Revision Tips: Sciences and Medicine

On this page you will find suggestions made by St Hilda's tutors in the below subject areas. Return to the general Revision Tips page.


1) time management within the exam : candidates have never achieved good results by neglecting one answer in order to favour another : three essays in three hours means that each answer gets one hour exactly. The results are means, after all.

2) a one- hour essay is a big thing and organisation of the contents is necessary to give the appropriate property of direction to it. Therefore, planning is necessary for all essays to ensure that the points made build on those coming before. The reader is supremely sensitive to a sense of direction and part of exam preparation is for the candidate to put themselves in the position of the reader in order to see what impact their writing is likely to have by practising writing answers to past questions.


Make sure you take the time to work out exactly what the question is asking, and that your answer addresses the question in full. If you are still in doubt about what the question means, then define your interpretation of the question in your introduction.


My tip is that it is best for students to aim for a good performance in every paper rather than an excellent performance in the areas they are best at while neglecting a bit the areas they don't like or find more challenging. We have to spend more time working on our least favoured subjects, not less.


Go through all the engineering course material (coursework, lecture notes, recommended textbooks) and past exam papers (attempted blind, under timed conditions) and budget time for all papers.

Read the questions fully before starting; write clearly and explain every step;  make use of the data book ("HLT");  if it helps, draw a diagram and put the key numerical information from the question onto it; sanity check your answers – e.g. are equations dimensionally consistent.


In medicine, this will depend on which year we are looking at.

1st years: Look at past exam papers: which topics come up a lot, which are more “exotic”. Is there a pattern to their occurrence, e.g. alternating smooth versus cardiac muscle contraction questions. Be prepared not to know everything in detail – it’s impossible in medicine. Prepare essay plans and know how to define certain topics/words in one sentence (e.g. action potential, resting membrane potential).

2nd years: Look at past exam papers: which topics come up a lot, which are more “exotic”. Is there a pattern to their occurrence, e.g. alternating peripheral versus central mechanisms questions. Try and think broadly: what patterns are common (e.g. lateral inhibition, two populations of neurons with opposite effects, cell hyperpolarising with stimulation (vision, to some extent audition and vestibular system), use of common transmitters etc), what is unique to some brain areas (e.g. neuroendocrine neurones to hypothalamus). Prepare essay plans.

3rd years: Make notes of preparations/cells/animals/models used, techniques employed, diseases addressed etc for each original paper that you read for paper 1. This will inform your paper 2 and help with paper 3. Remember, the key for paper 2 is structure so allow yourself time to organise the essay. Try and think of broad questions and how you would address them. Brush up on your stats (which test when and why).

Most good students can trot out the received wisdom, repeating the technical points reasonably well. Take a minute to think what's missing ....put a couple of your own critical and/or creative thoughts at the end.


Learn ‘standard proofs and bookwork' carefully so you can reproduce them quickly, and then practise past papers. Work through the last 5 years worth of papers. It will cover most of the styles of questions that come up.


Return to the general Revision Tips page.