MEDSCI 142 — Biology for the Biomedical Sciences: Organ Systems
MEDSCI 142 — Organ Systems
Angela Tsai likes to compare this course to the Magic School Bus through each system of the body. I, on the other hand, would probably would say the same… if the bus was lit on fire and all 2000 students had about 5 minutes to escape.
Okay maybe that was a bit dramatic, but forgive me. I literally just sat the exam for it about 3 hours ago and let’s just say I’m glad it’s over.
MEDSCI 142 is a paper offered by the School of Medical and Health Sciences in Semester 2. It is one of the four premed core papers, but the only one that is not taken in Semester 1.
I honestly really enjoyed most of the content and lecturers for this course but absolutely hated the assessments. Unfortunately, I did this course when we went back into lockdown during August 2021 which basically ruined everyone’s shot at clinical programmes because the assessments were made so much harder. Therefore, just keep in mind that my experience will be a lot different to yours (as long as we get those vaccine rates up!)*
*Remember that this is based on my own experience when I took the course in 2021. The course may have changed and you’re definitely not going to have the exact same experience as me!
- Content = 4/5 — The content in this course is super fascinating! If you basically take away the studying element of this course you’ll have a really good time lol.
- Delivery of Lectures/Information = 4/5 — From the three topics that were actually done in person the classes were very engaging. If you’re shoved back online most of the lecturers reuse their old recordings but Angela goes the extra mile and makes her own videos which are pretty cool.
- Teaching Staff = 4.5/5 — Everyone was really good at what they did and taught. Standouts for me was A/P Roger Booth and Angela Tsai.
- Course Organisation = 3.5/5 — Mostly well organised except for a few hiccups with assessments and not knowing what was going on until the last minute. Probably won’t be the same if you’re on campus. But I really liked how they used Piazza!
- Assessments = 2/5 — This is definitely from doing online learning but questions were super different from previous years and weren’t asked in the most straightforward way which made everyone really frustrated. Hopefully this won’t be the case for you!
- Laboratories = 3/5 — Online labs definitely were not fun. Once again I only did two practical labs so I can’t really comment on the teaching in them so I guess take it as you will?
- Overall = 3.5/5(B) — I think this is a pretty decent score considering what happened with online learning at everything. I hope you guys are able to make full use of this course and be able to hold it together until the final exam :’)
Assessments and Weighting
- Online Activities = 15%
- Quizzes = 5%
- Laboratories = 10%
- Test 1 = 20%
- Test 2 = 20%
- Final Exam = 30%
The content is split up into 8 different modules/organ systems. Most (if not all) is stuff that you would have never learnt before in your high school courses so everyone is starting off fresh. I’m going to have to take what I saw from the recordings and give you my best impression of the lecturers so wish me luck trying to convey their teaching styles and personalities to you!
- Nervous System (4 lectures) — The first block of lectures is taken by Professor Maurice Curtis. This was one of my favourite modules as it talked all about the different parts of the brain, the different pathways for sensing touch and pain, and some clinical examples such as Parkinson’s Disease. At a first glance and listen, some of the topics may sound difficult but take the time to revise the content and you’ll realise everything is pretty simple
- Autonomic and Endocrine Systems (2 lectures) — These lectures were taken by A/P Roger Booth (course director) who you will see as a living legend. The actual lectures are very simple and probably things you might already know if you did homeostasis in Level 3 Biology. If not, that’s okay! The course guide has everything you need to know with simple notes to comprehend. Also there’s a cute surprise at the end of the last lecture so make sure you attend those!
- Cardiovascular System (7 lectures) — The lectures were split between Peter Riordan (course coordinator) and Professor Simon Malpas taking anatomy and physiology, respectively. I found this block of lectures quite hard just because I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first two systems. However, once I did some solid revision and practice questions it all sort of started to make sense. Both lecturers are very good and explain concepts well but Professor Malpas is no longer taking the course :’)
- Reproductive Systems (4 lectures) — These lectures were taken by Professor Andrew Shelling and Professor Larry Chamley, and covers both the female and male reproductive systems. Unfortunately this was the point where lectures went online which is a shame because I would’ve loved to see these lectures in person! I loved the content in both sections and found lots of it super fascinating (e.g. how much sperm is released from a single ejaculation? Sorry this isn’t an innuendo lol).
