HSFY- How I Scored A+ and Got Into Medicine (Part 1)

Brynn OngHealth Science First Year17 Comments

Health Science First Year Otago University- Semester 1

So health science first year (HSFY) has started. For the first 2 weeks you learn to adapt to the chilly weather, recover from hangover and do your own laundry hopelessly. Before you know it, 20+ lectures has just passed and now you are trying to figure out the best way to study and manage your time. Each time you try, you fail.

I was in your position as well- clueless, hopeless and useless

A common misconception is that A+ students are exceptionally smart students who have everything prepared and sorted out from the beginning. They know what to study and how to study. From my experience, that is NOT entirely true- I know people (myself included) who are average students, lost at the start but worked hard, picked up the pace of HSFY and ended up with results just as excellent as “smart” students.

In this post, I will elaborate in detail- how I studied for each subject, the mistakes I made, what I could have done better, useful resources and personal recommendations for each subject in HSFY semester 1.

HUBS 191

How I studied for HUBS191

  • Started off by doing textbook pre-reading materials, attending lectures and writing my own notes. (as per HUBS department recommendations)
  • However, I quickly realised that this process was very time consuming and labor intensive– doing pre-reading and writing pre-reading notes took about 1 hour, attending lectures and tidying up the notes for the lecture cost another 2 hours or so. Total: 3-4 HOURS on ONE lecture!
  • This became unfeasible especially when mid-term tests were around the corner.  On top of studying new lectures, I had to revise previous lectures as well. If you have early features of “Alzheimer’s”  like me, it can be a nightmare to try and remember the old lectures. Very stressful period, I would spent 3-4 hrs for new lectures and at least another 3-4 more hours to revise old lectures. Total: 8 HOURS for HUBS191 ONLY
  • Worst part – As  the mid-term exams for the other 3 subjects were relatively close to each other (1 week apart, sometimes only 2-3 days), I simply CANNOT afford to spend too much time and brain energy on HUBS191,

Life changing moment

  • My senior from medical school advised
    • Print off the lecture slides before the lecture, attend all the lectures and focus 100% on listening, understanding and annotating the printed slides.
    • These annotated printed slides then became my new form of “notes”.
    • So for the rest of the semester, I studied and revised all HUBS191 lectures from these annotated lecture slides.
    • Result: 4hrs turned to 1hr for each lecture. *Phew* I had room to breath and I could spend that extra 3hrs on reading, consolidating and memorising (lots of memorising!) the annotated lecture slides + revise multiple lectures.
    • Another very useful tip that I wished I knew earlier was to purchase “Aptitute”- HUBS notes made by medical students- these notes are very conscise, simple to read and easy to understand and has space for extra annotations.

For labs and GLMs- went to all the labs, did all the GLMs with friends. Free easy marks.

Term tests- Usually intensive preparation 1 week before. By using the new study method above, I typically revised 3-4 lectures a day, then attempt to revise ALL the lectures one day before exam.

Finals- Similar to how I prepare for term tests, except that I will do ALL the past year questions. I wrote down all the answers for the short answer questions and essays. You can download it below (under useful resources) for FREE.

Mistakes I made 

  • Wasted hours and hours on making notes from scratch.
  • Did not study lab materials- they actually had some questions from the lab sessions. Not a lot, but I should have at least skimmed through the materials.

Useful Resources

  • Lecture slides- your staple study material
  • Aptitute- HUBS191 notes written by A+ medical students. Purchase from university book store
  • Model answers that I wrote for HUBS191 final exams
    • Download the link below- please note that there might be some mistakes and are by no means perfect answers. If you spot any mistakes, please contact me 🙂

HUBS191 Finals- Self-written answers

Personal Recommendations

Before I give my personal recommendations on how you should tackle HUBS191, just be aware that everyone is different. What works for me, might not work for you. However, throughout my experience as a private HSFY coach/ tutor, students tend to do better with these top tips.


Analysis of past HUBS191 exam papers (2007-2011)

CELS 191

The study of cells, microbiology and stuff that cannot be seen by the human naked eye.

