Whether you are just starting up your second semester of medical school or knee-deep in second year, you’ve probably started to think about that next big hurdle: Step 1. Not only do you need to pass to become a doctor, but a good score can open doors to competitive residency programs while a poor score can close them. With so much weight placed on a single exam, you would expect programs and lecturers to emphasize the material tested on this end-all-be-all test. In most cases, you would be wrong. While some programs provide a bit more Step 1 focus in courses, many teach details that are tangentially relevant to Step 1 topics, but miss key points that are frequently tested, often referring students to review this test material during their dedicated study period. And it can be frustrating! You’ve made it this far by thinking ahead, planning early, and trying to avoid cramming unless absolutely necessary. Why should this be any different? So as a student, you may be faced with a difficult choice: study for your courses or study for Step 1. But there are effective and efficient ways to begin preparing for Step 1 well before your dedicated study period, while incorporating material that will be tested on course exams. Here are some key tips for beginning your Step 1 prep during your coursework:
One of the most critical elements of anyone’s academic success is an awareness of how you learn best. Here at Med School Tutors, we tend to geek out about this quite a bit because hey, we’re excited about learning and teaching.
What we know from our 12+ years of experience — whether learning styles are “neuromyths” or not — is that there are key things that you can do to play to your strengths in these different areas as they best serve your learning, and therefore give yourself the strongest shot at retaining information in the short and long term.
For the purposes of this post, we’re going to stick to the four most commonly accepted learning style categories: Verbal, Aural, Visual and Kinetic.
I remember the pure joy of realizing I could now pursue my dream of becoming a doctor, the acceptance phone call I got from the dean of admissions followed by the excitement of telling my friends and family. But as my school start date crept towards me, anxious thoughts started to swirl in my mind. How would I possibly learn the sheer volume of material that I would soon face? I asked this question to a few people on the interview trail, and still recall what one wise, grizzled 4th year shared with me, "Medical school is not any harder than the courses you took in college, in fact in many ways the material is easier -- physics, organic chemistry, and on -- you won’t encounter any subject close to that difficult in class. The hardest part is the volume. It really does feel sometimes like ‘drinking from a fire hose."
Are you looking for a time-efficient and effective way to get down all of those nitty gritty details in First Aid? Flashcards are one of the best tools you can use to memorize material.
Preparing for Step 2 CK can be challenging. Many medical students are busy with clinical rotations and don’t have the luxury of weeks of dedicated study time that they had with Step 1. Also, unlike Step 1, there is no clear consensus on which resources to use in preparing for the exam.
Like any subject on the USMLE exams, we can turn them from enemies to allies simply by advancing our knowledge in the subject, and putting devoted practice into our learning.
We recently went over our preferred method of creating pharmacology flashcards, and in this post, we will devise a plan for systematically synthesizing microbiology flashcards.
Before we break down particular strategies, it is important to re-iterate the commandments of flashcard creation:
Flashcards are a necessary weapon in your arsenal for solid Step 1 and Step 2 CK performance. We’ve talked in previous posts about how to set up some basic flashcards, as well as different software available for flashcard construction—some featuring algorithmic spaced repetition to help you focus more on topics you are struggling with.
In this post, we will talk about how to quickly and effectively construct a brilliant flashcard for each of the 723* drugs in First Aid.
Warning: Showing you how quickly and simply a pharmacology flashcard can be created will lead to destruction of the “I don’t have enough time!” excuse.
*Don’t worry. There’s not this many (we think).
Every single person who has ever done well on their exam has one thing in common: they have all prepared thoroughly, studying early and often.
However, time alone is not the whole story. The time you spend must be effective and efficient, allowing for maximal learning of the concepts you currently know the least about. Here are some well-tested tips that will help you extract the most out of your study time when using flashcards, enabling you to get closer to your goals in a shorter amount of time.
As you know, we've been doing exhaustive reviews of the materials that are out there. Today, I'm reviewing some of the major offerings as far as ready-made and easily portable study options go.
Each of these show promise, and I hope that their creators update and improve on them.
Perhaps this is because I don’t like to think that the challenges I face are manageable using universal strategies. Perhaps I like to think that my struggles are unique, or else, why would they be… struggles? For example, it doesn’t seem like something as hyped as studying for the USMLE Step 1 (a.k.a. the most-important-exam-in-the-history-of-the-world-AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!) should be formulaic or simple.
But studying for the USMLE Step 1 can be formulaic. And I want to argue that it should be formulaic.
When viewed through the rearview mirror, there are many things I’ve experienced that I didn’t understand completely as I was passing through them. More specifically, while I knew that flashcards had been useful learning tools throughout college and the first two years of medical school, I didn’t understand the concept of spaced repetition and how this technique was making it possible for me to achieve my USMLE Step 1 goals.