- Respiratory System (6 lectures) — The respiratory system lectures are taken by Dr. Susan McGlashan and Professor Julian Paton taking anatomy and physiology, respectively. The first part with just anatomy is a walk in the park (+you’ll get to do a special dance). Physiology… not so much. This is actually the section that I struggled with the most so if this is the case for you, you’re not alone! You may have heard horror stories about this section in the exam but that’s because someone else took this part before 2019 and didn’t ask straightforward questions. Professor Paton was super fair with his questions and I ended up liking this section for the most part. Just make sure you’re on top of the content and don’t lose hope!
- Renal System (3 lectures + 1 online) — The three in-person lectures are about renal physiology taken by Dr. Carolyn Barrett and the online lecture is taken by Angela Tsai (course coordinator). I strongly recommend you do the online lecture over the weekend so that you’re fully prepared for the physiology section because you may get lost if you don’t have that background. This section was not my favourite but it definitely wasn’t the worst. Definitely use practice exams to consolidate your knowledge and remember the principles of osmolarity if you get stuck (you don’t know how many times I drew pictures of cells with water going in to make sure I was on the right track!)
- Musculoskeletal System (5 lectures) — Peter Riordan comes back to take these 5 lectures about bone, cartilage, joints and muscles. All the notes you’ll need are in the course guide but this definitely had a ton of questions in the exam that are bound to catch people off-guard. Make sure you study the diagrams in depth and be able to translate these into words as the lecturer loves these sort of questions.
- Digestive System (3 lectures) — The final three lectures are taken by Angela Tsai and is all about the different parts of the digestive system including the mouth, stomach, intestines etc. This is a super simple block of lectures which you may already have a good grasp on because of the rat lab and just general knowledge (most of my digestion knowledge comes from Harold the Giraffe in the Life Caravan lol).
I didn’t really like how labs were assessed in MEDSCI 142 but that’s probably just personal preference. Instead of getting marked on your experiment or filling in a sheet like BIOSCI 107, you will have a 10 question MCQ test to sit at the end of your lab session. Your best 5/6 scores count towards your graded 10%. I only had two of these sessions in person so I can’t give you the full experience but I’ll fill you in on what I know.
If you are moved online, your lab will consist of watching a video of someone performing the tasks in the lab and filling out your lab guide as you go along. At the end of the week there will be a 10 MCQ test with similar questions that would be asked at the end of your in-person labs. I found these super frustrating as you only had ten minutes to do them and you couldn’t go back and change your answers like you could in a lab. It was also sometimes difficult to make out what the images were supposed to be so the lab averages were often quite low. But don’t worry! It’s only 10% :)
- Digestive System and Body Cavities (Rat Dissection) — In most ways I’m glad I got to do this one in person. It was awesome getting to cut up your own rat and see what was inside. The only regret I have from this lab is not wearing a mask because it is S T I N K Y. In this lab you’ll get a brief overview of different organs of the rat, particularly in the digestive system. I didn’t really do well in the MCQ for this even though I prepared really well (let’s just say a certain someone forgot their glasses and couldn’t see the screen at all for the diagrams :/)
- The Human Brain — This is a super chill lab that consists of looking at different sections of a plastinated human brain. You get to see all of the different parts of the brain as well as test each other on some of the content you’ve gone over in class. I brought heaps of highlighters and colouring pencils because you get to colour in parts of the brain for your personal study! Also, just a reminder that there is a pre-reading for this lab (and the remaining labs). However, I think this is the only one that I remember actually having a question in the MCQs.
- Mammalian Heart (Sheep Heart Dissection) — This is when labs moved online and boy, did I suffer. I think this lab would be way easier in person just because most of the questions you get in the MCQ and Test 1 is about different cuts you make which is a bit hard to picture if you haven’t actually done the dissection before. The dissection did look pretty fun though and it didn’t smell as bad as the rat from what I heard. This was 100% my worst lab and I’m glad I managed to pull my grade up after this mess :’)
- Reproductive Systems — In person, you will go around 5 different stations and consolidate some things you’ve already learnt in lectures. This was a super chill lab to do online and the questions were quite easy so I assume it’ll be the same in person. My favourite bit was when we learnt about the different hormones in a female’s reproductive cycle and what the hormones at different levels meant.
- Ventilation Laboratory — There are 3 different stations that consist of activities you can do (probably not if we’re at yellow or red light because using different breathing tubes!). For one you look at a lung model and how it resembles a real lung, the second station is about dry spirometry and physiological reasons for different volumes and capacities and the last station is wet spirometry, similar to the second station. This was a super chill lab to do online as well so hopefully you’ll have fun doing this in person!
