Semester Stress Past and Present

I had my first exam of the semester today. The class was Management of Musculoskeletal Dysfunction II and the subject was the shoulder.

…let me preface with saying that I am a good student, but by no stretch of the imagination am I the most studious student in PT school. I despise route memorization (read: am really bad at) and often rely too much on my problem solving/critical thinking skills.

On my way to class this morning my classmate/friend/carpool buddy and I noticed how differently today felt in comparison to our early semester test days. The shift was pretty striking. 


Typical First Semester Test Day:

  • Arrive at school early to review. I’d get to the PT lab at 6:30am (not kidding) and prep for an 8am exam.
  • Prepare the week of with study groups after class.
  • The day before I’d steadfastly review notes and usually meet with classmates to review.
  • If the test answer key was not immediately available,  finishing was worse than taking the exam. What if I failed it? Failing in PT school means less than an 80%. On a 50 question test that’s only 10 questions! I could have missed 10… frantically look up and total potentially missed questions.
  • I’d then spend the rest of the day waiting for an email that grades were posted, check blackboard at lightning speed, and finally sigh in relief.

A perfectly legitimate study routine. If it’s currently your method, and it works for you, by all means carry on.  For me it was time consuming and stressful, and I don’t care for untoward stress.

Now remember by PT school standards I’m likely considered a middle of the road studier… that’s right a bit of a slacker. Just imagine what a study schedule may have looked like (and probably still looks like) for my more diligent compatriots…yikes.


Test Today:

  • I arrived at school at 7:50am, for a class that began at 8am.
  • I casually reviewed for a 1pm exam with a classmate over lunch.
  • I’d performed a cursory review of material in anticipation of pop quizzes over the past couple weeks.
  • I studied some yesterday.
  • And perhaps the most striking difference, last night I also played a flag football game, went out to dinner, and went to bed early.
  • And wouldn’t you know it, the world didn’t end.

Well something has sure shifted. At lunch, I took a moment to gauge my classmates, was I the only one? And with the exception of a couple very serious type A’s, the general sense of impending doom and anxiety that may have been looming on earlier semester test days was missing. Hurray!

So why this laissez-faire attitude all of a sudden? Are we all burnt-out and unmotivated? Overconfident? Has PT school finally broken our brains?

Well, I have a few theories:

1. First, and probably foremost, I feel our confidence has dramatically improved. We really have learned a great deal, and as a class are beginning to trust our clinical decision making… one tiny bit at a time.

2. We’ve learned to accept the process (for the most part), and balance our time a little better. Basically, we don’t sweat the small stuff; there’s only so much you can do when it comes to studying. This is a work-in-progress.

3. The intensity level (FINALLY) seems to be ramping down a little bit. The emphasis on comprehension is up (yay!) , and the volume of information is tapering.

4. Our professors have done a great job pounding in key information. All of a sudden a “case-based test”, and choose the “best” answer questions don’t sound like an ambiguous death sentence. HOWever, this is still not our favorite kind of test, you could toss us an easy one every now and then just to shake things up 😉 THINK ABOUT IT!

5. And lastly, in our 6th semester I believe we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel 

and it’s about damn time!

Any readers out there muddling through the early days and semesters of PT school- IT GETS BETTER, I promise! 😉


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