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Getting through Phase 2a

Rhea, our Deputy Treasurer, shares sage advice on excelling in Phase 2a.


You’ve passed Phase 1! Good for you.

If you struggled with Phase 1 then Phase 2a will be a breath of fresh air. The curriculum is more logically organised with clinical relevance. You’ll begin to feel like things are more “medically” focused.

Depending on whom you ask, Phase 2a is either the easiest or hardest year of Medical School — the key is to know yourself. Some seniors claim that rote learning is the way to go – especially the section on antibiotic indications! Learn efficiently in a style that suits you best. If you tend to take things easy, be prepared to work outside your comfort zone. If you’re pathologically overworked, don’t stress yourself out – study smart and you’ll likely pass Phase 2a. More on study tips in a bit!

Many senior medics will hypothesize about when’s your best time to begin revising… Do what makes you feel comfortable, but stay consistent.

Extra-curricular pursuits

A note about managing between academic and extra-curricular pursuits. It’s important to note that your annual exam grades count towards your final EPM ranking. Be sensible and think ahead for your future Foundation jobs and careers. Better yet, consider that your Phase 2a knowledge of diseases and management will serve you for many years onwards; it’s worth investing time into a solid academic foundation.

Phase 2a is also a good year to begin exploring extra-curricular pursuits. Learn a language; join a committee [MedSoc elections will be in Q1 2020!]… Carpe diem. Treasure your time, it’s your most precious resource. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to some opportunities to pursue those that matter to you.

Practical Module Tips

Introduction to Clinical Sciences

  • Concentrate on learning the basics.
  • What is involved in the process of inflammation, ischaemia, immunity? (NB; a very basic understanding of the complement pathway will suffice )
  • Microbiology is important
  • Learn your antimicrobial classes and their indications. Note, penicillin allergies are common and knowledge of alterative therapies is critical.
  • [It’s almost always a macrolide]
  • For the common bugs, learn how you would test for them – e.g. tuberculosis is tested using a Ziehl Nielsen stain. Unfortunately much of Microbiology is rote learning…

Systems + Public Health + GP

I’d heartily recommend Kumar and Clark’s – in my opinion it’s the best resource for Phase 2a. Be aware, it can occasionally be overly-detailed. You should be able to name risk factors/causes, signs and symptoms, investigations, treatment (not in detail) and the pathophysiology of the conditions on the ‘list’ and conditions covered in lectures.

Speak to your MedSoc parents about resources. They might be able to provide their personal notes.

What conditions are tested?

Learn the important/common conditions for each system. Speak to your seniors [MedSoc parents!], they’ll point you in the right direction. Much of Phase 2a involves balancing your time between all the different systems of disease.

If you use online resources, be aware that you’ll need more in-depth knowledge than what NHS Health A-Z gives you.

Do I really need to learn…

… Public Health and GP topics? Yes. These are always assessed; your seniors can attest to this.

FAQ: Are Phase 1 topics repeated?

This isn’t nearly as important as Phase 2a content, especially if you are struggling for time.

Best wishes!

As always, if you are having any problems during the year. Remember that there are loads of people you can go to for help! Contact your MedSoc Families for all things academic support, and see our welfare page for helpful signposting.

Best wishes!

Key resources:

  • Textbook: Kumar and Clarke’s. I feel that this covers more than required for Phase 2a.

  • Useful online resource. Articles written for health professionals but which are applicable to your level of study.

  • Amboss. This website provides both a paid and free service. Their “free” catalogue is pitched at a suitable Phase 2a level. Good differentials for cough, lymphadenopathies etc

  • BMJ Best Practice. Every medical student at Sheffield is entitled to an OpenAthens account which lets you access BMJ Best Practice. This resources is second-to-none for a multitude of resources. It’s arguably more pitched towards Phase 3a and 3b, but being BMJ-endorsed web-resource you can expect quality content. There’s even an offline app!

  • YouTube: The ‘Handwritten Tutorials’ series; Osmosis

  • Zerotofinals. UK-based GP-trainee who has produced summaries of key diseases & a podcast for audio-learners! Has also produced a small but high-yield selection of videos.

by Rhea Patel

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