- Musculoskeletal System (Chicken Leg Dissection) — The last lab consists of you dissecting a chicken leg and looking at how your muscles work to flex and extend the hip and knee joints. I didn’t do this one in person either but I’m kind of glad I didn’t because some of the cuts and descriptions the GTA said made me want to become a vegetarian lol. Everyone says that this is the hardest lab but I found this one quite easy and was my best lab. I think this is to do with the preparation I did to make sure I knew what each labelled thing was before the quiz instead of taking wild guesses during the MCQ.
Online Activities and Quizzes
This is probably the easiest 20% you’re ever going to earn in this course SO MAKE SURE YOU DO ALL OF THE ACTIVITIES TO GET FULL MARKS. Not doing them is basically throwing away any chances you may have of reaching the next grade boundary which could prove crucial.
There is one activity on Kuracloud after every lecture that are due the week afterwards. I did these once I got home so I didn’t forget about them and so that I consolidated what I learnt. Try do these properly without your notes as you won’t be able to do that if you have in person assessments! The three with the lowest marks will not get counted towards your final 20%.
The online quizzes are 10 MCQs due at the end of each week. You fortunately get unlimited attempts so make sure you get those full marks! All the questions from the MCQs are taken from the PDFs on Canvas so do those first, confirm your answers, then attempt the quizzes online.
Our assessments were once again going to be in person regardless of Alert Levels until we hit Delta Level 4. It took about a month for MEDSCI to reassess but everything moved back online and uninvigilated using Inspera. This may seem good in theory because everything was now open book. However, to compensate, everything was made about 10 times harder. Like I said, things may be completely different for you because you’ll hopefully not be in lockdown but here’s my take just in case an asteroid hits Earth or something.
- Test 1 — This test is purely MCQ with 52 questions on the Nervous, Autonomic/Endocrine, Cardiovascular and Reproductive system lectures, as well as content from Labs 1–3.The test is 90 minutes long. The practice questions that we got were mostly straightforward and should reflect what you will get if you are in person. However ours for whatever reason was not straightforward to us. We ended up having the lowest average for this test in 5 years and we were allowed open book lol.
- Test 2 — This has the exact same structure as the first test except it was on the Respiratory, Renal, Musculoskeletal and Digestive Systems with content form Labs 4–6. It is also 90 minutes long. Once again, your test should reflect the practice questions you get in your quizzes but my cohort fell into this trap and were very surprised with our end result oops. Let’s just say only around 50% of people passed that test. But don’t let that scare you! Hopefully your MCQs are way more straightforward recall rather than piecing a bunch of random information together like we had.
- Final Exam — The final exam is purely short answer questions worth 228 marks. This tests you on all the lectures with a very short section (12 marks) on integrating knowledge from lectures and labs. In person the exam is 3 hours long but for us we had 3 and a half hours so that we could upload our files. I did a lot of practice exams so I can confidently say that most of what you should get in person is copying diagrams from the lecture guide and writing short answers/bullet points explaining some content. However, since ours was online and we couldn’t upload too many diagrams onto Inspera, our ‘short answer’ questions basically turned into mini essays with lots of people running out of time.
Hopefully I haven’t scared you guys too much but I think it’s important to keep things in perspective and weight out the pros and cons. On one hand if you’re in person, you’ll have to memorise all the content but at least you will have some sort of satisfaction from putting in the hard yards. You also won’t be too thrown off by the exam and test formats because they should be comparable to previous years. On the other hand, if you had online assessments, you can definitely do them all open book but you may run out of time searching up all the answers and the exam format may not be the same as what you have practised before.
How I Studied (and How I Should’ve Studied)
Before I even started uni, I had already heard the horror stories about how difficult and content heavy MEDSCI 142 is. And I’m not going to lie to you, IT IS. However, I think the course is set out in a good way that it gives you opportunities to learn as you go so it feels like you’re constantly doing revision for it.
When we were in-person for the first half of Semester 2, I made sure to read all the lecture notes I could before I went to the lectures. Since the textbook readings were not examinable, I would only use it if I was having trouble with a particular concept then write down some notes on it.
I really liked the lectures that made you annotate diagrams. I’m a big visual learner so colouring parts of the body in and labelling stuff is my jam. I would annotate my diagrams using GoodNotes on my iPad, but I saw heaps of people having a good time colouring their course guides with pencils like they were in kindergarten which was super cute. I would use these diagrams to make flash cards with the labels blanked out so that I could practice associating the labels with different colours and therefore, the different parts of the diagram. For the other sections without diagrams, I would highlight the important bits before the lecture and then write some additional notes in my course guide.