How I studied for CELS191

  • Basically the same as HUBS191. Initially did pre-reading materials and wrote notes from scratch but then transitioned to studying from printed lecture slides.
  • The difference between CELS191 vs HUBS191
    • CELS191 has more depth– I found that you actually need to understand each topic and not just blindly memorise all the lecture slides.
    • I personally found that some of the CELS191 contents quite difficult to understand. I had to google for more information.
    • Textbook- More redundant for CELS191- most of the textbook reading materials were supplementaries only, not core information.

For labs, blackboard tests, GLMs- went to all the labs, did all the blackboard tests and did all the GLMs with friends. The GLMs tests were very tricky- even with the smartest friends, we could never get full marks. Otherwise labs and blackboard tests were free, easy marks.

Term tests- same as HUBS191. Did practice questions and past mid-term tests. I could not believe the amount of times they reuse the same questions again. The practice questions on blackboard definitely helped me a lot- after many practices, I sort of know what they look for in my answers.

Finals- same as how I studied for term test. The key is to smash as many past year papers and practice questions as possible. Understand the contents THEN memorise!

Mistakes I made

  • Memorising everything- Not ALL the contents in the lecture slides were examinable, some of them were just simply used for examples
  • Memorising blindly- I should have learned to understand the content first BEFORE memorising it
  • Not doing the GLM booklets- as a result I did not do so well for my GLMs tests. There were 1 or 2 questions in the final exams as well

Useful Resources

  • Lecture slides
  • Google

Personal Recommendations

Unlike in HUBS191 where we have Aptitute, there were no reliable notes that I could find. Hence, I recommend


My Results?

*Sorry I could not print screen the marks for CELS191 as it is out of order. I got 94% for CELS191*


These two subjects are very memory intensive and took about 60-70% of my time in semester 1. The key is to

  • Start early– the earlier you start, the more time you have.
  • Study and revise consistently– Don’t just cram everything 1 week before exam, study everyday and your brain will be able to synthesise information better
  • Find the best way to retain and memorise all the lecture slides for YOU
  • Do past year exam papers– important!

What about CHEM191 and PHSI191? Most students consider these two as the most difficult subjects in semester 1. Visit part 2 and read how I manage to score A+ for both subjects.

I have many, many more resources that I can share with you for free- just e-mail me at brynn1991@yahoo.com (don’t worry its not a spam!). If you have any questions, concerns or comments, feel free to leave a comment or contact me =)


17 Comments on “HSFY- How I Scored A+ and Got Into Medicine (Part 1)”

  1. Hi Brynn, where would I be able to find the lecture slides before the lecture? Are they just on blackboard?
    Thank you

    1. Depending on the subject. Chem and phsi has answers online but not hubs and cels. There is hubs finals answers written by ex students in the resources page

  2. What could a Year 12 student do to prepare for HFSY at Otago and how difficult is it for an average student to do well?

    1. Hey Liam! There are a lot of things that you can do in high school to prepare for hsfy. It’s great that you want to start preparing now. My best advice is to have a good chemistry, mathematics and physics background. Also find the study technique that suits you. A study method that you find helpful to remember large amount of information.

  3. Hello Brynn,

    I was wondering what is the most effective way to study BIOC192 and POPH192? Should I mix it with Anki and doing past exam papers?

    1. Hi, I suggest to firstly understand the contents of the lecture slides (especially for PUBH192). Then work on memorising the content using the study method that works best for you (flash cards etc.) Check out my BIOC192 notes under the resources section.

  4. Hi,
    In your recommended study plan for HUBS191 you say that the day before the test you would revise all 14 lectures. Do you mean revising your printed and annotated lecture slides or rewatching the lectures?

  5. Hi,

    I’m wondering where I could get the answers for past papers. I don’t see them posted on the website, how will I know my answers are correct?

    1. Hi Jen, the university usually release the answers on blackboard a few months before the finals. Not all papers will have answers (for example hubs and cels don’t release answers)

  6. Hi Brynn,

    Where can you find the answers for past year exams? Also where do you find the mid-terms exams because I can only find the final exam papers?

    Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi, the university usually release the answers on blackboard a few months before the finals. Not all papers will have answers (for example hubs and cels don’t release answers).

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