Why 3rd MBBS Exam is the Least Discussed in Med School

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Not more than a year has passed since I wrote the 3rd MBBS exam, but the memories of the 2nd MBBS are still fresher to recall for me. It is just as though I finished the 2nd MBBS exam yesterday, but there is not much to talk about the 3rd MBBS. And very soon I will be facing another tough exam; the 4th -MBBS. And I can barely remember the events that took place during the 3rd MBBS days. I am certain it is the same for most other Medical Students in Nigeria.

I have been asking myself why 3rd MBBS is the least discussed of most medical school exams in Nigeria. But I could only think of a few things, that is why I decided to share this, and also to help people understand that other exams like the 2nd-MBBS are not the only tough ones Medical students encounter in school.

First let me drive you through some details about 3rd MBBS, and the Typical Life of a Medical Student in 3rd MBBS class.

Table of Contents

The Nature of 3rd MBBS in a Typical Nigerian Medical School

3rd mbbs

(The University of Nigeria Medical School Will Be Used as a Reference Point)

3rd MBBS exam is the 2nd professional exam Medical students write in their career journey. 3rd MBBS class is also the class that launches Medical Students into the Clinical part of Medical School. This is usually completed in approximately 10 (plus or minus 1) months in some Nigerian Medical schools (Like the University of Nigeria). Making it the shortest exam class in Nigerian Medical school. The number of months is usually more for other Medical schools in the country.

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Academic Activities Within this Period

Courses Involved:

  • Pathology – Study of Human disease processes

Pathology is made up of 4 Different Departments, that run their programs constructively.

These departments include:
  • Chemical Pathology
  • Heamatology and Immunology
  • Morbid Pathology and
  • Medical Microbiology

All four departments have their own independent textbooks, lecturers, Practicals, and departmental buildings.

  • Clinical Pharmacology – Study of Medicinal-drugs, and their uses in the cure of diseases.
  • Medicine and Surgery 1

Also, Read; How to stay motivated in medical school

An Overview of the Program

3rd mbbs exams
3rd MBBS exams in medical school

First 3 Months (12 Weeks):

Within the first 12 weeks of the Program, Medical students are introduced to the first part of the program, which usually covers up to half of the courses involved. That is for both Pathology and Pharmacology; leaving the Medicine and Surgery 2 courses untouched.

For a typical school day, students spend at least 8 hours of classwork; including lectures and practicals (8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Sometimes 5:00 pm).

Also, during these periods, Medical Students usually go to their Teaching Hospitals to see patients in the various departments in Pathology.

Usually, at the end of the 12th Week, Medical students are accessed for the first part of the courses they learned.

Second 3 Months (12th Week to 24th Week)

Within the next 3 months Medical Students are launched into the 2nd part of the program, which is entirely different from what they have been doing; the Introduction to Medicine and Surgery (Medicine and Surgery 1). This usually covers all the Signs and Symptoms of Diseases plus Introduction to Medical Clerkship.

Here students are taught how to see patients presenting for both Medical and Surgical cases.

Also, in the end, a test is conducted for the students and the performance is recorded as it will be used for the final compilation of their results in the final year.

The Last 3 Months

This is where Medical students are finally introduced to the core concepts of Pathology and Clinical Pharmacology. This is usually the most stressful part of the program. Before the end of the 3 months, another test is conducted for the students which is meant to prepare them for the final exams.

Then finally, the 3rd MBBS exam is taken; covers both Medical Pharmacology and Human Pathology.

The program is actually the most intense in the life of Medical Students in Nigeria, because of the short time it takes to complete, and the overall workload. The volume of Pathology alone can cover both Medical Biochemistry and Human Physiology Combined. But how come this exam is not often discussed among Nigerian Medical Students?

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3 Reasons Why 3rd MBBS exam is the Least Discussed of the Medical Exams in Nigeria

discussion group medical school motivation idea

1. Adaptive Coping Mechanisms

Fear is one of the greatest motivators in keeping memories. No wonder it is closely associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. People almost never forget events that caused them so much fear, pain, and worry. And this goes a long way to affect subsequent events; both the happy and the unhappy ones. And even when they have newer experiences, it is difficult to erase the old ones engraved by fear. And much more difficult if they happen to conquer the experience that caused them so much fear.

