First year Medical Science—Course selection
With only a few weeks left before university starts, you would have chosen your courses, packed all your bags and mentally prepared yourself for the best years of your life. Although COVID has taken us by surprise, I want to share my experience with the courses that I took in my first year to ease your anxiety.
Biology 1001A – Biology for Sciences 1 (first-semester exclusive)
This is your introductory course to biology. Topics range from evolution, mitosis and meiosis to population dynamics, speciation and phylogeny. Although the topics felt similar to high school, this course truly challenged how I applied the content. Labs are every week and alternate between session A and B. (Session A teaches you the skill, and session B tests how well you can apply that skill)
Bonus tip: Labs are worth 25% of your final grade. Don’t slack on them!
Biology 1002B – Biology for Sciences 2 (second-semester exclusive)
This course focuses on the evolution of solar-powered life, genes, thermodynamics and bioenergetics (this is not a continuation from Biology 1001). Again, this course is heavy on application/thinking and will test how you truly understand the content given taught to you. Labs are every week and alternate between session A and B (just like in Bio 1001)
Bonus tip: Do practice tests! Get used to how your professors write their questions. If you’re lucky, some of the questions could reappear on your exam.
Chemistry 1301A – Discovering Chemical Structure (first-semester exclusive)
Like the title says, this course focuses on the fundamental principles of chemical structure and properties. Topics include atomic structure, theories of chemical bonding, structure and stereochemistry of organic molecules, and coordination complexes. The content is straightforward. As long as you understand the concepts, you’ll do great in this course. If you ever need help, there are tons of free tutors dedicated to helping you in this course and never be afraid to ask your professor questions. Also, please go to class! 5% of your mark goes to iClicker (basically like a Kahoot). It’s free marks as long as you participate!
Bonus tip: Labs are fill in the blanks. There’s no need to type out a lab report, so don’t worry. Just enjoy the lab.
Chemistry 1302B – Discovering Chemical Energetics (second-semester exclusive)
This chemistry course examines the fundamentals of how energetics influence chemical processes. Topics include gases, thermodynamics and thermochemistry, chemical equilibria, solubility, weak acids and bases, electrochemistry, and chemical kinetics. The content isn’t much different than Gr. 12 chemistry, but I truly enjoyed the class because of how energetic the professor was. Also, all the notes are written for you in the workbook. Don’t waste time copying everything down the professor says. Labs are every other week and are done in pairs so find yourself a good lab partner!
Bonus tip: Do the practice questions at the end of each chapter! I believe it is the biggest reason why I did well in the course.
Physics 1028 – Physics for the Biological Sciences I (first-semester exclusive)
This is your traditional physics course. Topics include kinematics, forces, energy, linear momentum, collisions, rotational motion, angular momentum, geometric optics and microscopes. I found that the content was similar to high school and didn’t struggle too much with it. That being said, if you didn’t take physics in high school, I would recommend learning some concepts in advance to ease the load.
Bonus tip: Do your WebAssign homework! The questions are great practice for exams, and it’s a free 8% of your final grade.
Physics 1029 – Physics for the Biological Sciences II (second-semester exclusive)
You are introduced to fundamental physics concepts that include oscillations, waves and sound, fluid statics and dynamics and electricity and magnetism. I found that the content wasn’t too difficult but the amount of practice I did made a significant difference. There are only 3 labs so one every month.
Bonus tip: Physics labs are pass/fail. Please take the time to understand what the lab is about so you don’t waste time during the lab
Calculus 1000 covers a range of topics that include limits, derivatives (exponential, logarithmic and rational functions), trigonometric functions (and their inverses), L’Hospital’s rules, definite integral. fundamental Theorem of Calculus and applications of integration, including areas of regions and volumes of solids of revolution. The first half of this course was a review for me but make sure you still go to class. It’s really easy to fall behind.
Bonus tip: Do past calc exams! You can buy them at the bookstore or reach out to any upper-year students for them. A lot of questions come from past exams, especially the long answer questions.
This course is a continuation of Calc 1000 and it will cover integration (integration by parts, partial fractions, special substitutions, etc), Taylor series, parametric curves, arc length, first-order differential equations with applications. Please practice, practice and practice! It’s the only way you’ll do great in this course (unless you’re a genius in calc)
Bonus tip: Do textbook homework! I’m not a fan of doing textbook work, but math is something you need to practice. Textbook questions are often harder than exam problems so if you can do that, you’ll be more than ready for your exam. Please take into account that your mark is determined by how well you do in your midterm and final.
Psychology 1000: Introduction to Psychology (Full year)
I took Psychology as my elective because I wanted a break from the sciences and I knew it would be a big portion on the MCAT (90% of Med Sci students do the same). Personally, this was my favourite subject because of how interesting the topics were. Some topics include biological psychology, sensation, and perception, learning and motivation, cognitive processes, intelligence and personality. This course is content-heavy and as a result, the exams are often knowledge-based multiple-choice questions. If psychology isn’t your cup of tea, there are thousands of electives so do your research!
Bonus tip: Textbook readings are the worst. Get notes from upper-year students to spare the workload. Focus on what the professor teaches you. Also, practice using the question banks! A lot of questions from the exam comes from there, plus it’s good practice to see how well you know the content.
Hopefully, my experience gives you an idea of what to expect when school starts. Everyone says, don’t be nervous, and I know it’s impossible to do so, but I hope you’re feeling a little more prepared now heading into your first year of Med Sci at Western.
If you have any questions or want to know more about my first-year experience, feel free to email me at [email protected]