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What do you learn about in first year biomedical UoA papers?

charlottechatw

New Member
Hi everyone,
I'm year 13 this year and I'm struggling to find insider information about what medical school is actually like in terms of the content. I'm keen to do either medical school or engineering (more biomedical engineering pathway) but likely biomed first year in auckland at the moment.

1. How much of the content is biology? I don't mind biology but definitely prefer chemistry and physics. Are most of the papers based around memorising muscles / bones etc. or is there a good mix of all areas of biology (if that makes sense).
2. How do the exams work compared to high school? Do you have assignments that you get graded on throughout the year as well as end of year exams?
3. Are there any papers that people typically find harder than the others?

Thank you so much if you can answer any of these!
:)
 

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1997

New Member
Hi! In response to your questions:
1. Roughly half of the papers are based on biology. There is a lot of memorising in these papers, although memorising muscles and bones is not a big part of these papers. That is something that happens once you get into medical school. There is a good mix of biology - cells, DNA, biochemistry, physiology in all these biology papers.
2. Each paper has assignments and tests throughout the semester. You get graded on them. At the end of the semester, you have a final exam.
3. Yes, MEDSCI 142 has been the paper that most people find the most difficult. The other papers are not easy either, but they are not super hard. You just need to put in the effort for all papers.
Hope this helps. All the best with year 13!
 

Venus

New Member
Honest opinion:
- No need to study for labs as the work is very light and is worth about 20% of each course and is not even assessed in your tests/exams. Save your time for memorizing the lectures. The exception to this is medsci142, which I would recommend doing as much preparation as possible before each lab; it would be a good idea to read and answer any questions you can in the lab guide before actually going into the lab because you're tested on it at the end of every medsci lab and the lab content will be small (but significant) part of your tests. For the other labs just read the lab course notes before hand and listen carefully during the lab as all the answers are given somewhere in the instructor's presentation at each lab.

- For lectures, I would not advise trying to understand the lecture content. There is simply too much information/trivial facts that needs to be learnt and trying to understand it is a complete waste of time. Attempting to understand the content will result in you spending a lot of time learning things that are of no benefit to your GPA and are not necessary for the test. If it's not in the course guide or lecture, then there's no point in learning it. But again, the exception to this is medsci142. Putting effort into simply memorization in the other courses can easily get you an A+, but sadly this is not the case for medsci. In medsci142 the test questions are significantly harder than in the other courses; they actually require you to think rather than just rifle through facts that you've memorized. It is the same for the medsci exam. Fortunately, medsci is actually conceptually easier to grasp than the other courses because it deals with biology on a larger level. By that I mean you're not taught about like 20 different enzymes in the same lecture that all sound pretty much the same. Instead you're dealing with anatomical systems like how the heart works mechanically. But again, you do need to actually understand medsci as the exam questions really do make you think.

And just an extra tip for medsci:
Do all the past exam papers because some lecturers copy and paste questions from their old exams.

My top tip for first year biomed: Memorization is key
 

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charlottechatw

New Member
Hi! In response to your questions:
1. Roughly half of the papers are based on biology. There is a lot of memorising in these papers, although memorising muscles and bones is not a big part of these papers. That is something that happens once you get into medical school. There is a good mix of biology - cells, DNA, biochemistry, physiology in all these biology papers.
2. Each paper has assignments and tests throughout the semester. You get graded on them. At the end of the semester, you have a final exam.
3. Yes, MEDSCI 142 has been the paper that most people find the most difficult. The other papers are not easy either, but they are not super hard. You just need to put in the effort for all papers.
Hope this helps. All the best with year 13!
Hi, thanks heaps - that helps a lot! Also, how much lab work do you do on average? And is it worth much of our overall GPA?

Honest opinion:
- No need to study for labs as the work is very light and is worth about 20% of each course and is not even assessed in your tests/exams. Save your time for memorizing the lectures. The exception to this is medsci142, which I would recommend doing as much preparation as possible before each lab; it would be a good idea to read and answer any questions you can in the lab guide before actually going into the lab because you're tested on it at the end of every medsci lab and the lab content will be small (but significant) part of your tests. For the other labs just read the lab course notes before hand and listen carefully during the lab as all the answers are given somewhere in the instructor's presentation at each lab.

