The Premed Exam Cycle
When I think back on my 2.5 years at Vanderbilt, it can be described rather simply.
Freshman year: general chemistry week, calculus week, free week, repeat
Sophomore year: organic chemistry week, biology week, free week, repeat
Junior year: biochemistry week, physics week, free week, repeat
I’d be willing to bet if I asked around, I would get very similar responses from other premeds. Professors for these courses know the typical sequence in which a typical premed student will progress through their required coursework. They expect their Introduction to Biology students to also be taking Organic Chemistry, because the majority are. So, they stagger the exam schedule so that you most likely won’t have an exam for both of the courses in the same week. For the most organized of students, this works great. You study for both courses every day and then maybe reserve a day or two before your next biology exam to study solely for biology. This way, you will never get behind…right?
Well maybe you can pull it off at first, but then you get sick for a couple days. Or maybe you go on a weekend trip with your favorite club. Whatever the reason is, you now have a biology exam 4 days away and you are behind on your lectures. Easy solution- drop everything and study for your biology exam. Congratulations, your 4 days of non-stop studying got you an A! But now you only have 4 days until your organic chemistry exam, and you are extra far behind because you were focused only on your bio exam! Plus, you just know this one will be super hard, and you need a good grade. Time to stop everything and grind for that orgo exam. Once that’s done with, you’re behind in bio again and maybe only have a week to catchup while still making sure you are on top of the new orgo material PLUS your other 2-3 non-premed classes.
See the problem? Sometimes it feels like you can’t catch a break. By the end of the semester, this cycle can be extremely exhausting. Even the best students can be sucked in occasionally but, from my experience, a lot of premed students don’t just visit the cycle, they live in it. I wouldn’t trade being premed for anything, but it sure isn’t easy.