Hello everyone! I hope you are all doing well and getting into the groove of the new year! As my second year is coming to an end (literally I have two more weeks of class before I start dedicated), I thought it would be nice to do a short blog and kind of share how I study for classes and exams. Before I started medical school I thought I would be studying 25 hours a day and not have time for family and friends but surprisingly, that has not been the case. Here is kind of what I do and let me know if you want more info or if you have any questions about it!
The lecture/class structure differs for each medical school. In some schools, the lectures actually teach you the information you need to know. My school is kind of different; we have to prepare for our “lectures” beforehand and then answer questions in class based on the preparation we did. We have a calendar on a website called BAMS where we would get the information on what we need to read for each class. Here is an example:
As you can see, we only have class for three hours every day so there is time to prepare for class the next day and do other things (make sure to not procrastinate like me and watch 5 hours of Youtube 😭). They usually assign us chapters from a specific book to read. The book usually changes for each block but Robbins is a consistent pathology book that the school pretty much likes, smh because it is a DENSE read. There are also some optional videos and readings that they provide which I normally do not use 90% of the time.
So how do I prepare? I first try to do an outline of what we are doing for the week such as the topics and the readings and put it on OneNote:
Then, well, I do the readings. And when I say do, I mean skim it. I remember when I first started medical school I would do a deep dive into the readings, making sure I captured every word and that left me feeling confused and having a headache when I finished. These readings are pretty long and the questions that they ask in class are going to mostly come from the high yield topics from them. So for me, taking a while to do the readings was not really serving me AT ALL. Therefore, I skim and I am happier with that. Also, I am pretty frugal and I have never bought a book in medical school lol, there is usually a drive filled with pdfs of all the books, which is pretty nice if you were wondering.
After I skim the readings and take really messy notes on OneNote, I then find videos that correlate with the readings. This has honestly been really helpful for me. I know some people like to watch the videos first and then read, but for me, the readings serve as an outline, and then the videos colors in everything, if that makes sense. Since this topic is pathology, I go to Pathoma and find a video that matches what I read. The school drive pretty much has all the Pathoma videos but I decided to buy it because it is on the cheaper side of med school third-party resources and it comes with an informative book (plus I gotta support my Muslim brotha 😂). So here are the videos that correlate with the topic on the sample readings I showed above:
So I watch those videos on 1.5-2x speed and annotate my Pathoma book. Afterward, if I have time, I will do some practice questions from the Robbins book or some third-party resource and then it is time to class.
I find that this is helpful in doing well in class. Of course, class time is a learning experience but being prepared for the curveballs the teachers like to ask is pretty nice.
My strategy changes when it comes to physiology and pharmacology. For physio, I will either watch a Boards and Beyond video or something on Youtube in addition to skimming the readings. For pharm, I will watch something on Youtube, Sketchy, and/or do practice questions. Overall, preparing for class can take me 2-3 hours so it’s not too bad if I plan ahead on what I need to do.
These count for 70% of our grade to sit for the final therefore I have to do well on these exams. For these, I pretty much take the time to go over all of the notes that I have taken in class. My school provides us lecture slides after each class so it is easy to go through instead of going back to the readings. I only go back to the readings if there is something I do not understand well.
I try to make sure that the notes that I take in class are super detailed so that it is easier to review later on. It can take me 1-2 hours to review the notes from each class and our exams can cover 8-12 classes so a maximum of 24 hours of reviewing before each exam 😩. I obviously try to divide it up throughout the week before the exam so that is it easier on me, otherwise, I will be getting less than 5 hours of sleep before the exam ☹️.
