Jan 3, 2012
Medical Student
To upper-year medical students: as a first-year medical student, I can't seem to remember anything from before Christmas, and I'm not talking about the minute details - all I remember about the olecranon is that it's a part of one of the bones at the elbow joint, all I remember about cell-mediated immunity is that it involves cytotoxic T-cells killing cells infected by viruses, and I don't recall at all which parts of the nephron reabsorbs what. Most of my classmates are having a little trouble remembering what we learned before, but they still seem to recall much more info than I do... Will this be a problem for my Step 1 studying?

I feel like I only remember the very big picture about each of the subjects but I guess re-learning the details will be much easier if I encounter the need later on, ie. for Step 1 or clinical practice.


10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Jan 19, 2009
Medical Student
I am the same exact way, and I don't think this problem is uncommon. When I know my stuff, I know it. After my exams, it's more or less gone besides the big ideas. I have looked a lot into this, and it seems the only way for me to keep the details in my mind for good is through repetition, i.e. there is no memory pill. I'm not endorsing it, but I have settled on going through Firecracker (previously Gunner Training). Starting this in MS1 will hopefully keep me on top of everything until a year from now.
Nov 30, 2013
Medical Student
Sounds like you had a better holiday break than your classmates! ;)

I've been where you are, and my advice: honestly, relax. The information is stored in there somewhere, and it'll come back by relearning the material over-and-over-and-over again. Just tackle the new material being presented now, and focus on Step 1 during second year.
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Give Em' the Jet Fuel
7+ Year Member
Nov 6, 2011
Unless you were doing some serious cramming for tests last semester I wouldn't worry.

Most people will only remember about 10% of what they learn each block.

Even with spaced repetition and active learning you'll still be lucky to remember 25% on a good day.

Its like the old saying goes: "you'll forget more in medical school than most people learn in a lifetime."


secretly an end artery
Account on Hold
May 11, 2013
Texas, Chicago
Medical Student
I find that the same concepts are covered again in other classes and you'll run into all the important things more than twice. Just take an active interest and you'll accumulate the information you need.


10+ Year Member
Jul 25, 2008
Attending Physician
OP I think its normal to forget things, you'll find a lot of medical school is repetition and you will relearn it for the final exam and after reviewing notes it will come back a lot quicker than learning it the first time. This will happen again during step 1 studying. Not to mention there is overlap (not the small details but big pictures) between courses. After step 1 most of the small details will fade and thats ok you will hopefully have a good functioning knowledge base to learn clinical medicine in years 3 and 4 and beyond. If you needed to go back to the small details however you will pick it up and member it a lot quicker. Its a slow process and I'm pretty surprised with how much I've learned since starting. Keep it up
Jun 1, 2013
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
dont worry, the difference is next time you see those subjects come up again, it will take a click to piece it all together again.

edit: unless you've been doing some shameless cramming. But even so, you would retain good part of it :)


7+ Year Member
May 20, 2010
Fellow [Any Field]
You party too hearty OP
Aug 14, 2013
Veterinary Student
Everything that is important will be encountered more than once. You are only on your first pass. You'll see the key stuff again and again... Eventually it will stick.

For example, furosemide wastes potassium. I learned this many times and forgot it many times:
- First year it was mentioned briefly as part of a clinical correlate during renal. I didn't remember it for an hour.
- Second year I learned it for pharm. I forgot it after the test.
- Second year I learned it again for Step 1. I forgot it before the summer was up.
- Third year I got pimped several times on this during IM. I kept getting it wrong.
- Third year I learned it for Step 2. I quickly forgot it again.
- Fourth year I took ICU, where half my patients were on lots of furosemide so I had to replete their potassium almost daily. Now I FINALLY remember it.

Don't worry about Step 1 yet. If the stuff is important for Step 1, you'll see it again next year. Start studying after Christmas break second year. Doing anything or worrying before that time is pointless.


5+ Year Member
Dec 16, 2013
Get firecracker. It is impossible to remember all the details but this program definitely keeps everything very familiar with you.


10+ Year Member
Apr 22, 2008
Resident [Any Field]
Care less. Be more confident. You'll remember more.

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Staff member
7+ Year Member
Oct 10, 2011
Resident [Any Field]
It's still in your brain somewhere. Whenever you see it again it will come back to you much easier than it did the first time. And that's all you can ask for.