Semester two of M2 year is already flying by…how is it the end of January already? Sorry for being so MIA, but I’ve been pretty busy with my Neuro II course and beginning my Step 1 studying. The M1’s at my school are about two weeks into their first organ system based course and I thought it was a good time to do some reflecting on what worked, what didn’t and what I would change. So, M1’s listen up and learn from my mistakes!
Back in November, I wrote a post on all of the awesome materials you need to be successful in the organ system base courses (refer:link). Here’s a few more tips on how to use these resources:
1. Pathoma –> This is seriously the best resource for pathology. I try to listen and annotate this before we start the pathology in our actual course. This gives me some good base knowledge while the clinicians talk. Also, the first three chapters are on topics that may have been covered in the basic science courses, but they serve as excellent reviews. I just relistened to Chapter 1 and lots of things that I’ve learned recently make more sense. If I could go back to the first organ system, I would have taken time to listen to these chapters.
2. Qbanks –> As I said in my previous post I like to work through the RX questions first (easy, medium, then hard questions). This helps me learn the material, so I don’t expect a high average score on these. Next, I tackle the Kaplan Qbank. Same thing here, the questions are more difficult in my opinion and I’m still learning while doing them. For reference scoring an average between 60-70%during the week and a half prior to the exam is pretty good. I ended up scoring in the mid-eighties to high eighties on most of my NBME exam with these type of RX/Kaplan scores. With the rest of the course points I was able to honor many of the courses. BUT, don’t forget to really review what you are getting wrong and learn the material (don’t just gloss over the explanations). If I had extra time sometimes I would redo the questions I got wrong (the interface makes it easy to do this).
3. Sketchy Micro –> Most of my class is totally in love with Sketchy Micro, but I want to remind you that it takes getting used to. The first few sketches I did I felt like I wasn’t retaining anything. Trust me, there is a learning curve, but once you get over this hump everything will come together and you WILL remember all of the important facts about the bugs. I usually started by listening to the sketch and taking notes right next to the printed out picture. I would have to go over this sketch several times (highlighting and quizzing myself). After this, I pretty much had solidified the information and would practice my knowledge by doing questions. As you use sketchy more this will get easier and you won’t have to review the sketches as often.
4. One other resource that I forgot to talk more specifically about in my last post is the Robbins and Cotran Pathology Questions. These are really great if you want extra practice with pathology and if you have time. I’ve attempted to get through them for most of the organ systems, but haven’t always had time. If you have extra time or need more practice these are excellent.
What did NOT work:
-DO NOT OVERWHELM YOURSELF WITH RESOURCES. People in your class are going to like different resources, and it’s key to just pick the ones that work for you and call it a day. Once you do well in your first organ system solidify your resources, and don’t get bogged down with what other people are doing. There are seriously a million resources and you do NOT have time to use all of them.
-Sometimes, sadly, lectures don’t work for me. There are specific lecturers I don’t go to because I cannot learn from them. Don’t do yourself a disservice by forcing yourself to learn from someone or in a way that hasn’t been successful. This is a waste of time, which you can’t afford. One tip I have for pathology lectures is to pull out your first aid or organ systems text and annotate next to each disease based on what’s being said in lecture. Most of the time that lectures line up perfectly, and you can just add a few more key points. The NBME exams are different in that it tests larger concepts, rather than small details. In addition, NBME exams (in my experience) have never tested me on the clinical procedures for each disease. For example, you will need to know the clinical presentation/pathologic finding for X disease but you won’t need to know is it important to get a CT first or give an IV, etc. Your clinical management will be a focus in your later years of medical school.
What I would have changed:
On a more global level, I’ve found one big mistake in my studying habits. Step 1 is coming up and I feel like I’ve forgotten a lot of material. I know it’s natural to forget, but I never really did anything to prevent some of that loss of knowledge. A handful of my classmates use a long-term study aid like Firecracker. I really wish hindsight I would have started something like this during my M1 organ system years. Firecracker can be intimidating for a lot of students, because you are supposed to get through a certain number of questions per day, but let’s be honest no one is perfect. BUT, I firmly see now that something would have been better than nothing. Even if you can only do 10 questions a day from that, it would be better than doing nothing. Another resource I’ve been using lately that is similar to Firecracker (but I think cheaper) is the USMLE RX Flash Facts cards. They use the same idea as Firecracker, which is just to ask you questions, give you the answer and then you rate how well you knew that fact.
What I would NOT change:
Second term M1 year and first term M2 year give you more flexibility in your schedule. Even though it’s important to still study hard, this is the prime time to get more involved in student orgs, do something you love, or spend time with family and friends. I definitely did lots of extracurricular activities and was able to see friends often. I wouldn’t change that, because in the future I may not have this much time on my hands to really do things that make me happy. Time literally flies by in medical school and the last thing you want to do is look back and feel like all you did was study, because trust me you can do SO much more than that.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that you are learning a skill and that takes time to develop. My first organ system I did okay, but not as well as I wanted. But, that’s OKAY because I was honing my skills. Your first NBME will be scary because it isn’t something you’ve done before, but just trust your instincts and you will do fine. If you get nervous taking timed, computerized test practice with your Qbank! Good luck, you will all do great!!
One last thing to leave you with is a quote that I saw on my Momentum home page. This app is really cool and basically just becomes your homepage. It has an awesome new picture background every day, time, to do and main goals + a quote! I love it! Check it out here: link.