Remember that 2nd -MBBS is the most dreaded exam in Medical school. That is why it is popularly called the “rate Limiting exam”. During the 2nd -MBBS phase, Medical students are faced majorly with the fear of remaining in Medical school, because failing the exam more than once evicts one from Medical school. And once that barrier is crossed, there is a great chance that those who succeed in passing through this phase get more mature and relaxed in spite of so much tension that may come in the future.

So my first theory is that Medical Students tend to adapt to the stress that comes from passing through the 2nd -MBBS class. Then, other subsequent exams seem less challenging than they originally appear, till they jam 4th MBBS.

Also, remember that people tend to remember times in their life when they are passing through difficult situations the most. So the trauma of 2nd -MBBS kind of leaves very little space for recording subsequent events till they are gradually erased. So for 3rd MBBS, the memory will fade as quickly as it comes.

2. The Short Time It Takes to Complete 3rd MBBS Exam

3rd MBBS lasts just for about 9 to 10 months, making it the shortest exam class in Medical school. Other classes like 2nd and 4th MBBS takes about 18 months to complete, while the Final (5th -MBBS) takes about 10 months or more to complete.

So the experience is witnessed for a shorter time and the memory may not be well engraved. Also, the fast-paced life of Medical students within the period makes it difficult to keep memories.

Also, Read; 12 Misconceptions About Studying Medicine in Nigeria

3. There is No Break After the Exam

Usually, having time for a break helps in the consolidation of memory. But for Medical students, there is rarely time to such after the 3rd MBBS exam. In less than a week after the last day of the exam, Medical students are immediately launched into the next class; the 4th -MBBS class. So in no time, memories from 4th -MBBS replaces that which you have from 3rd MBBS, and the journey continues.

Also, Read; Career Pathways after Medical School: 6 Opportunities for Nigerian Doctors


Beware of the 3rd MBBS exam! It is not as easy it appears to be. Medical students also pass through a lot of stress at this level, just that it is masked by so much resilience acquired from 3rd MBBS. So still show the same concern and attention you shower on those in 2nd -MBBS class to them, it is not easy.

But also remember it is not too difficult to pass. If you are in 3rd MBBS class, give it your best shot, you will definitely hit the full points.

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  1. Your MBBS program is entirely different from ours. Here in Unimaid, MBBS 3 is just 5-6 months and it is just the continuation of MBBS2 courses(Human Anatomy, human Physiology, and medical biochemistry).

    MBBS4 is the longest class (15-16Months) and we are introduced to medicine 1, surgery 1, pediatrics 1, community medicine 1, and O & G 1 but the major courses are Pathology (Microbiology & immunology, haematology, chemical pathology, basic pathology, and forensic pathology) and clinical pharmacology. We write pathology and clinical pharmacology exams in MBBS4.

    MBBS5 (9-10months) is basically for medical specialty postings (Radiology, dermatology, ENT, Ophthalmology, Psychiatry, ) Community medicine 2, and more clinical postings (Medicine 2, Surgery 2, Pediatrics 2, and O&G 2). We write Pediatrics and O&G exams in MBBS 5.

    MBBS 6 (7-8months): Medicine 3, Surgery 3, and Community medicine 3. Here we write Medicine, Surgery and Community medicine exams.

    I saw your post on Nigerian SEO/bloggers. So, I have to check your medic blog. Nice write up by the way.

    • Thanks for the comment!
      From what you said, it should take more than 6 years to complete an MBBS program at Unimaid. Pathology and Pharmacology are the main courses we study for 3rd MBBS here in UNTH. But I don’t think all these will really matter in the end.
      We will all get to face similar challenges post-graduation from medical school, only that time is the difference.

      • It’s also 6 years in Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University Sokoto, although I am a pharmacy student and we run the same model as the one Mr Ibrahim Garba mentioned

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