requires memorizing stuff, so there’s no way out and anyways you have to study before exams.

‘Biochemistry by Satyanarayana’ is the most preferred textbook and the one which seniors recommend because it’s a part of tradition. The details in this book are short and precise. Includes separate details in boxes and flowcharts. Perfect for exam answers. But I personally found it very dull, monotonous and boring. And moreover there are some mistakes in fundamental topics too.

This is where sprouts a new way of living and understanding. Enters " Textbook of Biochemistry " by Vasudevan. This happens to be my favourite book of 1st year. Very conceptual and easy to understand. It contains loads of pictures, the glossy pages are a treat to savour. Though not very objective, you can make your points easily from this book. It is very interactive and an amazing book to read from. Though the users of this book are less as it is a threat to tradition, the ones who use it, speak in high admiration for it.

Owning both these is a good bet. Focus more on Vasudevan. Topics such as ETC,  Enzymology, Immunology are superbly dealt in Vasudevan. Nucleotides and metabolism is awesomely written in Satya. Take your pick.

Your life as a medical student would be full of thrills and chills. You will learn many things in examining this vast ocean of knowledge. There are many highs and lows in this stream. Once you enter into this world, you must know that you are a class apart from others. But remember to be always connected to your roots and not sway in excitement. As a medico your first and foremost objective is to be there for others. You do good for others, you will be rewarded in kind. Always try to go that extra mile in realising your true potential. Always respect everyone. Humility makes you a stronger person. Enjoy your lives to the fullest whenever you get an opportunity to do so. Take active part in events like your College Fests. You may discover some dormant talent within yourself. Have fun with everyone. Fall for a boy or girl and immerse yourself in love. Give a Hi5 to your gang on achievements and help those in distress. Walk down the unkempt track rather than the straight road ahead. Be challenging and never be bogged down by others. Have a good rapport with your classmates, seniors and teachers. A good network of people is essential and benefitting. Finally keep faith in the almighty. He has kept a great future in store for you. You are in the path of becoming a great asset to the society. Keep your head high...