When I started medical school, there are a few things I wish I had paid closer attention to. We always say “in hindsight,”… as if somehow what we know now would have changed the outcome of the “then.” Let’s face it though, most often we tend to ignore what other people tell us because we think we know better. Or maybe we don’t need the advice of older generations as we should.✓
I think back to my first day of medical school at St. George’s University and think… if I had heard a speech about the struggles of a recent graduate for not following advice.. maybe I would have listened more closely.
Maybe I would have believed what they were telling me. But that wasn’t the case.
The lecture on the importance of Step 1 came from older faculty.. and shame on me, but because they did not have troubling experiences themselves, it wasn’t “expert” advice.
They are experts in the process… however, they are not experts in the consequences of NOT doing well on Step 1.
So I think who this advice comes from is very important.
So here I am…a medical graduate
who didn’t have an easy road… but if my bumpy road can help current and future med students, then I am happy to have that experience under my belt. It is entirely up to you guys whether or not you choose to LISTEN to my skills and act accordingly.✓
The first thing they tell you in medical school is how vital Step 1 is.
Honestly, as a medical student, you’re so focused on your current class exams that you might want to ignore studying for the exam until later.
But do not be fooled! Use your classes as if you were studying for Step 1… because that’s precisely what the classes are doing.
The truth is if you do well in your classes, and squeeze in some step 1 studying here and there from day 1… I am sure you will kill it come 2ndyear.
Here are a few things I wish I had done early on in my medical career; that I am doing now because I learned from my mistakes.
Study using Anki cards from day 1
Anki is a fantastic resource! It’s an application that lets you create flashcards.
I hated it then because I always said, “I’m old fashioned! I prefer actual index cards”. Those are great too, don’t get me wrong.. but I typed faster than I wrote by hand.. and you can always look up cards on Anki by topic if needed.. something you cannot do with handwritten cards. Also.. starting these cards on DAY 1 of medical school and reviewing at least 100 a day after classes EVERY DAY will make sure you keep re-establishing the knowledge and putting it into long term memory.✓ I wish I had done this in medical school. I didn’t. But you should learn from my mistake as I did. It’s too late for me to re-do the past.. but it’s not too late for you to start strong.⭐️
2. Do questions out-loud with tutors or study buddies from day 1
This is something I did minimally… okay, more like rarely. I wish I had done this more because I realize NOW how important it would’ve been to my own growth in knowledge as well as attainment of test-taking strategies. Lots of students may say… “I’m not a good test taker.” I felt the same way. There is usually a reason.. either you don’t know the material, or your test-taking skills are not well developed (this was me). Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3 are all VERY long exams. Exams you must prepare for mentally, and it’s not just about knowing facts. Doing questions out loud can help you learn HOW you should be approaching an issue. It can show you why you get questions wrong.. your most common mistakes.. your weakest concepts and strongest as well. Take advantage of your friends and your tutors! Don’t let the fear of asking for help deter you from doing the best you can.✓
3. Review CONCEPTS! And apply them to new questions daily.
This is a big one! An important thing to know here is that Step 1, 2, and 3 won’t just ask you direct questions like college. They expect you to use concepts and apply them to different situations. So go over tough to understand concepts over and over, in different ways and UNDERSTAND.. don’t just memorize. Memorization will only get you so far. Understanding is the real key to success. How do you know you can understand it? If you can explain it to someone else, if you can answer different types of questions using the same concept and if when you get it wrong, you can logically understand why it was wrong and why the correct answer was correct. If you have trouble with any part of this… then you have a tough time with that concept.✓?
4. Do not undervalue incorrect answers or answer choices ever
When doing questions, don’t just say: Oh, this is the answer because of so and so.. See if you can tell why the other answer choices are incorrect, and what you would need to change to make them correct. This is when you know you’ve mastered a topic.
5. Choose your sources wisely!
This is very important! Too many sources make it difficult actually to study! Why? Because you need repetition and recognition to be able to solidify information, and if you keep using different sources, there’s a big possibility you won’t be recognizing information. You don’t want to know things long term to do well… but when learning new things, you do… until it becomes a natural train of thought. Also, I had somewhat of a photographic memory, and at one point, I could see the page the information was on, and what was around it. If you study from more than one thing, this gets more difficult to do that.✓
6. Review course or no review course?
I would say this depends on the type of person you are. Can you make your schedule and stick to it? Are you an auditory learner or visual, or just by reading and writing, you’re right? If you need a regimen, you can’t stick to it… a review course would be beneficial: KAPLAN has great review courses for Step 1, 2, and 3. If you can do it yourself… then do it! Bottom line… test yourself using names. These are mock exams of the real thing, with old test questions. Use them and TRUST them.
If your scores are increasing and you’re doing well… there may be no need for a review course. But if you’re stuck, or declining, or not growing as you wish.. a medical school review course might be a good thing to think about. Also… always evaluate how you’re doing to see if the way you’re studying is working. ✓ If in 3 weeks there is no improvement.. something needs to change! Don’t be afraid to do it and re-evaluate it!
- Study for classes as if it were for the real exam!
- Make Anki cards ASAP and review every day!
- Use your friends and your tutors to learn more about your knowledge and study skills!
- Do not be afraid to change the way you study until you find what works best for you.
I will be writing another post later on about clinical rotations and how to prepare for each rotation exam (called Shelf exams) for those of you about to enter 3rdyear, and even just for future reference if you’ve just started.
I’m also thinking of writing a list of the most useful resources during med school.
So if you would like me to do that, I can. Just be sure to follow me on IG: @doctor.vero and let me know via DM. I can even do a youtube video on this too. Again, I write health stuff.. but I was also a 1styear medical school student before this.. and I remember it quite vividly. Any questions you guys have, don’t be afraid to send them my way.⭐️