Please note this guide is based on the 2020/21 academic year. As assessment methods and exam weightings may change from year to year, keep an eye on your email/Blackboard/handbook for the most up to date information for your year.
Well done, you survived first year! Just four more years of fun to go. The good news is that second year actually is fun. Just like second year in school you’re a good bit more confident now; you’ve all gotten the lie of the land, you know what a module is, you know the TBSI, and you have a set of first years to act knowledgeable in front of. Here’s a guide to how the year works that I’ve definitely made way too long.
The social side
I won’t bang on about it too much but the advice for the year is the same as ever; grab it by the balls. There’s plenty opportunity to get to know people even better, and plenty of couches to crash on now that a good portion of the year are living out around town. It’s also the last year that you’re based on campus and your best chance to get involved in campus life if there are any clubs or societies that you think look like a bit of craic (seriously just go and try something if it looks good, we all spend far too long worrying about embarrassing ourselves). Second year is also a great chance to get away on a few trips, Covid permitting, if you’re lucky enough to scrape the cash together; the surf trip, the Biosoc Christmas trip etc. Plus Biosoc have a surprise or two in store this year to add to the usual social schedule (woo!!). Finally, looking ahead to your next summer, it’s the last long one so it’s never too early to think about what way you want to make use of that time.
The academic side
There was a bit of re-jigging last year, so bear with me while I try to explain how it all works.
There are first semester modules and second semester modules, with the exception of Pharmacology and Clinical Skills, which run across both semesters. For Pharmacology, 30% of the mark is for Semester 1 and 70% of it is for Semester 2 (subdivided into 16% for a research project and 54% for the end of Sem 2 exam). Clinical Skills consists of a number of tutorials (both online and in person) with an exam in the summer. In previous years the Clinical Skills exam has been an OSCE, however due to COVID-19 it was changed to an MCQ for 2021, so make sure you keep an eye on emails/Blackboard for any updates on what the format will be for you guys. The Semester 1 modules are Pharmacology (Pharm), Head and Neck Anatomy (no you haven’t left the DT yet), Clinical Biochemistry, and Infection and Immunity (I&I). Semester 2 is definitely the easier of the two, everyone was a bit frazzled by Christmas time in our year, as Semester 1 is fairly busy. Semester 2 is pretty chill, the modules being Neuroscience, Molecular Mechanisms of Disease and Personalised Medicine, Pharm and Clinical Skills. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine in Sem 1, but if you can keep on top of things from the start then do because you’re in for a very stressful month leading up to Christmas exams if you let stuff pile up. Here’s a rundown of each module:
Find the lecture timetable for each module, print it off and stick it on your wall at the start of the year. Tick off the lectures as you go, and keep an eye on them because they’ll pile up. I’ve done my best to give the correct breakdowns of modules and exams as it was true for our year but it could well vary for your year, so the best thing to do is to have a look at the assessment section of the Module Overview under the ‘Welcome to [this module]’ tab once you click into each different module on Blackboard. Lastly, I’ve probably made it sound like a silly amount of work and no fun, but just stay on top of things and remember to work hard and play hard. It’s a very fun year.
This module is many people’s favourite as it’s quite interesting and obviously very useful clinically. The teaching consists of around 25 lectures and 12 (6 each semester) in-person tutorials. The single best thing you can do for your understanding of pharm is to go and read over how the nervous system works in week 1, if you know how the sympathetic/parasympathetic nerves work and where they distribute to + know the NMJ then you’re well set to actually understand Michael Rowan’s lectures (the first ones of the term). He’s a nice guy, but he can be a bit high brow, so take good notes at the time and you won’t be sweating when it’s Christmas (yes his stuff does come up on the paper). Lucitt tends reads off her lecture slides and everything you need is there. Paul Spiers is a hero and his lectures are good, so go to them. Again, you’ll learn the pharm way more easily if you know the physiology, so it wouldn’t hurt to pull out Sherwood’s again when you see a new system (CVS, renal) coming up on the lecture timetable. Also, remember to print out Spiers’ lecture notes before the lecture, because he likes to fill in the blanks on his slides as he goes (you’ll see what I mean).
