5 reasons the comprehensive exam needs to die

Most of us here are neck-deep in studying for the dreaded comp final.  For those unfamiliar with this specific mode of torture, it’s an exam sat at the end of 2nd year which basically covers everything we’ve learned in medical school.  Hence why I’m up at obscene hours of the night, trying to consolidate about 120 weeks of material into a manageable study stack.

This has led to a metric tonne of noon-hour reviews, study groups, and illegal textbook downloads.  It’s like a cult.  But for obsessive-compulsive personality types.

So to placate my fellow classmates (and possibly myself) with a few giggles, here are 5 reasons why the comp exam needs to die.

1.  It’s the MCAT all over again.

Undergrad wasn’t that long ago.  We remember studying for the MCAT.  Again, for those who don’t know, MCAT stands for Miserable and Criminal Appraisal of Trainees.  It’s an exhausting, 6-hour exam on the first two years of undergrad from physics to chemistry to reading comprehension.

To compare:  The comp exam is a 3 hour exam on the first two years of medical school from radiology to obstetrics to cardiology.

Sound familiar?

2.  It requires an excessive amount of studying

As you can imagine, studying 2 years’ worth of complex medical issues is no mean feat.  And really… why?  We’ve all written exam after exam, we’ve proven that we can take tests with the best of ’em.  We’ve proved that we can study our butts off for weeks at a time.  We’ve proved that we always come out with a great grade.  We’ve proved, essentially, that we’re master learners.  It makes the comp exam look a bit redundant.

3.  No one fails

Honestly.  Not a single student failed and had to re-write the exam last year. (This isn’t true of every year, but this supports my idea much better, don’t you think?)

If there’s no potential for failure, why bother with a test?  Or at least, why bother with a test tha counts for marks?  To be fair, all of us see the benefit in reviewing all of the didactic stuff before we hit the wards.  We won’t remember everything, but it’ll give us a solid foundation to build our practical knowledge on.  It’s a great idea to review.  Testing… not so much.

4.  We’re burnt out

After anywhere from 2 to 10 years of undergrad plus 2 years of medical school, we’re pretty done.  We’ve written more tests than we can count, more essays than we care to admit, and more notes than could fit in a standard apartment.  We’re tired.  So another huge exam at the end of it all just adds to the staggering apathy that now pervades most of the class.

But really, the biggest reason why it needs to die?

5.   (nearly) No one else has to write it

After some cursory Google searches, I discovered that only U of Ottawa (maybe UBC?) has a comprehensive exam at the end of 2nd year.

That’s right.  That’s hundreds of Canadian medical students that don’t have to put up with it.  They finish the exam for their last block, sit their last OSCE, and leap excitedly into a clinical future.  Us?  We write the OSPE, sit the OSCE, write the comp, then collapse.  I foresee minimal partying.

Have you own reasons for wanting the comp to suffer as we do?  Add them in the comments below!

 – Atalanta

GIF courtesy of: #whatshouldwecallmedschool 



Filed under Medicine

2 responses to “5 reasons the comprehensive exam needs to die

  1. m

    I’m sure it’s not that bad, most schools have comprehensive exams of some sort. Think of it as good practice for the MCCQE pt 1. I would save those notes and reuse them in two years time.

    • That’s true – once it’s all said and done, it’s a great way to make sure we don’t look like twats heading into 3rd year. But for the present… I’d almost rather rip off my cornea with masking tape than continue to drive myself into the ground for 3 more weeks. 😉

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