I’ve heard from so many of you with offers and I’m so happy for you all – congratulations! The next step for you all is making those decisons of UCAS, which means I’ve been receiving tonnes of questions about Manchester, what’s PBL like? How will I know if it’ll suit me? etc etc etc. And you know what, I thought why not answer all of your most common queries here so you all can hear the same answer.

If I get anymore question, I’ll be tagging them on at the end, so you may want to check back every so often. Here goes…

“How do you know what to learn and how to learn it each week because it’s independent?”

You have an opening PBL case at the beginning of the week and you make a list of questions during that session which by the end of the week you should be able to answer. You get given resources by the university which kind of guides you regarding the depth of knowledge that’s expected. You also have lectures to help you with the more complex parts of the case. We also have “Intended Learning Outcomes” for each case which you’re able to access to check you’ve covered everything.

Don’t worry about not knowing what to learn and how to learn the content, I know a lot of people worry about that before they start (as I did), but when the time comes you will know and everybody knows what to do. You get tonnes of help with how to do PBL at the beginning of first year. We even have 2 “training cases” in the first 2 weeks. PBL is different, but it really isn’t all that hard and it’s not as “independent” as everyone thinks because you still have lectures, Anatomy sessions etc to support you with the case.

“Do you have a PBL case every week with the same people or do you get mixed around?”

Yes, you have one case every week, so that includes an opening session and a closing session. You stay with the same PBL group for a semester and then you get a new one, so you do get to know the people in your PBL groups quite well.

“Is there anyway of knowing if you’d suit PBL?”

It’s worth noting that Manchester isn’t solely PBL, we still have lectures, lab sessions, communication skills sessions etc, PBL is just one aspect of it. I’d say the main way to know whether you’d suit PBL is to consider whether you like managing your own time and learning independently. If you don’t like somebody spoon-feeding you, but prefer to do things “your way” then PBL is definitely for you. If you look at my first year timetable can see in there we have lots of free time. So if you’re the type of person who likes the flexibility of being able to manage your own time and work/relax when you feel like it, the Manchester course will suit you. If you however, need to have loads of sessions to pin you down into getting your work done, then Manchester is not for you.

“How many placements do you have in first year?”

In first year you have 3 half-day GP placements, 2 half-day hospital placements and 1 full-day hospital placement. In second year you have 4 hospital placements and 4 GP placements and from 3rd year onwards you’ll be based at 1 of 4 base hospitals.

“Do you have any choice in where you’re based from 3rd year onwards?”

For the placements from Year 3 onwards you’ll be based at one of 4 hospitals: Central Manchester, South Manchester, Salford, Preston. Whichever base you’re at you’ll have hospitals and GPs around the area that your placements. You find out what your base hospital is in December of first year and this is how they allocate you: people who chose Preston on their UCAS forms will get that first, next people who have to stay in Manchester for some sort of mitigation that they’ve submitted (or if they’re doing Eurpopean studies, playing for an elite sports team etc.) will get Manchester and the remaining will be allocated completely randomly. So it is ultimately just pot luck.

“What’s your honest opinion of the teaching in Manchester?”

Honestly, I like the way the teaching is done in Manchester. Yes it is more independent than other courses might be and that’s just because of the way PBL is, but I think that suits me and I like being able to manage my time by myself and learn by myself. We have 7 lectures a week which I know is a lot less that other medical schools but it does give you some direction and the lectures tend to cover the important things from each case. I personally don’t like lectures so I’m glad there’s not too many, so it all depends on what type of person you are. Make sure you go to the Manchester offer holder day, because they allow you to try out some PBL and see all the facilities and things like that.

The way I’d describe the Manchester course is really active, engaging and varied. You have lots of different types of sessions; every week your timetable is different to the week before – it’s really dynamic. The only form of passive learning we have are lectures, everything else is really hands on and done in small groups. I think Manchester offers so much, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else (but then I’m biased).

“Is the teaching at Manchester quite impersonal, with it being such a big medical school?”

Yes, Manchester is really big medical school, we have just under 400 in our year, but the teaching is far from impersonal. Infact I’d say it is quite the opposite. Apart from lectures, the rest of our teaching is in smaller groups. So, for PBL we get put into groups of 10-12, anatomy is 10-12, communication and consultation skills is done in groups of 3-5. And other things like pharmacology practicals have about a class size of people. Pretty much everything is done in small groups.

“Do you feel you still have free time to do other things, sports etc?”