- For lectures, I would not advise trying to understand the lecture content. There is simply too much information/trivial facts that needs to be learnt and trying to understand it is a complete waste of time. Attempting to understand the content will result in you spending a lot of time learning things that are of no benefit to your GPA and are not necessary for the test. If it's not in the course guide or lecture, then there's no point in learning it. But again, the exception to this is medsci142. Putting effort into simply memorization in the other courses can easily get you an A+, but sadly this is not the case for medsci. In medsci142 the test questions are significantly harder than in the other courses; they actually require you to think rather than just rifle through facts that you've memorized. It is the same for the medsci exam. Fortunately, medsci is actually conceptually easier to grasp than the other courses because it deals with biology on a larger level. By that I mean you're not taught about like 20 different enzymes in the same lecture that all sound pretty much the same. Instead you're dealing with anatomical systems like how the heart works mechanically. But again, you do need to actually understand medsci as the exam questions really do make you think.

And just an extra tip for medsci:
Do all the past exam papers because some lecturers copy and paste questions from their old exams.

My top tip for first year biomed: Memorization is key
Thanks so much, that’s amazing advice that I’ll definitely take on board! :)
 

stalebread

New Member
hey current biomed student here, for biosci and chem there's labs once every 2 weeks (so every other week) and each of these labs are 3 hours long. In total this adds up to 5 labs for each paper. From memory, labs for chem make up 15% of your final grade - so each lab is worth 3%. For biosci the labs make up 20% of your final grade - so each lab is worth 4%. Im not sure about medsci yet because it's in the second semester but i'd imagine it would be about the same.
 

charlottechatw

New Member
hey current biomed student here, for biosci and chem there's labs once every 2 weeks (so every other week) and each of these labs are 3 hours long. In total this adds up to 5 labs for each paper. From memory, labs for chem make up 15% of your final grade - so each lab is worth 3%. For biosci the labs make up 20% of your final grade - so each lab is worth 4%. Im not sure about medsci yet because it's in the second semester but i'd imagine it would be about the same.
Awesome thank you! This may be too general a question, but are labs hard? / how do you find them?
 

stalebread

New Member
Awesome thank you! This may be too general a question, but are labs hard? / how do you find them?
I've only done a couple labs for chem and biosci so far, but yeah I've found that they can be kinda stressful - especially chem ones. Biosci labs are a lot more chill and fun. The thing that mostly makes the chem labs hard is the time pressure, especially if you muck something up and you have to redo it, 3 hours seems a lot but it goes by suuuuper fast. Though the questions in the lab assignment are mostly pretty easy, its getting the experimental part of it right that makes them stressful.
 

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charlottechatw

New Member
I've only done a couple labs for chem and biosci so far, but yeah I've found that they can be kinda stressful - especially chem ones. Biosci labs are a lot more chill and fun. The thing that mostly makes the chem labs hard is the time pressure, especially if you muck something up and you have to redo it, 3 hours seems a lot but it goes by suuuuper fast. Though the questions in the lab assignment are mostly pretty easy, its getting the experimental part of it right that makes them stressful.
Ooh ok, thanks for ur help!
 

amacca

New Member
Awesome thank you! This may be too general a question, but are labs hard? / how do you find them?
Hey Charlotte,

I'm gunna jump in here too :) I think the labs can be busy, but it's really important to prepare for them before you go into them (maybe like 1 - 2 hours prep depending how well you get the content). Most people don't, and this is what I think causes a lot of stress and time pressure, when in reality the prep is very minimal effort.

Labs aren't worth much individually, but doing well in internal assessments for BioSci and Chem takes heaps of pressure off for exams :)
 

laserwise

UoA MBChB II
I did biomed in 2018 and also tutor biomed :)

1. Since this a biomedical degree, a lot of the papers are based on biology. BIOSCI 101, 106 and 107, as well as MEDSCI 142, are heavily biology based. Even PHYSICS 160 and CHEM 110 try to integrate biology as well to provide context and relevance.

2. The exams will either be multi-choice (107, 106, 101), short answer (POPLHLTH 111, MEDSCI 142) or a mixture of both (CHEM 110, PHYSICS 160). There are tests for each paper (one for POPLHLTH 111, CHEM 110, 107, 106 and 101, two for MEDSCI 142 and PHYSICS 160) which I believe are all multi-choice, but make up less of your overall grade than exams. CHEM 110 now requires you to write an assignment (essay) on Science in the Media. I found them very different to high school as they test you purely on knowledge (exception once again is MEDSCI 142 where the concepts are important!) so memorisation, as poor as it sounds, is the way to go in my opinion. Understanding definitely helps solidify all the facts though and is also important in POPLHLTH 111 where the information is a lot more 'fluffy' (conceptual and more humanities rather than science-based). PHYSCIS 160 also has some more concept-based questions and content. If you are not wanting to apply to medicine, I believe you can opt out of POPLHLTH 111 and take a different one.

