Medical Students – Pre-Clinical Resources

On this page you will find some of the work that I have completed as part of the Medical and Veterinary Science Tripos at Cambridge University (2002-2005), and therefore may not be useful for other courses.

MVST 1A advice and resources

MVST1B advice and resources

As supervisor of MODA (Mechanisms of Drug Action; Pharmacology) I have added a selection of resources that I use for my supervisions in the section for MODA under the MVST 1B page.

I have no problem with people using these documents for learning/revision, but beware the rules of plagiarism.

In order to view the files you need to click on the link next to the description.

Some general advice on exams is written below:

It is important that you fully understand the exams you will be sitting. Hopefully this will be useful in informing you, but this should also be supported by information from the course organisers.

2nd MB vs tripos

An important difference between medicine and the other subjects is the need to fulfil the requirements of the 2nd MB – which are the standards set by the GMC. You are required to pass the 2nd MB, for each of your main subjects.

Your main subjects are examined in three ways: an MCQ paper, a practical paper and an essay paper. Whilst all three components contribute to your overall tripos degree classification, ONLY the practical and MCQ papers contribute to the 2nd MB (usually in a 60:40 contribution in favour of the MCQ’s). There will be a pass mark for fulfilling the 2nd MB requirements and you must pass this. If you happen to fail a 2nd MB exam, you will have an opportunity to repeat the exam in September before the start of the next year. If you fail again, then each case will be dealt with on an individual basis, but may result you in not being able to progress in medicine.

For the tripos, the essay exam is worth 50% of the overall mark for the subject.


You are required in many exams to take a calculator. This must be a university approved calculator and cannot be a graphical calculator. You can buy calculators from the university, or use your own if it is approved. However, the calculator must be specifically seen and approved as indicated by a sticker that is placed on the calculator. I would recommend you organising approval of your calculator sooner rather than later – as you may find that the calculator you have been using, and got used to, is not approved, and so then have to learn to use a different one. This is done in the physiology department, and there are some technicians who are responsible for this.  Don’t leave it until the last minute to do this.

Practical aspects of exams

Some important practical points to bear in mind:

–          Be very cautious when completing MCQ papers. The mark sheet is machine read, and it is easy to make mistakes if you are not diligent, such as missing a line out so all the subsequent answers are out of sync.

–          It is important that you read the questions very carefully. For MCQ’s be aware that the smallest details are tested sometimes and it requires you to read the question very carefully to ensure you answer correctly. In the case of essays, it is essential that you read the whole question carefully and answer that question. It is easy to read a question, see that it is on a particular topic, and then just write everything you know about that subject. However, in so doing, you may not actually be answering the question.

–          Essays are an important part of your tripos degree classification and it is important you prepare for this part of the exam. The best preparation is to practice timed essays during your revision. As time gets short closer to the exam, essay plans can be a valuable alternative so that you can think about how you would structure that particular essay. Furthermore, it is advisable to look back over the last, say 10 years, of essay papers and you will get an idea of the topics examined by essays in the different subjects. It would obviously be advisable to prepare essay plans for commonly encountered subject areas.

–          It is advisable to use diagrams in your essays to break up the text. Some even suggest that every essay should have at least 3 figures. I think that this depends on the topic, as you shouldn’t be putting figures in for the sake of it. Figures can summarise much text in a clear way, and should be appropriately used in essays to break up the text.

–          For practical and essay papers it is important that you dedicate equal time to questions as the benefit from spending an extra 10 minutes on the first 2 essays for example, will not be outweighed by only having 20 minutes for the third, for example. Keeping an eye on the time is important.  If you are near the back of the hall you will find it difficult to see the clocks so I would advise noting the time that they start otherwise you may not realise how much time there is left. Alternatively take a stopwatch with you as it will be invaluable in aiding time management in the exams