Jun 22, 2010
Medical Student
I keep either just barely passing or flat-out failing my exams! I'm so incredibly bad at memorizing, I feel like I have no chance with this insane amount of material. I KNOW the best way for me to learn (reciting back everything in my head) but there simply isn't enough time for me to do it! I feel like everyone else isn't having any problems...yet here I am, struggling to just get by!

I was always the star student in high school and college, but I know realize that I excelled most in courses that required actual logical thought (physics, math, chemistry) and not silly memorization. I thought med school would be a dream come true because I wouldn't have to take any more "humanities" courses, but boy was I wrong.

I've talked to my professors and I've taken their advice..but like I said...I'm just SO much slower than everyone else at memorizing. I made an appt with a psychiatrist and I'm actually hoping and praying that I have ADD so that maybe a pill will magically solve my problems....otherwise I'm totally at a loss :(


7+ Year Member
Sep 16, 2010
1) Take a deeeeep breath.

2) Have you talked to your Dean about this? If not, get on that ASAP.

3) You've made it through your first year so you can obviously memorize tons of crap (assuming your school does did anatomy and biochem in the first year). Maybe you're just a little burned out and it's time to mix things up a little...tweak your study routine or find a study group? For what it's worth, I'm finding the second year a more intense than the first year too.

Lastly, know this: you might feel like you're the only person who's slow at memorizing stuff, but at least half (if not most) of your class feels that way about themselves. It's med school...nobody (except the select few freaks) will feel comfortable with the rate at which they learn/the volume of information they are able to retain.

I hope this proves to just be a little rut and that everything works out for ya.


10+ Year Member
Mar 15, 2007
Attending Physician
The psychiatry appointment is a good idea. You could have ADHD (don't see anything to make me think that), or the stress could be overwhelming you and leading to depression. Assuming you don't have any clinical issue, though, maybe you should try more practice questions. Directed practice is one of the best ways to master material, as missing it will make you more likely to retain it. See if any of your courses offer that. Also I would recommend using your class notes and what is discussed in lecture to study and pretty much dropping textbooks altogether since they are too time consuming. Figure out what study sources you can drop and take an honest inventory of how you learn best and how much time you are studying.

Also consider getting a tutor. I would have been kind of ashamed to do it before med school but I got one for pathology and he was a lifesaver (and cost me nothing, school program). I met with him roughly once a week, he helped put a clinical spin on everything we discussed and helped me understand what concepts were important. He also did an amazing job with organizing the material to help me remember it. I would have struggled a lot more in path without him.


Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
Staff member
Lifetime Donor
10+ Year Member
Oct 12, 2004
Fellow [Any Field], Attending Physician
Everyone has weaknesses; it doesn't mean there is something "wrong with you" just because you're not much of a memorizer. The important thing to do here is to recognize your weakness (which you already do), and then figure out how to compensate for it. That may take some trial and error, but it's completely possible for you to change your study habits so that you can make it through your second year and Step 1. There *is* some method you can use to help yourself memorize--you just haven't figured out the right way to do it yet.

FWIW, I'm not such a hot memorizer either--I'm a chem PhD, and like you, I found the analytical subjects to be a lot "easier" than the straight-memorization subjects. (Unlike 99.9% of premeds, I did not go to med school because I was so fascinated by the human body--biology was actually my least favorite prereq!) What helped me make it through was to use mnemonics. You can find a lot of mnemonics in resources like First Aid or online, but a lot of times, I think it's even more helpful to make up my own. Once I started using mnemonics, it made a huge difference in terms of my ability to retain random facts. That might be something that works for you too, or it might be something totally different. Just don't give up--keep trying different methods (like the tutor or practice questions the previous posters suggested) until you find what works.

Best of luck to you. :)