When I was in primary school, I never had any assignments. Examinations were the only form of assessment. Then, in lower secondary school, there were assignments for the History and Geography subjects. In Form 1, since that was my first time doing assignments, it was very daunting for me. I did not have any idea how to do the History assignment, so I had to ask my mother to do most of it for me. The Geography assignment was a bit easier because my teacher gave us samples of it, but I still had to do it under my mother's guidance. At that time, I hated assignments a lot. In Form 2, since I had the experience of doing the assignments in the previous year, I did not find them so difficult and I was able to do them without help from my mother. I also worked with my friends on some parts of the assignments. I no longer hated assignments, although I still did not enjoy doing them. In Form 3, I no longer felt that the assignments were difficult, due to the experience I had from the past 2 years. In fact, I began to enjoy doing the assignments. The reason was because at that time, my grandparents limited my usage of the Internet because they were concerned about my studies, but I could use the assignments as an excuse to go onto the Internet, since the assignments were done using computer.
In upper secondary school, there was no more assignment for History. Instead, there were assignments for ICT, Additional Mathematics and Moral Education. The ICT assignment was quite easy and I enjoyed doing it. However, it turned out that my teacher himself offered to do some parts of the assignment for every student. I preferred my own work, but unfortunately my teacher did not like my work and he insisted that I use the one provided by him. The Additional Mathematics assignment was also quite easy and I enjoyed doing it too. I eventually scored 8/10 in that assignment. The Moral Education assignment was not difficult, but I did not enjoy doing it because it involved writing essays which I disliked. Worst of all, unlike other assignments, the Moral Education assignment must be handwritten and cannot be done using computer.
After finishing my SPM examination, my parents took me to attend the Taylor's College open day in December 2012. There, the counsellor introduced Cambridge A Level and South Australian Matriculation (SAM) which were the pre-university programmes offered at Taylor's College. He explained to us that A Level is fully accessed by examinations while SAM is assessed by 30% examinations and 70% assignments. Thinking back at secondary school, even though I did enjoy doing some of the assignments, I was more accustomed to examinations compared to assignments as most of the subjects in secondary school were fully assessed by examination. So, I decided that A Level which is fully examination based is more suitable for me.
In January 2013, I started studying A Level at Taylor's College. There was no assignment at all for the A Level subjects. However, I had to study the MPW Moral Education and Malaysian Studies subjects which were made compulsory by the Ministry of Education. Both assignments and examinations were used in the assessment of the MPW subjects. Therefore, I still had assignments to do. The Moral Education assignment was a group assignment. At that time, I was quite antisocial in college and I was not close to any one in my assignment group. As a result, I refused to participate in that assignment and I thought I could pass by just scoring well in the examination. It turned out that I failed the MPW Moral Education because I had no mark for the assignment. After discussing with the lecturer, he gave me an alternative 20 page assignment with the title 'The Dumping of Babies in Malaysia'. I definitely did not enjoy that assignment, but I was able to do it reasonably well, so I managed to pass the Moral Education in the end. As for the MPW Malaysian Studies, there was also a group assignment. Unlike the Moral Education, the lecturer allowed us to choose our group members. I chose to be in the same group with my few close friends and I participated in the assignment. In this assignment, we had to do a drama about pickpockets and I acted as the victim. It was quite easy and interesting.
In September 2014, I started studying MBBS at NUMed. For Stage 1 and 2 of MBBS, there are 3 forms of assessment which are Single Best Answer (SBA) examinations, OSCE and assignments. In order pass a year, students need to pass all 3 forms of assessments; a good performance in one cannot compensate for a poor performance in another. In the beginning, I thought that examinations would be much easier than assignments because examinations consist of just multiple choice questions, while assignments require writing long essays. In addition, I previously studied A Level which is fully examination based. I also knew that university assignments would be very different from and much more difficult than assignments in secondary school. Therefore, I wished that there would be only examinations but not assignments.
There were 3 assignments in Stage 1 of MBBS. The 1st assignment was distributed just 2 weeks after the start of the course. In this assignment, I had to write a newspaper report about folic acid supplementation and spina bifida, and a reflection about my first 4 weeks at NUMed. I found this assignment very difficult, as I had never written a newspaper report or a reflection before. Worst of all, its submission deadline was just 3 days after the Progress 1 examination. I had to do half of the assignment during my revision period before the examination, and I left the other half for the 3 days after the exam. I was able to finish and submit the assignment on time, but I had no idea whether or not I did the assignment correctly. I eventually got a borderline pass for this assignment.
The 2nd assignment was critical appraisal and literature review. This assignment was even more difficult than the 1st so I decided to get a sample of the assignment from one of my seniors and use it as a guide. With the guide, I had the idea how it should be done. However, this assignment was extremely tedious, because I had to read several long journal articles in detail, and that made me feel very stressed. Worst of all, for my batch, a new instruction was introduced for the first time, where the journal articles should be reviewed in an integrated manner rather than 'one after another'. Reviewing them 'one after another' is definitely easier and that was also what my senior did because it was allowed during his batch. Amid the stress, I took the risk and did the review 'one after another', ignoring the instruction. I also did not make any citations which was required because I found it troublesome to do so. In the end, I once again got a borderline pass for the 2nd assignment, but my score improved slightly compared to the 1st assignment. I was not deducted any marks for reviewing the articles 'one after another', but I lost several marks for not making citations. The difficulty of the 1st and 2nd assignments made me hate assignments even more.