The timetable actually isn’t full on at all – we get tonnes of free time so you can easily fit in any extracurricular things. Obviously, you do need to be getting on with your work independently in your free time too, but that’s why I like it here because you’re the boss of your own time. As long as you’re disciplined and have enough self-motivation to work when you need to, you’ll definitely have time to do other stuff. In first year, Wednesday afternoons are always free and that’s when most sports sessions and things like are on university wide, come second year you get the whole Wednesday off altogether!

“What’s the week off you get every so often and how does that work?”

It’s called a “consolidation week” which is essentially the same as a reading week in other courses. You may have half a day of placement during or a meeting with your tutor in the week, but apart from that it’s essentially a week off timetable for you to catch up on work etc. In first year, you get one every 3 weeks and it really useful to have that catch-up time.

“What happens if you fail your first year exams or OSCEs?”

If you fail an exam/OSCE you get a chance to resist it at the end of the year. If then you fail it again, then you’ll be excluded from the programme (unless you have a mitigating circumstance which would mean you’d be allowed to re-do the year). I was really worried about failing OSCEs when I first started because they’re different to normal school exams, but it’s not all that bad at all. And with your OSCEs you can fail a maximum of 4 out of 10 stations and still pass overall! But don’t worry about failing and things like that, if you do your work you’re very very unlikely to fail anything.

“Do you think the Manchester course is more suited for certain types of people?”

I wouldn’t say it’s for a certain type of person, there’s people of many different types of personalities here, some quiet and some more loud and the course structure seems to suit everyone. In terms of the PBL aspect though, I’d say you do have to be the type of person who enjoys working independently and is sufficiently self-motivated. Here’s a blog post about the 3 signs you might suit PBL.

“Do you have to do your foundation training in Manchester after the 5 years?”

I don’t know an awful lot about foundation years yet, but as far as I’m aware foundation years are currently done through rankings. You don’t have to do it Manchester you can do it anywhere in the country. You can select your choices and rank them in order of preference. They’re then allocated on a national scale, with those who scored higher point being given their top preferences first.

“How many international students are there?” “How many graduate students are there?”

I can’t give an exact figure, but what I can tell you is that the student population in Manchester and within the Medicine course is super diverse in every way. There are studnets from many different countries, backgrounds, graduate students, gap year students. You don’t need to worry about being the only “international student” or the only “graduate student”. Pretty much in all of my PBLs so far I’ve had at least 1 international and 1 graduate student, and that’s in a group of 10-12 out of nearly 400.

“How does learning and practising clinical skills work?”

Practising clinical skills is mainly done in our communication groups which are made up of about 10-12 students, but to practise the skills you’ll split off into groups of around 3-4. You’ll have a tutor and a simulated patient and will be given a demonstration after which you’ll all have a go practising on a simualated patient in the small groups. The skills teaching is really supportive, you get lots of help with it and you’re always welcome to come in your free time with friends for additional practise.

In first year you’ll do basic things like pulse blood pressure and you’ll also cover some examionations such as the cardiovascular and respiratory examinations. We also have practical classes in which you practise the more “physiological/pharmacological skills” such as using inhalers, peakflow, ECGs etc. Most of this practise will be on simulated patients and on each other in first year, but at teh end of first year you do get teh opportunity to practise blood pressure on real patients in one of your hospital visits which is really exciting!

“How do you know what will be assessed in exams, because I’d get lots of information from independant study?”

Yes I do have endless pages of notes for each case and when you start medical school (I think this is regardless of where you decide to go) you have to start getting comfortable with accepting that you will not know everything because it’s simply not possible. The knowldege is so vast and never-ending and you’ll never feel truly 100% prepared for an exam again. We are always told it’s breadth of knowldeg over depth that we will be examined on so when you look over your notes you should try and keep a focus on the general concepts, broad mechanisms rather than the nitty gritty deatils. Lecture content is also a good focus point when it comes to revision as you know those are the important bits.

“Are there any negative aspects of Manchester you can think of?”

Honestly, nothing springs to mind. Obviously there might be an odd lecture here and there that I don’t like, or a session I found a little more tedious than usual but that’s part and parcel of it. I genuinely can’t think of a broad sweeping negative of the course. It’s a lot of work, but it’ll be like that in every university because that’s what medical school is. And I can’t even say that’s a negative because we all know it is going to be a lot of effort right from when we decide we’re going to apply.

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Posted by:Life of a Medic

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