The Importance of Studying

November 30, 2010

Since you all are getting ready to go to medical school, one would assume that you have yourself together as far as studying goes but you’d probably be surprised to learn that there are many kids here who do not know how to study.  There isn’t really a solid method on exactly what to do, whether or read from the textbook or focus on the powerpoint lectures, but the point is that you know what works best for you and you utilize that method.

“High yield” is a term you hear thrown around here pretty frequently–the long and short of it is that there is a ridiculously vast amount of knowledge that is presented during your 8 hour day of people lecturing at you and there is physically no way possible to assimilate all of that information.  (We cover anywhere between 1300-1800 slides per block, x4 blocks–that’s a lot of cumulative information).  What “high yield” means is that, after a brief bit of experience (first block), you figure out what material is more likely to be tested, so then you focus on learning at least that material, then remembering as many additional details above and beyond that as possible.  Now for each class, there is a different strategy, so I thought I’d go over them now that I’m starting to review for finals next week.

We have 4 classes during Med 1, 2 of which have NBME shelf exams at the end (which are written by guys in the US)–histology and anatomy.  The other two classes are EBM (Evidence-Based Medicine) and Embryology.

EBM has supposedly been different every semester for a few semesters now because it’s a class that none of us really want to take and none of the profs really want to teach.  Right now it’s taught by the librarian and the psych guy–basically you show up twice a week, take notes on librarian/statistics lectures, then you have a midterm, a final, and a project that’s due.  The project is really easy and just demonstrates that you know how to make a bibliography and how to use pubmed to find useful articles.  The problem most people have with this class is showing up.  Because it’s the class we have the least often, we get the least excused absences for it.

Embryology is more akin to an undergraduate class–it meets 3 times a week, for 50 minutes.  We have 2 midterms and a final.  Each morning about 20 slides are covered, the prof takes a nice slow and steady pace.  The key to this class is to LISTEN to the prof–when he says something is important and you need to know it, like the pharyngeal arch derivatives or the aortic arch derivatives, just learn them.  Otherwise, show up to class, enjoy his jokes, watch him draw and just soak it up.  There are people who do poorly in this class because either A)they don’t come to class (and he does take attendance) or B)they don’t listen–just remember that you have 3 chances to determine your grade in this class and if you screw one of them up…you’re missing out on an easy A.

Now the two big classes: I’ll do histology first.  Histology has been the achilles heel for many kids this semester–I think at last count 20+ people had dropped the class because the were either failing or borderline.  This is actually my best class right now.  The teacher is strict–a disciplinarian in the classroom–if you’re sitting there listening to music or trying to talk over her, she’ll call you out.  She likes you to pay attention or leave.  She covers a lot of material every day–at least 60 slides, usually more.  The key with her is details.  She’ll tell you that you need to read the textbook but you don’t.  Please don’t go out and buy Ross (the textbook)–I haven’t cracked it and I have an A.  Get plenty of rest, then wake up and drink diet Coke or Coffee and show up and try to learn as much as you can.  I wouldn’t advise asking questions in class–she doesn’t handle them well and generally makes you feel stupid in front of the whole class, but talking to her during the break or emailing her is an excellent way to get questions asked.  In general, if you pay attention in lecture and then come home and review the material either that day or that weekend (don’t let it get stale), you’ll do well.  P.S. The lab is a joke–we don’t use microscopes, she just projects slides and then we are tested on those exact same slides.  It’s like shooting fish in a barrel–try to listen to what she says about learning tissue characteristics and not just memorizing the slides like everyone else–it’s not going to help you on the shelf.

Anatomy–this is my toughest class right now, though I had anatomy in high school and undergrad.  It is very detailed and is worth 14 credit hours, so it demands the most out-of-class time.  Basically we go through regions of the body: upper limb, lower limb, thorax, abdomen, pelvis, and head & neck, and learn all of the muscles, their nerve innervation, their movements, the veins, the arteries, the lymphatic system, and basic pathology about what happens if you get a disease here or something breaks.  Generally speaking, our tests are on mainly the clinical aspects of the class–what happens if something breaks.  There will be some basic anatomy questions, but mostly clinical.  The neat thing is that you learn how to read x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs.

The lab is your typical cadaver lab.  They split you up into two groups, you show up, do your assignment, and then you have lab practicals along with each block exam for lecture.  I’ll talk more about lab later–it deserves more attention and description than I have time to explain before the internet here at school cuts out at 8:10–in 8 minutes.  EBM is getting ready to start, but I’ll talk about lab later, promise.

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