Pre Med vs Med school

I repeatedly received the question how the pre-clinical part of my degree and how the clinical section went.

There is a rumour, that the pre-clinical section up to the first medical examination is hell on earth and if you make it through, it will all become better after.

This is not fully correct, however, there is definitely something true to it.


The pre-clinic starts the first two to four weeks totally relaxed with lectures only.

But quite quickly the relaxed time ends and the first exams are due ā€“ in a one- or two-week stroke.

For us it started with anatomy: once per month an oral exam about the taught content of the last four weeks. Biology, physics and chemistry were due as well in the first year.

The second year continued with the test-intensive courses biochemistry, physiology, chemistry labs, neuroanatomy, and some more laid-back subjects like psychology etc.

During the pre-clinic, a continuous study effort is essential since every week or at least every other week you are in the danger of being tested.

On the one hand, this is extremely annoying and strenuous, on the other hand, you are pressured into actually studying continuously and will not have to study thaaat incredibly much for the final exams.

Everyone who is in pre-clinic currently complains about the examination efforts and longs for finally arriving in clinic.

Especially, the third and fourth semester were very exhausting. Time flies when you are working hard and there was not much time left for activities outside the uni.

Itā€™s also important to mention that the first two years were harder due to a university degree being something completely different than (high) school work and everyone has to undergo an adjustment phase initially.

Something else that distinguishes pre-clinic from clinic is that the former comprises a lot more mandatory seminars.

Lectures during pre-clinic and clinic are departmental events at most universities. The distribution and timing of the exams is, of course, dependent on the respective teaching facility.


Successful completion of the first medical exam and arrival in the clinic ā€“ for many the stressful times are over now!

The biggest plus about clinic is that all exams are taken at the end of the semester. This way, it may happen that five to ten tests are written in a span of two to three weeks.

This is a considerable relief during the semester, however, at the latest one month before the exams, everyone has started preparing. These preparation phases are highly intense and here, too, very little time is left for leisure activities aside studying.

Since it is more relaxed during the semester, there is enough space for a healthy work life balance and many medical students flourish during this time.

The fifth semester still holds a number of basic subjects such as pharmacology, clinical chemistry or microbiology. The teaching of these subjects happens mostly in seminar rooms.

In the tenor of the further degree, more and more UAK courses will be added. UAK means ā€œUnterricht am Krankenbettā€, i.e., bedside teaching. Here, in small groups of 3-10 students, specific cases are discussed with a physician on the station and indeed clinical inspections are demonstrated right on the bedside of the patient.

Towards the end of the degree, it will become a bit more taxing again. Our last two semesters had so many UAKs on schedule that effectively compulsory attendance was imposed again at the uni, sometimes with lectures going from 8am to 5pm. Parallelly, the studying in preparation for the second medical exam begun.


In summary, we could say the pre-clinic has rather school-like structures with a high number of mandatory seminars and continuous exams.

In the clinal section, you will have the opportunity to experience and enjoy true student life. The available time can be freely organized. Only few compulsory seminars and no mandatory attendance in lectures enable you to pursue various hobbies and educate yourself aside from the uni, to start a doctoral thesis or even get a time-consuming job.

I, personally, profoundly enjoyed the free time and the freedom during the clinical study section!

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