If you’re not a big fan of lectures and prefer to work out of a textbook (or if half a lecture went over your head and you need it explained) then Rang & Dale’s Pharmacology is the place to go. Some people like Lippincott’s but pretty much every lecture or couple of lectures you get in pharm corresponds to a chapter of Rang and Dale’s, so it’s a great place to get more detail or have it explained if from the basics. Ignore Rowan when he advises getting the latest edition of Rang & Dale’s, the only difference is some skin stuff and new cancer drugs, neither of which are covered this year. You’ll be able to pick up a cheap copy at the Biosoc booksale that will do you perfectly for the year.
The pharm tutorials aren’t too important, but you can learn from them if you want to. They’ll start off hilariously quiet just like your first PBL sessions because everyone is too nervous to speak in front of one another. It’s better for everyone if a few of you just pipe up with an answer when the tutor asks a question though, means way less awkward silences and the thing finishes much quicker.
The exam: The exam has an MCQ and an SAQ section (you can check the exact breakdown in the module description on blackboard, I think it was 50 MCQs and 10 SAQs for us, and together the exam was worth 30% of the overall module mark for the year). The number one piece of advice here is that drug names are very important for the SAQ section. You can know all about Class III anti-arrhythmics, but if they ask you to write about amiodarone and you can’t remember what that one is, you’re goosed. A good way to study as you’re going along is to take note of the drug names mentioned in each lecture and make a set of flash cards or something like that so you can test yourself on each drug name and method of action. The other reason you want to make good notes now is because the summer exam is 50% semester 1 material and 50% semester 2 material. Also, when you get to 3rd year pharmacology, loads of it is just adding bits on to your second year knowledge. Learn it well now and you’ll thank yourself later.
Head and Neck
Lol you haven’t escaped the clutches of the anatomy department yet. Your lecturer for anatomy this year will be PT. Ignore the embryology – it’s useless for the exam and three lectures isn’t anywhere near enough to properly introduce someone to embryology, nevermind teach them all the way up to head and neck formation. If you’re one of those people who feels that you couldn’t bear to take such a risk with your first class honours and so decide to ignore this advice, then focus on the pharyngeal arches and which cranial nerves and facial structures derive from which arch, that’s largely what they’ll care about if you have some spare time at the end of a viva or schols paper. If you really want to study it, ignore the books they recommend too, ‘The Developing Human’ by Moore is the best place to start off, but this should be very low down your list of priorities.
How to study head and neck: Just get on top of it from the start and stay on top of it is my advice, if you can read up on a topic before PT’s lectures on that topic and the DT session for it then do because the sessions will be way more useful then. Let’s face it though, about five people in the year will manage that. PT’s notes are likely floating around on the drive somewhere, but he does usually email the class with his notes ahead of time so use these as much as possible as he is constantly updating them so older versions might be out of date. They’re a brilliant resource and it’s very sound of him to put them together for everyone. They’re also the best indicator of what’s coming in a lecture, in fact, they’re pretty much PT’s script for a lecture, and it’s what he wants handed back to him in an exam. Beware the notes can quite dense, very detailed in places, and are sometimes not the best for giving a general overview of a subject, so some people might prefer to reference a textbook from time to time. Clinically Oriented Anatomy by Moore, Agur, and Dalley, Gray’s for Students, Last’s or Grant’s Atlas are some of the available options. In case you didn’t already know, PT’s notes are largely based on Last’s, and he likes taking diagrams (including exam diagrams) from Grant’s Atlas. You’ll be fairly lost on the first day in the DT, as far as I can remember PT doesn’t give a big lecture on the cranial bones and cranial foramina + their contents, but that’s what you’re looking at on your first day in the DT, so a book is particularly useful for learning those basics in the first week. On that note, the cranial foramina and their contents (nerves, arteries), do come up quite frequently in vivas, so know learn them at the start and don’t have forgotten about them come exam time. Also, know the larynx, they love the larynx in the anatomy dept.
