Thoughts & Advice about HSFY

So this is just kind of a collection of my thoughts on HSFY and random advice thrown in. Kind of just…what I did and what worked for me, and what I should have done.

It’s pretty long, but I was a prospective health sci last summer holidays and I know I would was searching for everything I could find about health sci to read haha. I kind of just wrote this on a whim and it’s not all comprehensive/well edited/well thought out etc. But yes. Here it is. If you wish to read it.

So…doing well in HSFY
I think the main decider of success in HSFY (and I guess effective study in general) is CONSISTENCY and EFFICIENCY. Lots of this is pretty common general study advice though.
Consistency. Nothing was very hard to understand, and I think most people could do well given they put in the effort. It’s hard to catch up once you fall behind, but if you keep up with the material everyday it’ll be fine. I never let myself get more than a week behind on lectures, even if I had to sacrifice my whole weekend from morning to night streaming lectures and making notes.

The analogy of HSFY and a marathon is a good one, you just need to keep going on steadily, but if you fall behind it’s hard to make that sprint to catch up. Even through motivational slumps where everything feels pointless, you question if you really want to do this etc, just force yourself to do the bare minimum and you’ll thank yourself later.

Compared with school/NCEA, the semesters are very short – about 3 months of constant earning and then bam, exams. And the amount of content is huge. Every lecture is a whole ton of new content which you have to revise, unlike school where you can just go to class and they’ll very slowly cover everything and revise that next lesson etc. You get used to it, but at the start all I could think after each lecture was ‘how can they expect us to learn all this’. But with repetition and review, you can.

Efficiency. 1 good hour of study a day is worth a few hours of unstructured “study”. You should have a goal in mind when you study, not just “I’ll study physics for an hour or two” but “I’ll make notes for today’s lecture and do a couple practice questions, and read up on x concept which I don’t understand”.

You need to actively process the information as well. As in not just reading notes (which hardly lets information sink into my brain) but doing something which uses what you’ve learned. E.g. making mind maps (make connections), summaries (forces you to condense info), revising flashcards (forces you to recall information rather than just read it and go ‘okay yep I knew that’). But yeah, work out an effective study strategy for yourself.

Making a plan can be helpful as long as it’s flexible (too rigid and you can get stressed about not being ‘on schedule’) and not overly optimistic (things always take longer than you think they will).

Be picky about what you choose to learn. Focus your study according to how ‘high yield’ the topic/fact is likely to be i.e. how many marks it’ll be worth in the exam. There is a lot to study, but you need to pick out what is most important. What is important will obviously will depend on which paper it is.
Mental side of HSFY
This part gets a bit personal and more ‘blog like’, skip it if you don’t want to read that kind of thing. To be honest I didn’t know a lot of people and the ones I did know didn’t struggle so much but…yeah, I did a lot.

This year was crazy for me. There were so many changes which I’m sure will apply to many reading this. New city and new people, living away from home for the first time, starting university…

It can get hard to keep going and stay motivated. At the start it was easy. I had a clear mind about what I wanted to do, and I simply did what I had to do every day.

Countless times I would feel unmotivated and fall behind, things would feel hopeless and I’d question why I was even doing all this. I fell behind a little. I fell behind more. I spend the weekend catching up. I’d feel burned out and overwhelmed on Monday that just when I’d caught up, there was a whole new heap of things to learn. It ended up with me staying up until 5am watching videos or doing whatever else to ‘escape’ the reality I was living, and then missing most or all of my lectures the next day, feeling awful about it, and so the cycle would go on. I fell sick at the worst times. Stuff happened. But no matter how behind I was, at some point, I’d get up and go into serious mode and catch up and it’d be okay for a while…until I fell behind again. Other times I’d feel like it wasn’t all that hard to keep up and felt organized (but haha, those were rare times…).

Sometimes it might feel hopeless, you might get a bad UMAT result, or look at the list of things you have to do and just be completely overwhelmed. But it’s always possible to catch up. That test you thought you flunked might not have been as bad as your mind makes it out to be. I can be a bit of a perfectionist about study and staying on top of things and I’m sure many of you may be too, but you don’t have to have everything sorted. I’d be anxious about how much I didn’t know, after every lecture I’d feel a panic about how much new information there was to learn, but come exam time, it’d be alright. I’d manage to revise it all pretty well and do decently in exams. I’m sure my friends got sick of me saying how ‘screwed’ I was (though I entirely was at points, but the point is that you can always get it together).

I think I may have read this on MSO somewhere, but just to remind…it might be useful to, before starting, write down WHY you’re doing this, WHY you want to get into x course. It could be a good thing too look back on for motivation, when you feel disenchanted by the slog of lectures everyday, or even to reflect whether this is what you really want.

I really don’t like the attitude of ‘sacrificing’ this year (as in, accepting that it’ll be horrible or whatever) and postponing your life, because well, our time is limited and it should never be ‘I’ll be happy tomorrow’ or ‘I’ll be happy when health sci is over’ or ‘I’ll be happy once I finish medicine and I’m rich’. Some things may have to be put on hold. But it’s a year like any other, and you come first.

