First Year as a Biomedical Sciences Student
Its been a few months since I’ve last updated my blog, and so much has happened since then. But fret not, I’m currently on summer break, so there will hopefully be more posts up during the next few months.
I had an amazing first year experience studying BMS in NUMed, and I thought I’d share it here. I hope it helps you out if you’re deciding on degree courses to pursue, or wondering if NUMed is the place for you. In this post I’ll be covering the whole course in much more detail than I did in my previous uni-related post (which you can read here).
Lets begin with the nitty gritty of education first!
The academic year is divided into two semesters, the first one lasting from about September to December, and you have your first semester examinations in early January. The second semester lasts from January to about mid-May, and finals (second semester exams) are from the end of May to Early June. There’s a 4-week Christmas Break in December, and another 4 weeks off for Easter break in March, among other Malaysian holidays. The exams after each semester consists of only the modules you took that semester. This means first semester information isn’t tested in the second semester exams. Regardless of that though, most of the modules you study now form the fundamental knowledge that you will need during second and third year, so they are important!
As a little recap, we did Cell Biology, Biochemistry, Genetics and Practical Skills 1 in the first semester. During the second semester we did Physiology, Pharmacology, Microbiology & Immunology, and Practical Skills 2. I’ll start with the Practical Skills module first, because its relevant for both semesters. Again, labs are tested via assessments (question sheets) after each session, and these are graded (they count towards your final grade at the end of the year) under the Practical Skills module. We are usually given about a week to complete and submit the assessments, although sometimes this varies. The format of these assessments are either written or involve Excel spreadsheets that are submitted online. The Excel ones involve graph plotting and basic statistics. The uni helps you with this by providing quite a few statistics lectures and computing skills sessions throughout the year.
The labs conducted are based on each module, so you basically have a chance to practice the theory you study. For example, a few labs we had under Microbiology & Immunology involved actual cell culturing. You really get that hands-on experience that help you understand the studying you do! Getting good grades on lab assessments is pretty important, as its an easy way to pull up your overall score at the end of the year. Other than that, we had a pass/fail practical during our first semester, which just tests your skills. If anyone were to fail this test (which no one has), they get to redo it until they pass. This doesn’t count towards anything, but the uni wants to make sure you know your practical skills well.
As far as the modules are concerned, I personally enjoyed the second semester modules much more than the first semester ones (this was apparent when results were out; I did significantly better in the second semester!). I was intrigued by the subjects and the knowledge, and this semester really helped fire my passion for BMS! The modules each consist of an average of about 30 lectures. During both semester exams, we had EMI’s (extended matching information) which are basically MCQ’s that involve a lot more answers. Instead of just options from A to D, we had options from A to M, and they weren’t just one worded answers either. The amount of questions, plus the time constraint (90 minutes) makes for extremely draining examinations.
A passing grade for the BMS degree is 40%, and a first grade mark is 70% and above, which may seem low, but really, it isn’t as easy as it was back in high school to get a 70%. A first class degree is basically the highest mark, regardless of whether its a 75% or 95%. As long as its first class, no one really pays attention to the actual grade. Also, for those of you living in Malaysia or use the CGPA system, a mark of 70% is basically a CGPA of 4.0. But bear in mind that the examination format may change for the 2018/2019 BMS cohort.
Other than labs and examinations, we had assignments that also contributed towards our final marks. The assignments were part of the Practical Skills module, and the ones I remember well were the essays! We were asked to write scientific essays during our first year, and I remember performing poorly for my first essay. Scientific essays aren’t something the uni particularly provides help for, which we hope to change next year, but I improved my essay writing by seeing my marker (who was the dean of the school at the time) and asking for feedback. Doing your own studying and using the internet also helps with improving your essay writing skills. Examinations in the second year are mostly essays, and are 100% essays (plus a dissertation) in third year.
In case you need more info, I’ve included the link to the BMS program webpage on the NUMed website here.
Other than academics, I made sure to have lots of fun on campus! I was a part of the Debating Society committee, and we had a few debating events throughout the year. The Student Association on campus also held a few events, and I had the opportunity to volunteer during NUMed Games and attend our very own NUMed Ball, among so many other events! But the best part of this year for me was running for the role of President of the Student Association (and getting elected!) for 2018/2019. In all honesty, I’m glad I joined the events and participated in competitions. Its all good fun and you create such amazing memories too!
Looking back at this year, one way to perfectly describe it would be “ups with a few bumps”. It definitely is starting to become the best years of my life. I’ve made such wonderful friends along the way, and we shared so many good times. Yes, I was stressed too, and there definitely were hard times, but loving what you do definitely makes up for them.
As always, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch (email or Instagram) if you have any questions.