Although the review process is important, doing practice questions is top-tier. I do practice questions from the books that we had to read, from the website called MedBullets that has practice step questions that are on the easier side, and sometimes I do questions from Uworld or UsmleRx. Also, I sometimes do a little Anki but it can be overwhelming adding that so most of the time I do not. I am sure for step studying I will do it more because it is a great review tool. If you guys are interested in knowing about Anki and how to use it when you are studying either for the Mcat or even as a medical student, I thought these two videos were pretty helpful:
Overall, this strategy has been helping me pass. Of course, there are some exams that no matter what you do, you ultimately fail and that is just the reality of medical school. There is so much information and there is always that one professor who asks a question on the exam that is a)very specific, b)irrelevant, or c)something that was barely or not even covered in class. Honestly, just try to pass and do not get too bogged down if you do not a stellar score on these exams because they do not matter at the end of the day 🤷🏾♀️.
For the NBMEs:
Now, these are important. After you find out you are eligible to sit for the final, it is a good feeling, but you actually have to pass these NBMEs. And they go into your class ranking sooo….try to do well on these. They also are a good predictor of how you will do on Step because the people who write questions for Step write questions for these exams. The best way to prepare for these end-of-the-block NBMEs is to know the material you covered in class pretty well. If you have been staying up to date on the class material by reviewing notes and doing Anki, then all you have to do is questions the week before to prepare. But if you have some weak areas, then I recommend watching videos, doing some readings, and drawing stuff out until you got it down. Of course, talk with your advisor on study strategies because everyone’s technique is different and they can be helpful in creating a plan for you (sometimes they aren’t the best resource but it cannot hurt to seek help 🤷🏾♀️). Also, ask upperclassmen for help too since they went through this as well and see what they say.
I personally write down all of the topics that we covered in the block and go to Uworld and do practice problems based on them. Uworld is pretty difficult and I have been getting 30-40% on each question block that I do but what is great about it is that it is a learning tool. Their explanations are amazing and if you take the time to read them, the questions start to become familiar and then easier. I also take my First Aid book and annotate it when I do a question on Uworld. Flipping through First Aid multiple times somehow makes the pages stick in my head so later on, when I do a question, I know where in FA it is and the other information on that page. It’s pretty cool.
Our school usually gives us 2-3 days off to study for these exams and then it is questions, questions, questions for me (and sometimes videos). On the last day before the exam, I go to a whiteboard and write down everything I remember from each big topic of a block (for example our block B2E covered Repro, Endocrine, and GI so I would write down everything I remembered from Repro then Endo then GI). With a couple hours left, I pray for a passing score and then sometimes have a mini-breakdown because it is not in my hands anymore haha. I try to sleep early even though I pretty much toss and turn in bed, wake up early to eat breakfast, and then it’s game time!
God forbid if I end up failing the NBME or even a final for a shorter block, I try to find other people in my class who also have to retake and come up with a game plan to pass the second time around. Trust me, people will fail just like you and it sometimes feels like it’s only you, but it’s not, we all struggling out here lol. The questions on the retake are pretty much the same so if you and your fellow retakers remembered the questions or the topic the first time around, it is not that difficult to pass the second time around. It is all about calming your nerves and knowing your information to the T when it comes to retaking.
And that is all everyone! I hope this helps you guys get a feel for how I study in this craziness called medical school. Sometimes it is fun and interesting learning this and sometimes it is not and I want to throw my laptop and FA book across the room. But, by the grace of God, I make it through another block and another year. I still cannot believe my pre-clinical years are almost done and I am about to move on to a different part of my medical school journey. Please keep me in your prayers because the real fun is right around the corner. 😊
Here are some additional Learning strategies: https://notesfromnina.com/2019/07/31/learning-strategies-part-2/
Please let me know if they are useful!
Thank you so much this is helpful!
My name is Jackie Stephens and I will be starting my first year at Boonshoft this summer! I’m both excited and nervous about starting this journey. I really appreciate your paid about how you study in med school since I am nervous about the flipped classroom/PI format of the curriculum.
Have a great day! 😊
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Hello Jackie that is so exciting and I am so happy for you! Sorry for the delay in my response I did not check this blog in a minute so much was happening in my life. But please reach out if you have any questions I will be sooo happy to answer them!
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