The exam: The exam format changed somewhat in 2021 due to Covid – again, keep an eye on all correspondence from School of Med to see what the format will be like this year. Last year, there were two ‘open book’ exams worth 10% each (so 20% total). Just accept that PT will include one or two arsey questions on ridiculously obscure anatomy that no one on this planet can definitively answer, and there’s no point fighting him on it. You can still get a healthy 18/19% if you do a bit of revision for them. The MCQs made for a nice cushion going into the Christmas exam. In 2021, there was a spotter (‘end of module station-based practical examination’) worth 50%, which was in an online format of 20 pictures shown out of 24 PT gave to prepare (deep and superficial prosections, MRIs, CTs, osteology). The remaining 30% of the module was made up by an MCQ exam (90 MCQs in 90 minutes). The MCQs can be quite difficult, do click on the links he puts to clinical information at the start of his notes and have a read because they do come up, and try to cover all big areas because a pretty wide spread of topics make an appearance on the paper.
This module was one of the nicer ones, but remember to afford it the respect it deserves. There are five series of lectures within Clinical Biochem: Extracellular Matrix (4 lectures), Coagulation (6 lectures), Diabetes & Obesity (4 lectures, given by Richie Porter), Clinical Biochemistry (7 lectures) and Clinical Endocrinology (8 lectures).
The exam: This is the module where good exam tactics are probably most applicable. Section A of the exam deals with the first three (ECM, Coag, D&O) lecture series, there’s a Question 1 A or B, Q.2 A or B, and Q.3 A or B. Question 1 is on Coag, Question 2 is on ECM, and Question 3 is on Diabetes and Obesity. Of the six questions you answer 2, you just can’t answer part A and B from the same question (e.g. Q.2.A and 2.B) but for example you could answer Q.1.A and 2.A, or Q.2.B and 3.B, or Q.1.A and 3.B. This means that if you’re really stuck in the run-up to exams you can be get quite selective about what you study, i.e. pick two of ECM, Coag, D&O, and you can afford to leave out one lecture in each of what you pick, since in each question there’s a choice of 2 questions. Coag definitely has the most material, so for example I picked ECM and D&O, left out the cancer lecture in ECM and left out one of Porter’s obesity lectures in D&O, leaving 6 lectures to study for all of Section A at Christmas time. Section B has a Q.4. A or B (Clinical Biochemistry), and a Q.5.A or B (Clinical Endocrinology).
How to study: The easiest way to prepare for Section B is to go to the lectures and take good notes, the material is actually interesting enough and the two lecturers go through it slowly enough to get all the explanation down. What you’re looking to do is focus on why different measurements (electrolytes, hormones) get thrown off in different diseases, because that’s what the questions will focus on in the exam. You’ll be given a sample set of measurements and asked to explain them, or given a disease and asked to explain what kind of measurements you’d expect to see.
On the Section A lectures, beware the lectures can sometimes not have all the detail you’d want to write a good exam answer on it, so Junquiera’s histology (look for 13th/14th edition) is a good place to go to do some reading on ECM (esp. collagen processing which is basically what the first lecture is, and the rest of the matrix which is lec. 2), and there are a couple of pages in Stryer’s Biochemistry that explain the metabolic changes in diabetes really well (don’t get lost in Stryer’s though, because it’s incredibly dense and over-detailed). Beware, Porter’s lectures a bit scant on concrete detail in some places last year, so a little bit of reading for the sake of bulking out an exam answer wouldn’t go amiss. Also beware that on Porter’s exam question, he usually gave a question on obesity and a question on diabetes, but last year we got a little bit shafted when he decided to put on two obesity questions. That probably bodes well for you guys though, I’d imagine diabetes will come up again this year and it’s the meatier of the two topics (no pun intended). I never really revised coag properly once it came to the very busy few weeks before exams so I can’t recommend a textbook I know for sure is good, but most people seemed to be happy enough to just go through the lecture notes. Otherwise I’m sure any good physiology book would go through coag well enough. Coag is also worth doing well at some point anyway because it’s relevant for pharm and it’ll come up again and again in your clinical years.