I cannot stress how important it is (at least, it would have helped me a lot) to take time out to exercise, hang out with friends, just relax one night, pick up a hobby. And make sure to get enough sleep and eat healthy. Just look after yourself! Because otherwise you can start to feel really really awful. I avoided doing some things like exercise and hobbies because I felt it’d use up my study time, and that combined with stressing out over everything just made me feel awful…always tired, panicked, feeling trapped etc. Doing other things is important to help you study better, relieve stress and just mental health in general. I did take lots of time out with my boyfriend and that helped a lot, but everything else is just as important, you need to look after yourself in every way. Thinking back there really was plenty of time to do everything you need to do if you’re organized and efficient, you don’t need to spend every minute studying.

Despite how I make it sound, it really wasn’t a bad year, in fact it might have been one of the best of my life. I focused a lot on how it can feel bad because that’s the kind of thing you need to avoid to make it feel…good. I think it’d be better off going in with a positive attitude rather than “hell sci incoming, time to lock myself in my room”. It was a struggle at times, but DON’T STRESS TOO MUCH ABOUT IT. It’s not the end of the world if you get a bad mark or are behind or whatever, just keep moving forward and do what you can for the next exam. Don’t worry about what others are doing and what marks they did, and avoid those post exam discussions. Be open to all the professions and apply for all of them, it’s not the end of the world to not get into your course of choice. Just do your best (while staying sane) and if you get in, then great, if not, then well, you did all you could.

Personally, I didn’t really use textbooks for any papers. I only used the resources given by the departments (lecture slides and practice materials) and it was fine. The exams are heavily heavily focused on lecture and lab etc material.

I did buy a few that people recommended (HUBS, PHSI and HEAL), second hand from people on a website called scarfie textbooks. They were about $30-40 each for basically the latest edition (except HUBS).

For HUBS/CELS Maybe 1-2 MCQs per test were unfamiliar from my lecture slide only studies, but I made an educated guess. I didn’t think the time taken to do all those readings was worth it (yeah yeah okay, I was just lazy), but it works for some people.

What I would do is not buy the textbooks straight away. You can borrow from a friend or use the library ones, and if you find them useful to you, put your money in.

Note for following sections: I had a strong background with NCEA chemistry and physics (and a general aptitude I guess) so I grasped the concepts pretty easily so keep that in mind for the laziness level I exhibited :pPHSI191
Cheat sheet and plussage was my saviour for this paper.

During semester
What I did was go to lectures with my lecture slides and write down any important seeming formula and what they were for on a few dedicated sheets of paper. I made my cheat sheet from that. There were weekly homework assignment things and questions associated with each lab to do. That was basically the only study I did during the whole semester aside from a big chunk of study right before the mid-semester test and before finals.

Oh, and a seriously underused and useful resource was the physics help desk. You could drop in during a set time and get 1 on 1 help from lecturers and PhD students and for most of the semester hardly anyone would go. They were all very helpful and far better than puzzling through problems yourself if you couldn’t get it.

The mid-semester and final for physics are solely MCQ. My sole tactic was to do past exams (they give you answers) – before the final I did them for 2 whole days, morning to night, asking a friend or going to the help desk if I couldn’t figure it out. And that was enough for me.

Stupid lazy tricks to check answers: A trick I found was that for calculation questions, if you got an answer which was one of the options, it was definitely the answer (no tricky answers for if you got the steps slightly wrong/used the wrong equation etc). So this meant I could be more ‘careless’ with my calculations, since I’d know if I got something wrong (since it wouldn’t be an answer).

Also this meant I didn’t worry about units (i.e. if I got 0.056 and an option was 56 that would be it). I guess this isn’t guaranteed but it worked in the 2015 final haha. I’m fairly sure the questions I got wrong were all the questions from the guest lectures which I was half asleep in…)

The dreaded…’

During semester
My effort in chem was about the same as physics (i.e. not a lot). Went to lectures and took notes, writing down important equations and things to remember on a sheet of paper (they’re pretty good at emphasizing the important things).

It would have been better if I’d written notes for each lecture afterwards and processed the information. I did do the practice questions given to us which were VERY useful.

Pay attention to the labs and do your prelabs. They explain things pretty well. The exit tests for labs are worth 15% in total (best 5 out of 6 marks), so each lab is 3% each. That’s like half of a HUBS midsemester test! They can ask some pretty small details (like the first lab test, you had to remember the equation for S2O3->S3O6 redox and another you had to know the solubility rules I think). So study those well.

For the organics module, don’t try to rote memorize every molecule in every mechanism – learn the general way they work (H+ comes off from here etc) and WHY, to help you remember what happens and so you can apply the logic to any molecule of a certain group.

For the mid-semester/final, I did the same as with physics. All the past papers (yay for worked answers). If there was a concept I didn’t understand or didn’t remember I’d look it up on the lecture slides for more detail but mostly the past papers covered things. I skimmed the lecture slides as well.

For chem MCQ calculations they DO put in the ‘alternative’ answers (i.e. the answer you’d get if you did the steps slightly wrong or don’t do all of them), so beware.
HUBS191 / CELS191
Just memorize the slides…yeah.