If you are wanting to do biomedical engineering, I think the first year engineering pathway is the best route to choose. It is more physics and maths based and you only take one biochemical paper I believe. You will take the relevant first year biomed papers in your second year of engineering if you choose and get into the biomedical engineering speciality, so wouldn't have to take the biomed papers that aren't required (unless you are interested of course, then definitely don't rule out doing biomed first year!)

3. Everyone has personal preferences over which papers they prefer or find difficult, so I'll give you a little run through on what is difficult about each paper. The knowledge and many of the concepts themselves are not too difficult to pick up on, the difficulty in first year lies mostly in the amount of content you have to learn. Personally, I found CHEM 110 more difficult because I didn't enjoy it as much, so you may also want to take that into consideration.

BIOSCI 107 - there are many facts you have to learn which can seem redundant (eg. the diameter/length of a certain protein) which do get tested. The sheer amount of content in this paper is the main difficulty.
CHEM 110 - People find the labs a little difficult due to the time constraints and some of the marks being based of the quality of the product you produce
POPLHLTH 111 - I've picked up a pattern from the students I tutor for this one - it seems like a conceptual paper but sometimes the way the questions are written are deliberately designed to trip you up a little, so people often don't memorise this paper enough and I've got many friends who have missed out on an A+ by 0.5 marks or something in the final exam.
BIOSCI 101 - a non-core paper for med therefore many people don't put a lot of effort in until right til the very end (the 24 hour cram is real), but if you do well in the mid sem test then it's a bit easier come exam time. Personally, I found it a little dry so that was even less of an incentive to study for it.
BIOSCI 106 - There are some lecturers that are much less interesting than others so I was far less motivated to show up to lectures and study. Lots of molecular biology going on here, so if you're into chemistry this may be more interesting for you. I found the metabolism and lipids sections difficult because they were dry, had a non-interesting lecturer and had many molecules to memorise which sound similar. Once again, a non core paper so I did not spend as much time studying for this paper.
PHYSCIS 160 - Optics and waves was difficult because of the new lecturer. The physics workshops were not very relevant and I have a strong dislike for physics so found it rather boring. The lab reports were frustrating and you can get marked down easily, but if you talk to the lab demonstrators (filter out the good from the bad in your lab) they can point you in the right direction.

MEDSCI 142 is a brilliant paper and the most similar to medicine itself so requires a combination of memorisation and conceptual understanding. People tend to find the cardiovascular system difficult because there is a lot of content, more difficult concepts and the physiology lecturer's teaching style didn't vibe with me. The respiratory system was probably the most difficult due to the lecturer once again; however, he seems to have retired so it may be easier to understand the concepts if you have a different lecturer.
 

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charlottechatw

New Member
Thank you so much! This really clears things up for me. I am worried that I may not like the biology content, but it's hard to know until I actually learn it I guess. I really enjoy physics, so hopefully PHYSCIS 160 won't be too bad. Do you know many people who transfer to engineering after first year biomedical science by any chance? I am thinking that could be a possible option for me if I don't enjoy first year biomed.
Thanks again!
 

laserwise

UoA MBChB II
In order to do biomedical engineering from biomed, I think you might have to undertake engineering first year (double check with the uni though) so I think a few people have just gone and done first year engineering and are still waiting to be able to apply for specialities at the end of the year. On the contrary, I do know of someone who transferred from engineering first year to biomed because engineering was 'too easy' for him!

If you're really stuck, flick me a message and I can send through some resources :)
 

charlottechatw

New Member
Oh ok, yes on the university of auckland website it says it is possible to transfer to engineering if you have a GPA of 7 and have got at least a B on the physics 160 paper. I would think it could be quite difficult to get in though and you have to do summer school. Also many engineering papers do not relate to biomed. And wow, good for him! I'm sure not many people can say they find engineering easy.
Thanks for your help! And sure I'll let you know if I'm confused about something :)
 

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