Infection & Immunity
This module seems scarier than it is and a lot of people do quite well. Beware of one thing, it’s combined of microbiology, immunology, and parasitology, which makes it a fairly mammoth module at 37 lectures (and plenty of them are 45/50+ slides long). Again, afford it the respect it deserves and don’t let it pile up. The lecturers are all legends in their own way, very helpful (which is a general rule for most of your other lecturers too), and very accommodating – they want you to do well.
How to study: It’s often given advice, but it’s true – the best way to learn the material is to go to the lectures; when you’re in an exam you’d be surprised at how much you remember just off the back of having been in the lecture hall for that topic. I found with immunology, and parasitology, the lecture notes were very easy to follow and had plenty of detail for an exam answer. In microbiology, the lectures were great (Stephen Smith is the most enthusiastic microbiologist you’ll meet), but when it came to revising a book would have been a great adjunct to add some detail where you wanted it, and explain some things that went over your head in the lecture (micro can be tough to get a grip on, as it’s a very different topic to most of what you’ve already studied). Some recommendations include the ‘sketchy micro’ videos that can be found online (highly recommended by most), ‘microbiology made ridiculously simple’ was a recommended book, and Murray and Rosenthal’s Microbiology also got a look-in as well.
The exam: Our exam was very fair, there was an even spread of topics and no nasty surprises. Listen to Stephen Smith if he’s telling you what direction he’s taking things this year, drops a hint or advises looking at something in particular, his word is that of a demi-god. Go to the labs, you will remember what a Gram stain is once you’ve done one, also the throat cultures are fun and it’s your first chance to use a Bunsen burner since secondary school.
Take the opportunity to enjoy the holidays and really relax over the break (unless you’re doing schols, hahaha). Most people are wrecked by the Christmas exams, so recharge the batteries before you come back!
Many people find Semester 2 a lot more chill than Semester 1. School of Med have split the Semester into essentially two mini terms. Neuroscience is taught from week 1 to week 6, with a study week in week 7 and the neuro exams at the start of week 8. Then the rest of week 8 is dedicated to lab skills and research skills lectures and workshops for your pharm project. Weeks 9 and 10 are dedicated to working on the pharm project. Weeks 11 to 16 are back to lectures for the rest of the year, with 6 weeks of the rest of pharmacology (approx. 20 lectures), and Mol Med which is about 50 lectures. Week 17 is a study week and Weeks 18-20 are set aside for exams. While the OSCE was removed in 2021, it may make an appearance again this year so keep an eye out. Generally exams finish up around the first week of June, so you can probably expect to be finished sometime similar to that.
Neuroscience (consists of neurophys, neuropharm, neuroanatomy, neuropsyh, and neurobiochemistry, each worth 20% of the module mark) is a pretty interesting module, and one you can do well in.
How to study: for neurophys, go to the lectures and use the lecture slides to make good notes, that’s all you need for a very high exam mark (mid 80s or so). Go to the neuropharm lectures, and study the relevant chapters in Rang & Dale’s. Neurobiochem is concise and very manageable, go to the lectures and have a look around the drive for the very good summary of all the neurotransmitters. It probably makes the pharm easier to learn if you do the biochem first, and you can get a book for the biochem if you like but there’s no real need to. For neuropsych, go to the lectures and take good notes, there’s some good stuff in the drives, well worth a look. In 2021 the 20% of the module that neuroanatomy was worth was split into 10% for the MCQs and 10% for a spotter that was a similar format to the anatomy Christmas spotter. The spotters are very fair and a good opportunity to do well and pick up marks. To balance that out, the anatomy MCQs can be fairly fiendish. PTs notes, Acland’s, and a couple of the recommended books are the best resources to learn neuroanatomy from.