During semester
I went to lectures and took notes. After lectures I made flashcards on anki (a repetitive spacing flashcard program, I got the idea from http://survivorhsfy.blogspot.co.nz/ – read this amazing guide if you have not already). And I’d revise them. That was all the study I did for HUBS191/CELS191 until finals.

At the start I got too bogged down on putting EVERYTHING from every lecture in my anki, so it was hard to keep up with reviews. But a useful tactic I found was to ask myself when debating on whether to put something in my anki was ‘would there be an exam question on this’

HUBS sometimes asks MCQs on some pretty minute details, so really do try to remember any new terms and numbers (like normal range for haemoglobin). Generally the lecturers were good at pointing out things which would and wouldn’t be on the exam (probably because they’d get pestered about it).

CELS focuses HEAVILY on the lecture objectives, I don’t remember any part of the final exam which was from anything other than the lecture objectives (though I’ve forgotten quite a bit :p). The lecturers would sometimes ramble on, and it could get frustrating thinking ‘what am I supposed to know from all this’. But just learn it if it’s an objective (or very clearly important), and otherwise just relax and listen to the professor going off on tangents (hell you might find it interesting).

For both HUBS and CELS my study was: finish all my anki flashcard reviews + write pretty detailed ‘answers’ to every lecture objective. These ‘answers’ were basically like notes, but it forced me to recall and think about it instead of simply copying out notes. Since I did my anki semi-consistently during the semester that was all I needed. I studied a dedicated 2-3 days for each exam.

I didn’t do amazing in this (not to mention I was pretty badly sick and hardly managed to drag myself to the venue) but I’ll at least say what worked…

  • Be time conscious, don’t be afraid to make educated guesses if you’re falling behind on time. You can always come back later. Sometimes it’s better to do 20 questions with less certainty than 5 questions you’ve really thought through but might not even be right.
  • I think doing some prep helped to familiarize myself with the format and especially how to think for S3 questions, but I don’t think doing tons and tons of prep would have been an improvement either (I only did some study over the 2 week holiday between semesters, I just did practice papers which I got from a friend)

During semester

Didn’t know how to study for this one at first, but it’s actually a really friendly paper with awesome and helpful staff.

Important things:

  • Labs – these are examinable, the most important thing to get out of these is how to do the calculations (which you’ll have practice doing in the post lab web test)
  • GLMs – also in exams (GLM1 in midsemester, GLM2 only in finals), just do the booklet properly and that’s most of what you need to know
  • Tutorials – part of the normal lecture timetable, and these are AMAZING and draw everything together, honestly if I didn’t understand some things in a topic I didn’t worry too much and just waited until the next tutorial haha though that’s not the best thing to do
  • Objectives – good guideline though not as good as CELS
  • Focus on understanding concepts and being able to explain them properly, but at the same time knowing the relevant details (it should become clear what is expected from the questions you’re given)

I tried using anki for this but it didn’t work very well, I would have been better off just making notes from the start.

BIOC has great resources (lots of questions, booklet summaries of each lecture…) so the textbook is pretty unnecessary.

I made notes answering the objectives. Going over the labs/GLMs/tutorials and doing practice questions. Yeah.

Honestly had no idea how to study for this one, I just did all the practice material they gave us at the end of the semester (which was generally far easier than the actual test).

The tutorials were very helpful in indicating in how much depth you needed to know things and what things were likely to be assessed.

Yeah this wasn’t my best paper, sorry if you seek HEAL advice :p
8th paper and replaced my HEAL mark :pHighly recommend to anyone, even if you haven’t done stats before. I streamed the lectures during semester each Saturday (speeding up repetitive parts/things I knew already) but looking back I didn’t really need to. You can get a bound booklet containing everything you need to know and read that, and stream the relevant lecture if you really don’t get it.

Most helpful thing for me was to just do practice questions (haven’t heard that one before).

Final is full plussage, so don’t worry too much about getting amazing marks on the tests (though if you have time/no other tests around then it’s worth it to study for them since they’re easy). There are weekly assignments which will be VERY similar to the final – do these well and understand everything in these. There will be a huge assignment given to you at the end of the semester which covers basically everything you need. I mainly studied from doing the assignments and the one past paper they gave us.

I’ve heard that the final is usually quite a while after the main HSFY exams are over too, so there’s plenty of time to study stats once you’ve finished the other exams (for me this period was like 1 ½ weeks or so gap, but I only studied the few days before).
Disclaimer: Feel free to disagree with things I’ve said, it’s just what I did and it worked out but I can’t say it’s the way for everyone. Tons of stuff is just my opinion and my thoughts right now, maybe I’ll see things differently in the future, who knows.

I wish all you future HSFY’ers good luck! You can make this a great year and make tons of friends if you want to, and do well at the same time. I know this time last year I was reading these kinds of advice threads on here trying to make myself more ‘ready’, but mostly there isn’t much you can do before you actually start. So don’t worry too much about anything health sci until you get here, and please don’t study in the holidays! Have a good one :)