Barts and the London Medical School Curriculum (MBBS)
Barts and the London teach things in a few different ways. It is quite complicated especially for someone who is used to the straightforward GCSE and A-Level examination system.
I won’t go into too much depth about it because it is not that interesting and the details are not necessary. However, it is good to see what may be in store for you if you choose a medical school similar to Barts.
Before we get into the structure of the exams, we should discuss how everything is taught.
First and Second Year
The first and second years are mainly split into lectures (70%) and PBLs (30%). There is also some extra lab session but these are only once a week at most and are mostly just supplements to the main teaching.
A typical week consists of 8-12 lectures (each 1 hour) and two PBLs (each 2 hours long). A lot of people do not attend the lectures as most of them are recorded (unless the lecturer doesn’t like being recorded) and so the PBLs are the main reason that people go to campus.
The scattering of Anatomy/Physiology labs and OSCE (practical skills) teaching sessions are useful and should be attended.
Third, Fourth and Fifth Year
Mainly clinical placements (70%) and lectures (30%).
A typical week can vary significantly however to give you an idea it may be as follows: 1-4 hours of teaching by doctors in the hospital, 2-10 hours of ward work (depending on how much effort you put in – it is very much independent learning) and 2-6 hours of revision.
An intercalated Bachelor of Science (iBSc) is a 1-year mini degree that you have the option of taking anywhere between second and fourth year.
This means after second, third or fourth year you can apply either to QMUL or to any other University to learn about a subject that you are interested in.
Some topics you could choose are Biomedical Engineering, Medical Education, Neuroscience or Sports & Exercise Medicine.
Depending on the iBSc that you choose, you will have about 2-5 hours of lectures and 2-5 hours of research to do every week.
I have not mentioned the exam structure as it varies depending on the iBSc. However, in general, the final result/grade is made up of a mixture of end of year exams, January exams, coursework and research projects.
More details can be found on the Barts official iBSc page.
End of Year Exams
The 3 main exams that are sat at the end of every year are called Papers B, C and D (I will talk about Papers A and E later).
Paper B – one or two paper(s), multiple-choice exam(s). In first/second year there are two parts to this paper. In third, fourth and fifth year there is only one part.
Paper C – a computer multiple-choice exam.
Paper D a practical skills exam (called OSCEs – Objective Structured Clinical Examinations). These are easy in first year to help you get used to the system, but they get progressively more difficult over the years.
These three papers are the main exams that everyone worries about. They occur at the end of the year in June/July and are used to rank you after you graduate and apply to be a doctor.
There are also two other Papers: A and E. These are less concerning than the ones mentioned above, however, they are used for Merits and Distinction awards.
Merits and Distinctions are awards you get for coming in the top 25% and top 10% respectively and are extremely hard to get. They are awarded every year and can sometimes be useful after graduation.
Paper A – made up of three end of topic exams that are taken at the end of each term. You need to get an average of 50% to be able to sit Papers B-D (do not worry, almost everyone can do that)
Paper E – made up of SSCs (student selected components) which are modules that you choose (e.g. two-week module on dissection of the limbs).
The three end of topic exams that make up Paper A (known in Barts as ICAs – Internal Course Assessments) is a source of much stress and anxiety among students. However, they are useful as they mean by the end of the year you have already revised everything once.
Year 5 – A Special Year
Year 5 is a bit different because on top of all the exams listed above (Papers A-E are still done in Year 5) there are two more exams.
- PSA (Prescribing Skills Assessment) – this is an exam which tests your prescribing ability. It is only Pass or Fail and most people Pass.
- SJT (Situational Judgement Test) – an exam which can’t be revised for and tests things like ethics, decision making and controversial clinical scenarios. This makes up an important chunk of the ranking system used after you graduate and apply to be a doctor.
If you want to learn more about Barts and the Londons teaching methods, check out their official medicine page.