Medicine @ Sunderland | Q&A

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These questions have been answered by Becky, a 1st year medical student at Sunderland.

Can you apply with AAB?

I know that the university accepted students with AAB on results day alongside some students applying through clearing, however it is unlikely they make an offer initially with AAB as the requirements are AAA.

Were there any particular negatives you noticed in being the first cohort at a new medical school? (e.g. organisation)

Being the first cohort is an honour, something that not many can say, however it is bound to come with a few teething problems. For example, lectures are not always posted online before-hand. This has improved over the year through regular questionnaires and feedback and staff are quick to respond to any concerns raised.  

Another aspect of being a new medical school is there isn’t a huge question bank.  At first this seemed quite daunting because for A levels my main mode of revision was doing as many practice questions as I could. However, this became more manageable and less of an issue as I started to create my own questions on apps such as quizlet and as I adapted to the fact that A levels are dramatically different.

Are there ways you can network with older medical students at other medical schools?

Yes, at the beginning of the year Keele university students from the year above visited Sunderland to speak to us and offer advice, with a chance to ask questions. This was extremely useful and helped many of us to learn new ways to adapt to the workload and useful revision techniques etc. We are still in contact with them, for any help or questions we may have or need.

How big are your PBL groups?

Our PBL groups began with around 12 per group at the start of the year and they then changed to 8 students, after feedback during the year that a smaller group might work better. This may change next year to slightly larger than 8, however, this is still in discussion after recent feedback.

How are you finding the anatomy teaching? Do you feel the methods used are enough to help you understand it properly?

I find the anatomy teaching extremely useful, I personally really enjoy it and I think it’s very engaging. 

I always thought that two hours in one room would be quite tiring, but I was very wrong, because there is variety of learning methods all combined in to one circuit, allowing you to really understand and process the information whilst being constantly kept on your toes with questions. I always find the clinicians have invaluable stories and experiences that broaden your learning whilst making it more interesting. 

Of particular mention is the anatomage table, this is an extremely detailed piece of technology where you can pass through and rotate the layers of the body. I personally think it allows you to properly understand the full structure of different organs –  an amazing piece of technology that Sunderland is extremely fortunate to have! I think this makes up for the lack of dissections. 

I think that the best part of anatomy is having the chance so early on to use ultrasound, a skill that not only helps you to appreciate the structures you are learning about, but something that is so valuable as you progress through med school and further on. 

Also, just to mention we have mini formative assessments (quizzes) to do after anatomy which is really good for testing yourself and finding areas you need to improve on. You can repeat them as many times as you like so they are a brilliant revision tool. 

What made you choose Sunderland?

Firstly, the people and the atmosphere, from the first open day to offer holder day till now – everyone is so friendly and so welcoming and I knew I could imagine myself settling in. This was an important factor for me.

Secondly the early clinical placements and communication skills were a big factor; doing these so early on and in first year was very enticing and enables you to contextualise the learning making it more engaging. 

Finally, the facilities; the mock wards, the sim mans, the labs, are all exceptional and they even have a training ambulance so you get to practice real life scenarios.

Do you feel supported enough by staff?

Yes, definitely. All the staff are so friendly and helpful and they genuinely care so much about supporting you. My cohort is very small (50) therefore we know each other very well and there is a sense of community. The cohort is increasing next year to around 100 I think, but this is still relatively small in comparison to other medical schools. 

You have a personal tutor assigned to you, to check on you, arrange progress meetings and help support you throughout the five years. 

You also have different leads, whom you can access easily, for instance the year lead, well-being lead and GP tutor lead.

Can you give some tips for the roles and responsibilities form?

A really important aspect about this, is not just what you have done, but what you have learnt from it, your reflection on it and how did that affect your decision to study Medicine, or indeed how it affected you in general. 

You can find out more on the Sunderland university website under Medicine then help and advice. I would also suggest looking at the other help and advice on the website. 

Do your anatomy groups and PBL groups change throughout the year?

The anatomy groups do not change, and the PBL groups only changed by downsizing from 12 to 8, in which two new groups were created in my first year. However, I’m not sure if this might change next year.   

What are your first year exams like?

You have to pass three domains which are knowledge, skills and professional behaviour domains. 

The knowledge domain comprises three written papers each two hours long, one at the end of the first semester and the other two at the end of the year. The questions consist of a variety of long and short answers.

For the  skills domain this includes an OSCE, and a Student selected component.

The last domain which is attitude and behaviour domain is the learning portfolio, multi source feedback and conscientiousness index. 

All medical school exams will be challenging and a big change from previous exams done, however we had a formative exam before our first exam and this was very helpful in preparing us and allowing us to adapt and transition to different style questions and in particular made me realise how in depth my knowledge needed to be. They also give you an opportunity to do a formative OSCE and feedback before final submission of your SSC. 

Due to Covid-19 our OSCE was cancelled along with the SSC presentation and the knowledge exams in June were made open book and we did these online with proctoring.


Thank you Becky for answering these questions!


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Posted by:Life of a Medic

One thought on “What’s it Really Like To Study Medicine at Sunderland Medical School?

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