At least 6% of med school students will not become a doctor within seven years, according to a study by the Association of American Medical Colleges. But how many of the 94% who do finish medical school will actually thrive during those years? We’re not claiming the road to becoming a doctor is easy or even moderately difficult. It’s extremely difficult, but some students make it even harder than it has to be. Don’t be one of those students. Instead, follow our advice and med school study tips below to be the shining star of your class starting from your first year.
The quantity of material you need to remember is far beyond what you had as a pre-med. Most college classes pale in comparison to the material presented in medical school.
Many students waste time in their first year of med school. Do not underestimate the magnitude of the material, and do not waste time in the beginning. Let this humble you, but don’t let it frighten you. Like the many who came before you, you can do this!
If you’ve always been unorganized and chalked it up to a whimsical personality or absent-minded genius charm, now is the time to stop. For the next few years, you must make it a practice to be very organized. It’s best to start your first year off right, by creating these organizational habits. You’ll need to keep track of your medical school schedule, slides, lecture notes, book notes, required reading – so.much.reading – books, test dates and more.
Input important dates immediately and, if your calendar is digital, set reminders. Save paperwork related to each course in one spot. Consider a note taking/organization app like Evernote. Prepare as much in advance as possible by purchasing notebooks, highlighters, page tabs, notecards and everyone’s favorite med school study partner, Picmonic.
With Picmonic, your high yield facts for medical school are all in one place – in your Picmonic account. Then, with just a click of the mouse, you can organize Picmonic videos by subject, keywords, ranking of how well you know the material and more. You can also search for any Picmonic, meaning no more hurriedly shuffling through a deck of cards or stack of notes to a topic.
Once you’ve come to terms with the amount of information there will be, figure out how you most efficiently and effectively can master it. Do you need to read the lecture before class or rewrite your notes after? Are you a strong note taker and can you keep up during lectures, or should you review recorded versions of them so you can slow it down or pause it? Do you learn better during a lecture or by reading notes, books, and other materials on your own?
And do you study best alone or in groups?
This last question is especially important as it relates to who you’ll study with during medical school, if anyone.
If you already know you’re a one-man wolf pack for studying, then skip to the next tip. If you think there’s something to be gained from studying with a partner or in a group, we advise you to choose these study buddies wisely. Some people study best by quizzing each other. Others learn by teaching one another. You may just enjoy studying in the presence of another med student without actually interacting. Figure out what works best for you, and figure it out fast. Study time is not the time to make lifelong friends or socialize. If you’re not studying effectively with a classmate, do both of you a favor by ending the study relationship and finding a better fit. Answering all of these questions sooner, in your first year, will set help you save time and sanity in the long run.
Every word spoken in lecture or written on the syllabus, slides or notes could become a question on an exam. Don’t think you’re going to get all the information by attending every class and not reading the lecturer’s notes. Likewise, don’t assume all the important information will be contained in the notes and slides.
In other words, all those different materials exist for a reason. You will likely need to leverage a combination of lectures, review books, question banks, and a mnemonic study aid to truly learn and retain everything you need to know. Take some time to figure out what works for you and stick with it.
There will be times when you feel like giving up…usually at the end of an 80-hour study week. Keep something around that reminds you of why you want to become a doctor and what you will contribute to the world when you finish medical school.
Is it a picture of a loved one who passed away from a (currently) incurable disease? Is it a picture you drew as a kid of your white-coated future? Is it a copy of Patch Adams? A copy of Dr. Suess?
Whatever the reason was that spurred you to finish undergrad, pass the MCAT, and get into medical school, it’s a worthy reason. Let it be a beacon of hope for you on the most difficult days.
For some inspiration and advice on loving life in medical school, check out this Q&A webinar by Ron Robertson, Co-Founder of Picmonic, and the Happy Doc.
At Picmonic, we’ve heard the cries (literally…tears) and seen the struggles of med students. Our own co-founders were in your shoes once, when they were inspired by the study struggle to create a new learning system proven to increase memory retention and improve test scores. What we’ve also seen in med students is an incredible strength of spirit, mental fortitude and the ingestion of what can only be categorized as a monumental amount of coffee.
You can do this.
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Remember more, boost your test scores and maximize your potential with Picmonic, the world’s best visual study tool for medical school! More than just pharm flashcards and study guides, the Picmonic Learning System will help you dominate your classes and review for the USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2 CK, and more with our research-proven mnemonic learning system.