Then, the 3rd assignment was the Family Study. I was required to write a detailed report after visiting a pregnant mother 4 times with my study partner. This assignment was the longest and it contributed the most marks compared to the others, so it was given particular attention by the lecturers. However, unlike the 1st and 2nd assignments, I felt this assignment was easier and more interesting. I was able to complete it without much stress and difficulties, and I didn't even get a sample from my seniors. I also learnt how to use EndNote at that time which made citations much easier. I was very confident that I would pass it. At last, I scored 85% for the 3rd assignment. It was an excellent score and a very huge improvement compared to my 2nd assignment, and I was very proud of it. Because of that, I no longer hated assignments.
After completing the 3rd assignment, I was relieved that there would be no more assignments in Stage 1. Since I found the assignments most difficult, I thought that the remaining of Stage 1 should be easy. However, I soon realised that I was too naive to think that way. It turned out that my revision for the Progress 3 examination was very stressful as there were a lot to revise and I started the revision too late. At that time, I no longer felt that examinations are easier than assignments.
In Stage 2 of MBBS, there were only 2 assignments, unlike Stage 1. The 1st assignment was the Patient Study. In this assignment, I had to visit a patient with a chronic illness 4 times with my study partners and then produce a report about the patient. It was quite similar to the Family Study in Stage 1. Before I started doing this assignment, I had expected that it would not be too difficult since I did not find the Family Study difficult previously. This assignment turned out to be a little more difficult than the Family Study because it required more knowledge. Still, I did not feel stressed doing it. In fact, I completed and submitted it one week before the deadline. I eventually scored 75% in this assignment. Even though not as good as the Family Study, it is still a very good score.
The 2nd assignment was the Student Selected Component (SSC). This assignment had 2 parts, literature review and oral presentation. For the 1st part, I had to choose a topic that I was interested in and do a literature review about the topic. It was similar to the 2nd assignment in Stage 1. I chose the topic "Is mirror therapy an effective treatment option for phantom limb?". I first heard about phantom limb during one of the lectures in NUMed and I was interested to explore further about it. Before I started doing this assignment, I expected it would be quite difficult since the 2nd assignment in Stage 1 was very difficult. However, it turned out that this assignment was not that difficult after all. Even though I had to read several journal articles, I did not feel too stressed this time, probably because I had gained experience from Stage 1 and the topic which I selected myself was more interesting. For the 2nd part, I had to present to an audience about a topic of my choice. I chose the topic "Treatment of phantom limb". I considered this to be the easiest among all assessments in the MBBS course. Back in Stage 1, when I first knew about the existence of this oral presentation, I thought that it would be quite difficult for me, but my thoughts on that had since changed. I felt that I performed quite well during the oral presentation. I scored 75% for the SSC in the end, which is the same score as the Patient Study.
After completing the 2nd assignment, I started revising for the Progress 2 examination. Just like what I had expected earlier, the revision was extremely stressful because there were a lot to revise and the topics were quite difficult. Since then, I feel that examinations are actually much more difficult than assignments. Writing essays for the assignments may not be easy, but it is definitely not as difficult as having to understand and remember a lot of information when revising for the examinations. This is definitely in contrast to what I thought in the beginning of Stage 1.
In Stage 3 of MBBS, there was no assignment. Instead, Stage 3 was assessed by SBA examinations, OSCE and MOSLER's. I faced great difficulties with the MOSLER's, and I nearly failed Stage 3 because of that. I really wished that there would be assignments rather than the MOSLER's. In the 1st semester of Stage 4, there was no assignment as well. The only assessment in this semester was SBA examinations.
The 2nd semester of Stage 4 of MBBS consisted of three Student Selected Components (SSC) and the first two SSC were assessed by assignments. For SSC1, there was an oral presentation of an interesting topic. It was similar to the SSC oral presentation in Stage 2. During SSC1, I carried out a research project about the perception of medical students on the SBA examinations in NUMed. I then presented to the audience the findings of my research project during the oral presentation. I did not find the oral presentation difficult, but there were several areas which I felt I did not perform very well. This made me feel a bit worried about my results.
For SSC2, there was an abstract and poster presentation of an audit or research project. During SSC2, I carried out an audit on clinical monitoring and care of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus patients at Klinik Kesihatan Mahmoodiah. After that, I produced an abstract and a poster summarising my audit. I tried to do my best in order to compensate for what I did not perform well in the SSC1 oral presentation. I found this assignment quite easy and I was rather relaxed, just as I had expected. In fact, I felt that this assignment was much easier than the assignments in Stage 1 and 2, since the abstract and poster were only one page each. Eventually, I scored 70% for the SSC1 oral presentation and 85% for the SSC2 abstract and poster. I was very happy of my SSC2 results, while I was still satisfied with my SSC1 results.
My next assignment will be the Elective assignment in Stage 5 of MBBS.