With the 2017 WAPT (Wits Additional Placement Test) just a few days away and having interacted with some many applicants over the last few weeks, I found myself reminiscing a lot about my own personal experience.
Most people talk and blog about their medical school or working experience but it’s quite rare to have someone share their ‘before medical school’ part of the journey. The waiting, the stressing, the doubts and just everything building up to that response letter. So I thought I’d start a new series of entries going back about 3 years or so sharing my thought processes, my fears and my emotions at different points of that journey. What I’m hoping for is that it may resonate with some of you and maybe even inspire and motivate you a little.
I was a late bloomer, even though I had grown up wanting to be and dreaming about becoming a doctor, it was only in my third year of my B.Sc that I decided to pursue the dream. To be honest I don’t know why it had taken me so long to go after it, but the one thing I know for sure is that fear of being rejected was a really big part of that.
After I completed my B.Sc in 2013, I was forced into taking a gap year. I still owed the university quite a substantial amount so 2014 was really the year to work that off and take a step back to reflect on what it is I really wanted to do with the rest of my life. That was the year I decided that I was going to see this medicine thing through. Around May, I had finally gathered the courage to send my application through. I had one option; it was GEMP and nothing else. A few weeks after that I started reading on the WAPT. I didn’t really know anyone who had had a successful GEMP story but I remember having to continuously tell myself, that wasn’t my portion. I printed out the objective list and downloaded the prescribed textbooks. I spent about a month or so compiling summaries and study materials I’d use closer to the test date. I’d work from 9am to 7pm or 11am to 9pm depending on the shift about 5 or 6 times a week so I was always really tired but I’d come home every night and spend at least 3 or 4 hours trying to teach myself anatomy and molecular medicine, which I had no background in.
On the 7th of July I woke up to my invitation to write the WAPT, I was over the moon excited. It all of a sudden felt so real. I had found that motivation to keep going longer every night. Unfortunately this all lasted about this long; it was really hard staying motivated. I wasn’t in school which meant that I was the only person in my circle studying, I didn’t have anyone to explain certain concepts I was struggling with so I eventually just stopped studying all together. Life started happening, I got busy, I got tired and before I knew it, the study leave that I had requested months in advance was about to start which meant WAPT was 9 days away and I had not been studying.
Reality sunk in as I realized how much I had to study and how little time I had. I was anxious, scared but more than anything I was mad. I was annoyed at myself for having been so careless with my future but I knew somewhere somehow I had to make this work, I had to find the beast from within me to make it happen. So as I got home that evening; I changed my alarm to from 6:30 AM to 3:30 AM, I laid out my notes on the table, ate, watch series and went to bed. The next day I was up at my desk by 3:45 AM; I started with molecular medicine, it was the lightest component so finishing it was going to be good for my confidence and motivation. I studied till 12 AM the following day, only taking three 30 minutes breaks in between to eat. That was my routine for a good 5 days. I felt as though I still wasn’t moving fast enough so I started waking up 30 minutes earlier and sleeping 30 minutes later. There was a day where I pulled a 26 hour study marathon. I had lost weight, I had the biggest headache, I looked homeless and sickly but I had a goal and I needed to reach it.
October 2nd, the day before the WAPT. I finished studying at 9 PM. I hadn’t covered all the objectives but I had covered most of it. I went to sleep early, so I could wake up early. I was too nervous to eat in the morning, I woke up to a note from my baby sister reminding me to pray with my mother and wishing me luck.
The venue and time had changed and I had only seen that the previous night so my plans had been disturbed but I tried to stay composed, I hopped on the first taxi I could see and headed out to campus. There was a ridiculous amount of traffic and the taxi was really slow so now a new set of panic started kicking in as I thought I wouldn’t make it on time. I got so anxious that I forgot about the stress of how difficult that test could be, or how ready I was and now I just wanted to have the opportunity to write it. We eventually got to campus 4 minutes before registrations closed and I sprinted down to the venue, that was the first time in years I had ran so I was convinced I was about to die. I made it just as the last lady at the table who just happened to be in charge of last names starting with L was packing up.
She allowed me to register and as I walked into Hall 29, seeing at least a thousand people, still trying to catch my breath. I realized that this was it. Everything I had put myself through over the last couple of months was for this moment. I had never studied like that before, I had never pushed myself like that before, I had never wanted anything the way I wanted this before.
I found the last available seat, I said one final prayer and started the exam. Let me tell you this, the most difficult thing about the WAPT is preparing for it, once I had stopped worrying about how difficult it could be, once I had realized just how much I wanted it, once I had felt just how ready I was for it; it automatically became the most pleasant and easiest exam (experience) of my life.