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    The Basics of Block Exams in Medical School

    Posted by Scott Harrah
    December 11, 2013

    Block exams are unique to medical school. As explains, “Most medical schools administer block exams, meaning that each set of exams is given in one week, with a different test each day. It’s like having final exam week [several] times per year, where each exam begins almost as soon as the previous one ends. The consequences are clear: without proper planning and preparation ahead of this week, there is virtually no way for most students to catch up once the exam block begins. However, the silver lining of the block system is that you then have no exams for another [few] weeks, which, depending on your studying style, offers you a nice cushion after the last test, during which you can decompress and recharge.”

    Block exams are an integral part of the curriculum at UMHS. At UMHS, block exams are all done in one day. Final exams last a week but not the block exams – and we have three block days each semester.

    The UMHS Endeavour spoke to Dr. Thomas Last, UMHS Dean of Student Affairs, about why the system is used.

    “Students take exams for all the major subjects they are enrolled in on that day,” Dr. Last says. “There are multiple reasons why we use the block exam system. The primary reason is to help the students better prepare for the USMLE exams. The USMLE Step exams last all day and can be quite grueling. These block exams help build the endurance and test-taking skills students will need to succeed.”

    UMHS block exams are typically scheduled on the Mondays of the 5th, 9th and 13th weeks of each semester.

    UMHS schedule for block exams for the Winter 2014 semester:

    Block 1 is on Monday, February 10th
    Block 2 is on Monday, March 10th
    Block 3 is on Monday, April 7th

    How should U.S. and Caribbean medical school students handle block exams?

    Consider the following comment from a block exam blog on, “Imagine all of your class exams combined; the amount of material is just too much. The key is to keep up with the material every day even though the exam may not be for another three weeks or so (easier said than done). At least with block exams, you don't skip or fall behind classes so that you can study for this one test coming up.”

    (Top photo) BLOCK EXAMS: The key is to keep up with the material daily so you don’t fall behind. Photo:

    About UMHS:

    Built in the tradition of the best US universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciencesfocuses on individual student attention, maintaining small class sizes and recruiting high-quality faculty. We call this unique approach, “personalized medical education,” and it’s what has led to our unprecedented 96% student retention rate, and outstanding residency placements across the US and Canada. UMHS is challenging everything you thought you knew about Caribbean medical schools.


    Posted by Scott Harrah

    Scott is Director of Digital Content at UMHS and editor of the UMHS Endeavour blog. When he's not writing about UMHS students, faculty, events, public health, alumni and UMHS research, he writes and edits Broadway theater reviews for a website he publishes in New York City,

    Topics: Admissions

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