Interview with Dr Luke Wilson

1) Did you know that you wanted to get into medicine?
Yeah I did, because I was in a different boat. I had already been accepted provisionally into med (because of prior post-graduate psychology study).

2) Luke, you already had a degree before you started studying health science. What advantages do you think that this gave you?
I think that it gives you a sort of broader perspective on things. In some ways it was kind of a disadvantage. In Psychology you have to take away concepts and ideas about things, but in health science I didn’t realise at first that you were expected to learn everything. They were just going to test you on facts, not ideas, and on really obscure facts.

Haha, there was a really obscure question about the sex chromosomes of chickens at one point. It happened to be on a lecture slide. We made notes on the lectures based on the objectives, but this was not at all an objective, but it still appeared in the test.

3) Explain how you found group study to be beneficial. Can everyone benefit from group study?
Yeah, I think that it is a really good idea. It kept us motivated. If you are doing work for other people, like we were, even if it is on something that is extremely boring, you don’t want to let the other people down.

There were a lot of concepts that were not very well explained in the lectures. We did not come from science backgrounds, so this helped create a forum for us to discuss what the concepts meant.
We had scheduled meetings once every two days. So you were always doing a basal level of study. You had a deadline. It made you be organised.

It was also good socially. We were not just studying the whole time. We were also socialising. There were lots of jokes as well.

4) Many people claim that they find one subject of health science to be really hard. For example, some find physics to be the most challenging. What advice do you have for students that are worried about a certain subject?
Yeah, that is a really good point. For me, it was chemistry and physics. I had never done them at high school. At all. I had done general science up to 5th form. I think that the main thing for both of those subjects is that it is not about knowledge. It is about being able to do equations and solve problems. That is what you need to be doing.

Generally if people are finding that there is a certain subject that they find challenging or difficult they need to devote a larger part of their study part to that.

It is tempting to devote lots of time to your favourite subjects, so that you do really well in those. But even if you get 100 per cent, it does not make up for getting up 69 per cent or worse in other subjects. We know other people who that happened to. One was a capable student and would have made a good doctor. In fact he is now doing post grad medicine in Australia.

5) How helpful do you think you would have found this apitute book to be in first year?
I would have found it to be really useful because it is has been designed by people who have been through the course. It is based on things that you need to know for the course. It is to the point. It is accurate. A lot of the time when you come out of a lecture, if you have missed something there is not enough time to look something up.

Another thing is that a lot of people you are up against have access to notes from people who have done the course before in some shape or form, and make use of them. We didn’t have that when we did HS. But I know it would have helped. Other people can give you a different take on things and might pick up on or emphasise points that you missed or didn’t think were necessarily all that important or interesting. So, it makes you think about what you have learned yourself more, and forces you to try to incorporate that into your understanding. Generally the more angles you are able to see or think about something from, the greater your understanding will end up being. So I guess that’s a shout out to the value both of study groups and the book. Where our books really have an edge is that they have been revised extensively every year we have produced them, and have also been ‘peer-reviewed’ by many, many health sci students over the years. And from what we have heard, people really like the books and they do find them helpful, and that makes it all worthwhile!

If you want to, you can read the entire book from start to finish and see what is coming up (even if they have changed the course slightly). Then you can identify where you have to pay attention to something that you will struggle with.

Some of the hardest stuff in health science is right at the end of the course, when exams are looming etc. You will be feeling the pressure from your other courses.

It is also useful because we still use this book for med. Because you are expected to know this in med. The topics covered in the book are by far the most relevant to med of all the stuff you learn in health sci. And because of the way they run the med course now, you are expected to remember it all the next time it is taught, which for some of the trickier topics (like neuro and endo) isn’t until your 3rd year. So I still recommend these books for 2nd and 3rd year medicine, possibly further than that.

6) Do you think that health science takes over your life?
Haha… It did for me, because I knew where I wanted to be. I wanted to do medicine. I knew what I had to do. It wasn’t like I didn’t socialise. There were definitely some good memories. But I kind of saw it as one year where I would have to work really hard at university, and so did my friends fortunately. I remember putting in 14 hour days near exams.

7) Do the health science assessments (tests, labs, exams etc) manage to measure students academic ability in a fair manner?
You could reasonably expect what would appear in the objectives would appear on the test and this held true for the most part.
But it definitely helps to know ahead of time what the assessments will be like, so you don’t make mistakes that other students have made. Try to talk to students who have done the assessments before. For example in chemistry there are ridiculous things that you have to do in the final that you might not expect to be tested on, such as drawing different sugar molecules. I remember people crying in the lab exit tests for chemistry, because they are a big chunk of your mark. You don’t get individual help in the lab. If you don’t prepare before your lab, you will lose marks.

I remember really dreading the exit tests, because you just wouldn’t know what to expect. It is a high pressure environment. I don’t think it’s really very fair to run a lab of the sizes that they do and then expect every single student to have picked up on all the main points of the lab to the extent that they can reproduce them from memory under pressure at the end of the two hours. Most of the time they will just be rewarding people who have done something similar at high school before for remembering it. And it may have changed since our year but the labs were horribly out of sync with what was actually going on in lectures so sometimes you would be confronting completely new material.

Some subjects are fair though. But it definitely pays to find out as much as you can about the assessments you will be sitting. Look at the exam scripts as soon as you can. They do not change a lot.

8 ) How important is the UMAT test? Is it possible to study for?
It is definitely possible to study for although not in the way that we would usually think of studying for a test. I haven’t done it myself, but I have a Masters of Psychology and one of the most basic things you learn in Psychology is that the more practise you have at a certain skill, the better you will be able to perform that skill in a variety of settings and under pressure. This is still true for the skills you need for taking ‘IQ’ like tests such as UMAT.
In fact, one of the main reasons real IQ tests, such as the WAIS are restricted to trained psychologists, is to prevent people from studying for them.

You would be foolish not to study for a test you want to do well in. They know you could study previous UMAT tests and improve your mark which is why they don’t make them available. Even though the questions in UMAT theoretically change from year to year, the approach needed to answer a question is something you can learn to get good at. For example, the more multi choice tests you do, the better and faster you get at eliminating wrong answers. So, ultimately what you need to be doing is developing your skills for answering the types of questions they will ask in UMAT and I have no doubt that people who do this will be at an advantage when it comes to sitting the test.

9) When you were finally informed that you had earned a place into medicine, how did you feel?
I guess I was really pleased. It was different for me because of the provisional entry. In some ways it was a relief that I hadn’t screwed it up. But what I found rewarding was that I did well in subjects that I never would have dreamed I would be able to. For example my marks for chemistry and physics were much higher than I needed… I wanted to feel that I had made it on my own merits. It was only fair that I was achieving to the same level as other people.

10) How would you compare the health science year with medicine? Do things get any easier?
Things are much easier. There is nothing like the amount of health science assessments. You don’t get marks. You get a pass, fail, or distinction. Everyone passes, or almost everyone. If you don’t pass the first time, then you get to sit a special exam. If you don’t pass that, then you might have to repeat the year - if you are unlucky. They are looking for a way to pass you. Their emphasis shifts from choosing the top 5 per cent of the HS year to making sure that everyone achieves a pass.