The exam: there were two papers; paper 1 was 2.5 hours long and consisted of neurophys, neuropharm, and neurobiochem. Each subject had a choice of two essay questions, of which you did one. Paper 2 was 2 hours long (takes a good bit less than 2 hours to do) and consisted of neuropsych EMQs and the neuroanatomy MCQs. It’s worth pointing out that the pass mark was 50% overall, you didn’t have to get over 50% in each individual subject, but you had to get over 50% across the whole module, and over 30% in each individual subject. For example, if you get 57% overall in the module but scored 28% on the neuroanatomy section, that would be deemed a qualified fail, and you’d have to do supplementals for neuroscience (that means doing all five subjects again, not just neuroanatomy).
The project: The pharm project is worth 16% of the total module mark. Just because it’s a pharmacology project, doesn’t mean it’s a project on pharmacology, in fact it’s probably not. It could be anything from a couple of weeks’ lab-based work on embryological tissue markers, to a literature review of herbal medicines, to a clinical audit on hand-hygiene or opiate prescription. You don’t need to worry about any of this until it comes to signing up for the projects after Christmas. When you’re signing up for one, you can filter them according to what you want to get out of it. Not all the projects take an equal amount of work, some take way more work than others. On the other hand, you can get a lot more out of some than others. If you want to be really keen, you can look for a project where there’s a high chance of getting a publication out of it in an area you’re interested in. If you just want a quiet couple of weeks then you can probably look for something where it looks like you can do a portion of your work from home and not have too high a chance of the work continuing on past the end of the research weeks. I wouldn’t be too concerned about where the project is based (TBSI, James’, Tallaght). You’re going to be travelling to the hospitals enough over the next three years, you may as well get used to it now, it’s really not that bad. You spend weeks 9 and 10 doing the project, and you’ll have the chance to meet the people running your project a couple of times in the weeks running up to that just to get an outline of the project and be briefed on any work you’d need to do before the research weeks start.
The rest of the module: There are another 20 pharm lectures that we got in the 6 weeks (weeks 11 to 16) after the research weeks. They were grand, again Rang & Dale’s is the place to go for most of this material, and the summer exam was in week 18. The thing to remember about the summer exam for pharm is that all the material from the 25 lectures before Christmas is also examinable in the exam, and it does come up. The structure is similar to the Christmas exam, and it’s very manageable if you just keep on top of it and make decent notes that you can come back to.
Molecular Mechanisms of Diseases and Personalised Medicine
This was a big ol’ module, 50 lectures long, and like pharm it ran from week 11 to week 16. The best way to study this one really is to just go to the lectures and make notes, then look at the structure of the exams and try to decide what areas to focus on. It can be the case that it’s less of a coherent lecture series and more of a hodge-podge of sets of 2 and 3 lectures on different areas, all given by different people. All are interesting and useful, but it becomes quickly apparent that there will be a bigger emphasis on some core areas in the exam, e.g. cancer. There wasn’t any particular textbook that dealt effectively with the lecture material, so the lecture notes themselves proved to be the best thing to work off + a bit of googling + a bit of whatever you’re having yourself.
The exam: In 2021, this consisted of 2 papers that were both 2 hours long. Paper 1 – one essay (out of 4) worth 30%, and 4 SAQs (with an option of A or B within each SAQ) worth 20%. Paper 2 – 100 MCQs. You won’t be stuck for time and there is a good broad choice of questions on the paper.
This module has changes slightly from year to year, so do keep on top of emails/Blackboard updates to get the information that’s relevant for your year. For 2021, Clinical Skills consisted of a number of tutorials on each type of examination e.g. MSK, CVS, neuro. There were a set of MCQs to answer after each tutorial that were mandatory but did not contribute to the grade. There were two history taking tutorials where a tutor pretended to be the patient and the class as a group took their history, and then presented it at the next tutorial. There were also two communication workshops in relatively large groups, which were kind of fun. For the clinical skills parts, the year was split into two between TUH and SJH. Clinical skills labs (e.g. phlebotomy) were done in small groups and were very interactive with a small assessment at the end to prove you’ve done the skill (nobody fails). There was also a logbook where you had to get each in-person clinical skills lab signed off and this was mandatory, some people who missed certain labs had to make them up at the end of the year so keep on top of it.