When we moved to online learning, I already had a feeling that we weren’t going back on campus, so I started acting like it (which if we did move back down Alert Levels, probably was not a good idea). I knew that we would be lucky enough to have our notes so I made sure my course guide was FILLED with everything the lecturers said. I would even slow down the lecture recordings and pause it frequently to make sure I had caught everything a lecturer had said. In reality, you can’t do that in person so don’t even try doing this. Just make sure you can wrap your head around the big concepts then fill in the blanks when you’ve got a good general understanding.
To consolidate my learning, I made sure I did the post-lecture activities straight after going to or watching the lectures. This made sure I knew to fill in any gaps. MAKE SURE YOU TAKE THESE SERIOUSLY. Sometimes I fell into the trap of just checking every answer and then I realised I didn’t understand some of the content I had skipped over! I also used these as revision tools by clearing my answers and going back to do them after some time had passed. I also made sure to do my lecture quizzes once all the lectures for that week had finished so the content was fresh in my head. I would prepare for these by doing the practice MCQs that are given which the quizzes are based off.
When we had in person labs, I would make similar notes for the labs that I did for BIOSCI 107 and take them into the lab. For these notes I would make sure I had answers to all of the focus questions/ILOs on one page and I made flashcards using Quizlet for them the weekend before my lab. When we moved online, I would still make notes on the labs and then fill in the blanks using the lab recordings. I would then organise the pages by ILOs so that I could refer to them easily then I was doing the online quizzes.
For the tests, I went back and did the MCQs after some time had passed with as little notes as possible (try do these without your notes if your test is in person!). That way I knew where my weak points were and I could read through the course guide and notes again. If you’re in person, I would strongly recommend flashcards for the MCQs as well so that you can nail the general concepts and build on them by reading and remembering. Also, make sure you do the practice test for Test 1 as it’s super helpful! You won’t have the semester break in between for Test 2 to study so make sure you’re staying on top of the content and reviewing concepts when you can!
For the Final Exam, we had it exactly a week after Test 2. Therefore, I knew most of that content would be fresh in my mind and I could use the long weekend to revise the Test 1 content which I found easier. After that refresher I attempted one practice exam using my notes (which you should do without if you have your exam in person!). After that I did two more exam papers and started to notice trends in the types of questions they ask, especially with the diagrams. If I did the exam in person, I would definitely keep a mental note of this because they love to ask the same questions in a slightly different way. The day before the exam I browsed through the rest of the exam papers and did the questions that I found challenging or had not done before. By doing this, I had a ‘question bank’ available that I knew I could answer easily so that I could get through those and focus on harder questions.
Also, if you don’t use Piazza for any courses MAKE SURE YOU USE IT IN MEDSCI 142. Seriously, it changed my life. The way that Piazza is set out in this course is phenomenal and can be used to get feedback on your answers as well as learn from other students about how to answer exam questions. It’s basically like a free marking guide.
Going Psycho(logy)’s POV
I feel as though my prayers were sort of answered by the fact we moved to online learning just as I was starting to feel the stress of MEDSCI 142. I was actually thinking about dropping the course when I had no more intention of applying for a clinical programme but was convinced to continue taking it by my mum to “keep my options open”.
My relationship with MEDSCI is basically like the one I have with my sister — a special kind of love-hate bond. I absolutely adored the Nervous, Autonomic/Endocrine and Reproductive systems, hated Cardiovascular, Respiratory and Musculoskeletal and found the others kind of meh. On one hand, it really made me interested in studying with A/P Roger Booth in Health Psychology again as well as highlight neuroscience as a potential career choice to me. On the other it kind of made me glad that by not doing Biomed or a clinical programme now, I won’t have to endure more anatomy or physiology ever again (at least for now).
I think when you look back on the content and ignore the assessments, you’re going to realise that MEDSCI 142 is actually a great introduction into the human body and whether or not anatomy and physiology is your thing, you’re going to find at least one system fascinating. And the good thing is that anatomy, physiology, clinical programmes, neuroscience etc. all have great potential career pathways that are all interesting and exciting. The take home message is to try find something that *sparks joy* in this course. If you can find interest in what you’re learning, it makes it all the much easier to do better.
Anyways that’s all from me! Let me go cry about that MEDSCI exam… (but if you have any questions, email me at email@example.com!).
Stay safe, stay healthy and stay happy! (and make sure you get the vaccine and get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19!)
Going Psycho(logy) ^.^