How I Study

How I Study

Since I’ll be sharing how I prepare for exams and take notes/study, it probably makes sense for me to first talk about how my courses are structured. We have four hours of lecture each morning, and then various seminars, labs, and small group sessions in the afternoons. The lectures are each given by a faculty member who is an expert in the field on that topic. While I love this idea in theory, I find that it’s not actually the most conducive for me. It’s like when you have a group project and each person makes PowerPoint slides on their own, and then you try to put the slides together but everyone used a different formatting and some people covered the same information twice, and some stuff got left out because no one covered it at all. We often have lectures that are over 80 slides long, and it can be hard to narrow down what’s really important to know. Our exams that we have for class are based on lecture, so it IS important to know what’s in the lecture slides. However, sometimes the lectures can get a little too advanced for me too quickly. I didn’t major in a science in undergrad, so I need to focus on learning the basics first, before I can fully understand what my lecturers are trying to get at. That’s why I use board exam prep materials in conjunction with my school’s lecture slides to learn the material.

Before I really delve into the lecture slides, I use two resources that have honestly saved me so many times- Boards & Beyond and Physeo. Phsyeo is focused on physiology (shocker) and uses a lot of images and graphs. Boards & Beyond also talks about clinical presentations, drugs, and other topics that solely physiology focused. For a given organ system, I can get through the Physeo videos in three days. To get through an organ system in Boards & Beyond, if I’m really efficient, it takes me 7-10 days.

Once I’ve gone over Boards & Beyond and Physeo, the lecture slides make SO much more sense to me, and it’s not nearly as painful to go through them. Students who have experience with anatomy and physiology from undergrad probably don’t need to use two sets of board exam prep materials before going over lecture, but this is what works for me. I review the lecture slides, but I don’t watch the video recordings that correspond, just because of time constraints. Usually, the lecture slides have most of the information on them and I don’t have to write down what the lecturer said. However, if I wasn’t using B&B and Physeo, I would definitely need to write down everything the lecturer said.

Once I cover these three sources, I review the material as many times as I can. I try to use active recall rather than just passively reviewing slides. That means that I will note down the topics/concepts from each lecture/video and then write down every single thing about that concept that I remember. I try to explain the concept to myself as best I can. Then I look at my notes and take note of what I got wrong or forgot. I’ll do this multiple times for each lecture/video.

For our microbiology unit, I used Sketchy religiously, and I may consider using it for pharm as well (although I’ve heard it’s not as good for pharm). For cardio, I used Osmosis because the videos were so visual and clear. I’m a pretty visual learner, so the Osmosis videos really appeal to me as well. I tend to use them more if I’m confused about something, though.

When I start studying for STEP 1, I’ll use First Aid and U World, of course, but First Aid isn’t really a book that gives thorough explanations for things. That’s why I’m glad I have an annotated version of Boards & Beyond for almost every organ system now. That’s what I’ll use to make sure I understand what’s going on, and I’ll use First Aid as a tool that tells me what I need to make sure that I remember. Also, I haven’t looked at Pathoma at all, but I’ve heard it is amazing, and I plan to use that as well, come boards time.