“The thing we promote that really seems to work quite well for people is to do a certain number of practice questions on a specialty per day,” said Pamela DeVoe, PhD, director of the Office of Academic Resources and Support for undergraduate medical education at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.
“Students should look closely at each question’s answer explanations and note what the conceptual gap areas are in their knowledge base,” she said. “You might have time one day to do 10 questions, read through five of the answer explanations and write a list of learning issues then you’re busy. When you come back to studying, you do the rest of the answer explanations, then complete your list of gaps in your knowledge. Then target your study to filling in those gaps.
Remember your patients
With each patient encounter, a med student is given an opportunity to learn. If you get to know your patients on a personal level, it might help you remember come exam time.
“Let’s say someone came into the hospital with a case of pneumonia, and you treated it and it improved. One of the best things you can do is get to know that patient, and that way it’s actually a study aid,” said Michael J. Rigby, an MD/PhD student in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical Scientist Training Program who just completed his clinical rotations.
“The more you know about that patient, their personal life, who they are, what they do, you are actually going to help yourself root that concept in memory,” Dr. Rigby said. “So getting to know the patients on your team can actually be very helpful for your own academic needs.”
To cram effectively, stick to key concepts
In the midst of a taxing rotation, incremental study might not be possible. Cramming for a shelf exam isn’t advisable. But if you do it, it helps to know the most important focus areas.
“There are high-yield topics,” DeVoe said. “Topics that you better know. Keeping a running list of those through the clerkship is going to be really helpful. ... The concentrated time is on practice questions to show you where you still have gaps in your knowledge and then to be looking at the high yield topics to make sure you understand each one of them.”
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