The Truth Behind Health Science First Year Textbooks

Brynn OngHealth Science First Year, Uncategorized3 Comments

The university encourages you to purchase Health Science First Year (HSFY) textbooks to aid with learning and improve your knowledge. But is it really necessary? Do you really need it to score A+ for the exams? How much do they cost? Any alternatives?

In this post, I hope to explain as much as I can about HSFY textbooks. Please keep in mind that these are my personal opinion but a lot of other ex-HSFY students tend to agree as well.

How Does HSFY Textbooks Work?

At the start, the university will give you a list of textbooks that they recommend you to buy. They are optional, not compulsory. They will recommend you to buy from the university bookshop but other cheaper options would be to get them from trademe, the secondhand bookstore or simply borrow them from the university library.

Once the semester start, each exam paper/ subject will give you a list of textbook pages to read. There are:

  1. Pre-readings- textbook pages that you read prior to the lectures
  2. Essential readings- textbook pages that you read prior/ after lectures to “top up” your learning
  3. Practice questions- especially for CHEM191, there are practice questions in the textbook that they recommend you to do

Each lecture will recommend one or more of the above.

In lectures, the lecturers use powerpoint presentations aka lecture slides to teach students. So to read the textbooks, you have to find time outside of lecture hours.

Do You Really Need HSFY Textbooks?

If you haven’t read my “HSFY- How I Scored A+ and Got Into Medicine” series, I suggest you to do so. It contain lots of useful content, resources and insight towards HSFY. If you have read it then you should know by now how much I hated textbooks.

Like all HSFY newbies, I was determined to do all the textbook pre-readings and “essential” readings. In fact, I bought ALL the HSFY textbooks BRAND NEW (it cost me about $600 for all of them!).

When the semester started, I was spending hours and hours reading the textbooks. The process was mentally exhausting. So I asked my senior – how did he manage to read the textbooks as well as revise the lectures? His answer was unexpected – “STOP reading textbooks, they are a complete waste of time and add very little value to your learning. Focus on learning the lecture slides instead”.

I thought he was joking but he was dead serious. He was no ordinary HSFY student- he scored 99% A+ average in all 7 HSFY papers and smashed UMAT with absurd high marks. I was very skeptical and continued reading the textbooks anyway. It wasn’t until the first term test (HUBS191 term test) that I finally snapped- ALL the term test questions and topics were covered in lectures and lecture slides! I cannot believe how much time I have wasted reading the textbooks!

So I threw all the textbooks aside and never looked at them again.

Result? I used the extra free time to fully focus on studying all the lecture slides and scored A+ overall. Obviously, I regretted buying all the textbooks. It was probably the biggest mistake I made during HSFY.

So Are The Textbooks Useless?

I wouldn’t say that they are completely useless. They have their own benefits and can help with learning. The problem is that the benefit or return are NOT WORTH the time you invest on it! More than 90% of the exam questions are covered in the lectures already. Reading textbooks may cover an extra 1-2% of the exam questions, but at what cost? Hours and hours of your scarce precious time!

Alternative Study Materials

Okay, so HSFY textbooks are bad investments, what are some other good, more bang for your bucks alternative study resources? Don’t get me wrong, lecture slides should still be your primary study resource but some lecture slides can be vague and difficult to understand. Well here is a list of my favourite study materials according to the exam papers.

  1. HUBS191/ HUBS192
    1. Aptitute- written by previous A+ HSFY students, the contents are conscise, easy to understand and carefully written.
    2. HUBS191 exam answers– NOT actual exam answers. They are written by students who score A+ in the exam.
  2. CHEM191
    1. My notes– As a CHEM191 private tutor, I constantly revise and update my CHEM191 notes to ensure they are relevant and exam focused. Last updated- 2015.
  3. BIOC192
    1. My notes– Similar to my CHEM191 notes, I have written BIOC192 notes according to lecture objectives and the contents are exam focused. Last updated- 2015

Unfortunately, there are not many good study materials for PHSI191, CELS191 and PUBH192. However, I am open to suggestions, if you found any resources that you find helpful, please let me know so that we can share it!

My Suggestion

In summary, HSFY textbooks are costly and inefficient study resources. If you ask ex-HSFY students, I am sure the majority would not recommend reading the textbooks. If you still believe that they are of good value, that’s okay. But please do yourself a favour, don’t rush to buy the textbooks. Instead, borrow them for free from the library (they have heaps!) and use them for a few weeks and see how you find it. If you find that they are useful then go ahead and buy the textbooks. At least you know that they are worth your money.

In saying that, your main study resource should always be your lecture slides! Even if you liked the textbooks, they are complementary to the lectures only. Always make sure that studying lecture slides is your number one priority!

I hope this has given you a better idea of HSFY textbooks. If you have any comments or questions, please do e-mail me at I appreciate any feedback or suggestions to improve this website!


3 Comments on “The Truth Behind Health Science First Year Textbooks”

  1. Dear Dr. Ong,
    Thank you so much for your post. I really appreciate it!
    I’m going into HSFY next year but I’m a kinda really slow person, so I wanted to do some study over the holidays so I’m at least prepared for next year. The problem is…I don’t know how to get any material for next year. Is there anything you could recommend me?

    P-S: Your notes are incredible! Thank you so much!

  2. Hey Brynn,

    I have just started HSFY, in 2019, and a lot of the content has changed, overtime. One thing that hasn’t changed is the cost of the textbooks that students are required to purchase. I wholeheartedly, agree with you on this one. I only use my textbooks to look at worked examples, in Chem and Physics, so I don’t see the point in me reading pages and pages of the same information when the Lectures (and Lecturers) cover most of the textbook content. This has really helped me a lot, even though it’s been a few years since you were a HSFY students.

    Thank you, again..

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