Studying for Medical School Part II

Part 2 of how I studied in medical school.....

Preparing for USMLE STEP 1.

You've heard this a thousand, no a million times before. Well, now it’s a million and one time. FIRST AID! FIRST AID! FIRST AID! Start adding notes Day 1 of medical school! Well, maybe when lectures begin right? I began reading it during my 1st year and started adding notes in my 2nd year. I did this mostly because I had no ideas how to incorporate it into my studies. (It's also great to read it for National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) alongside your notes from lectures.) Now after you have completed your basic science years, you are now getting ready to take the USMLE STEP 1 exam.

Use the First Aid and all the additional notes you have added into the book! Doctors in Training (D.I.T) is another useful tool. It helped bring structure when I started to study in the beginning. UWorld is awesome! Before taking USMLE Step 1, my medical school provided the students with Kaplan question bank. In my experience, I felt UWorld was more like the USMLE Step 1 exam. Even the layout is similar to the board exam.

Preparing for USMLE STEP 2CK.

Clinical rotations create a different learning environment compared to basic science. There are periodic lectures and grand rounds but nothing in comparison to basic science. You are pimped (a term used when an upper level, resident or attending physician asks the junior members of the medical service questions to mentally stimulate them, determine their level of knowledge, encourage them to study unknown topics and ensure that they are paying attention) out in front of your peers during rounds. Therefore, you have to know your stuff. It is basically on YOU.

Clinical rotations hours varied depending on the service you are on, therefore study hours varied considerably. My study schedule changed based on the clinical rotations I was on. For example, some rotations I had a lot of hours to study after my work day, while on other rotations, I literally only had time to sleep after the work day. Therefore, any free time available to you, assure that you use it to STUDY. I often looked to my peers on which textbooks they used for a specific clinical rotation alongside my review book (I used First Aid once again). Using just a review book does not help cement the medical knowledge base however. During clinical rotations (my work day), when time permitted, I tried to answer at least two questions and review the correct answers as well as the reasons why the other choices were incorrect. With more available free time during the work day, I answered more questions.

My Study schedule for Licensure exams (USMLE Step 1 and 2CK)

Some students have additional time after the semester to study in preparation to take the USMLE STEP 2CK exam. This was the case for me. I created a grueling schedule. I started at 7am and finished at 10pm. I started my day with a block of 40 UWORLD timed and randomized questions. Upon completing the block, I meticulously reviewed it for understanding. By the time I was finished reviewing, it was time for lunch. After lunch, I would read from my First Aid CK review book. I took two NBME practice examinations to see my progress. One in the beginning of my studies and another one 2 weeks prior to taking the exam.

Study Tips

1. Plan your study schedule and set study goals.

2. Reward yourself when you have completed your study goals!

3. Split it up using different resources (lectures, textbooks, your written up mind maps, and flash cards).

4. Get a study zone/area, whether it maybe only one location or multiple locations if you need to change it up a bit.

5. Study effectively. If you feel your mind starts to wander, TAKE A BREAK and then get back to it.

6. Know what time of the day when you are peaked optimized to learn. This is the best time to learn difficult material.

7. Take mental breaks during your studies.

8.Questions! Questions! Questions! You are applying your knowledge.

9. Study partner. Someone who keeps you accountable and motivated. (I unintentionally had 3-4 study partners and we would check on each other)

10. Take a day to relax! ( I binged on Law & Order 😀 )

11. Focus! Focus! Focus! (Sign out of social media if you have to or close out the windows for any distractions)

12. Active learning. Reading out loud is beneficial. After you feel comfortable with material, teach the information back to yourself or others, or write it down. (For example, after studying medications on depression multiple times I would write on a separate piece of paper or the white board the adverse effects of SSRIs)

13. Learn your study style. Visual, Auditory, Reading, etc.

14. Figure out what helps you study effectively. Study groups? Silence or noise?

15. Stay motivated and Don't get down on yourself! YOU GOT THIS!!

Hope this helped and All the best!

-Dr. A


© 2017 Dr. Ashley Alphonse

Philippians 4:13