You’re new to the hospitals this year so I’ve included some info on transport/food and drink. There are libraries in each of the SJH and Tallaght teaching centres if you ever feel the mad urge to study while you’re out there. You can get the Luas out to both SJH and Tallaght; the James’ teaching centre (the Old Stone Building and the big red brick Trinity Centre across from it are the two buildings you’re looking for) are just around the corner from the James’ Hospital Luas stop, and the best stop for going to Tallaght Hospital is actually to get off at Cookstown stop. If you walk 100 yards up the Luas line from the stop there’ll be a gate on your left that leads into the back of the hospital (the teaching centre end), and you’ll have to try and follow someone with a swipecard in the door directly in front of you, or else follow the little road around to the left and the main revolving door for the teaching centre is there and it’s always open. You’ll very quickly figure out where to go for everything anyway, if you arrive 5 mins early on your first day you’ll find someone in an older year to follow around.
Food and drink around James’: There’s a café in the Old Stone Building where most people get coffee on their breaks, they also have scones and muffins, and some hot breakfast stuff in the morning. In the afternoon you can get salads, sandwiches, rolls and that kind of thing. A good roll probabaly costs €3.50/€4. Beware though, extremely annoyingly, they tend to stop serving food by 1:30/2pm, and they also only take cash. If you go over to the main hospital (ask someone for directions, you’ll learn your way around soon enough), go into the reception area and there’s an over-priced Londis and two coffee shops on the ground floor, there’s also an ATM. If you go upstairs, the stairs is over on the left, opposite the reception desk, there’s a Kylemore café that does hot food, as well as a Quiznos sub. There are also a few chippers and the like around if you go off the hospital campus back towards the main road.
James’ transport: It’s close enough for a lot of people to cycle, there are plenty of bike racks around by the teaching centre. The Luas is dead, handy and very frequent, so I take the train to town and hop on the red line from Busaras. If you’re travelling between James’ & TBSI, the Luas is the easiest. Take the red line to George’s dock (next stop past Connolly going towards The Point), get off there and walk through the CHQ centre to the quays, head over Seán O’Casey bridge (right in front of you), and up Lombard St. to the corner with Pearse St. (Camile, Goldsmith, and the gym). It’s about a 7 minute walk on top of a 20 min Luas journey. A load of buses go to James’, mainly the 123, I don’t think many people tend to get the bus though – they tend to be fairly slow getting down to SJH on account of the morning traffic. You can drive, but free parking can be hard to come by unless you’re there very early (these spots are usually gone by 7.30am).
Tallaght food and drink: There’s a café in the teaching centre that has decent coffee and bagels, if you want a full dinner at lunchtime head down to the hospital canteen (halfway down Hospital st., just ask someone to show you). You can expect to spend about €5 on a hot dinner there. There’s also an ATM and a Londis further down Hospital St. in the main hospital reception. I’ve never had any need to go further afield, but I’m pretty sure The Square shopping centre isn’t too far from the main hospital doors down at reception.
Tallaght transport: Most people get the red line out (see above for directions for getting off at Cookstown). Some people living on the southside find cycling is alright, or even cycle to a red line stop and hop on the Luas (don’t try cycling down the hard shoulder of the M50 though). You can drive and potentially park in neighbouring housing estates/in the Aldi car park for €4/day. You can also bus it, but it’s definitely slow and awkward.
Dress: Since you’re not seeing any patients/based in the main hospital building, you don’t have to dress super smart or formal, just look reasonably put together. Also, wear something you’re comfortable kneeling on the floor in for Basic Life Support (so no super tight trousers/skirts).
The exam: In 2021 there was no end of year exam for this module. You had to complete (and get at least 80%) the MCQs after each physical exam tutorial, and hand in your completed logbook in order to pass the module.
That’s it! Although it can be an intense year, it can also be a lot of craic, so do use your time wisely!