Henry101

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Jul 15, 2014
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Hey ya'll,
I hope all of you are having a good week.
I know this is a stupid thing to post about but just wanted some thoughts/advice from other students that have been in similar situation....

A little about myself:
I'm a first year student at a big MD school in the East Coast. If one were to rank it, I'm almost positive it would be "low/mid-low" rank. 22 y.o, went to med school straight out of college. Scored in the top 20% in both bio and chem. Did much worse in verbal (ESL student).


Basically, to sum it up, I've been performing at our class average (~80% on exams) on the past 3 exams. I usually don't have a problem with retention and am performing ok on the clinical vignette questions. Most of the time the questions I get wrong are small, tiny details that are a footnote on a slide that I don't end up writing down because I think it is unimportant (for example, random bacteria in micro or an obscure enzyme, etc.). Other times it is a clinical application or biochemical question that I just misunderstand or incorrectly apply the science to the clinical question. I already study 6 days a week, from 4 PM (when classes end) until 11PM and the thought of cramming more time into my study schedule scares me. I guess I want to ask ya'll if there are any resources/strategies/tips that you've noticed that could give me that little "bump" that I'm looking for to meet my goal (top 25%)? Firecracker? Anki? BRS? Just want to be more "competent" in the basic science topics and perform a little bit better on exams.

Usually the students at my school that perform the best on the boards are those that have a high rank/GPA. Just want to perform well enough to keep as many doors open as possible 3 years from now. I now I should be happy that I'm performing the average and should realize that I did better than half the class. I just want to "know" the material "better," be more "proficient" in it and have that reflected in exams.

Best,
Henry


PS: our exams usually have only 50 questions each and, as a result, usually missing just a couple of questions really has a significant impact on one's grade.
 
Aug 26, 2016
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Do you think ESL is part of the problem ?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Rekt

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You didn't really tell us what you're doing currently. "Studying from 4pm to 11pm" could mean anything. I find it hard to believe you go to class from 8/9am to 4pm every day? Is lecture mandatory?
 

Foot Fetish

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You must become one with the minutia, man. When you see those "small, tiny details in the footnote of the slide," don't ignore them. Embrace them. They're what will set you apart from the horde.
 
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Henry101

Henry101

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You didn't really tell us what you're doing currently. "Studying from 4pm to 11pm" could mean anything. I find it hard to believe you go to class from 8/9am to 4pm every day? Is lecture mandatory?
So in the mornings until around 3 I am in either lecture/lab. Take notes on PowerPoint slides
3-4 I have a snack, watch my shows, etc.
From 4 to around 7 I re watch all the lectures at around 1.5 speed I make sure that I didn't miss anything.
From 7 to 9 I condense/rewrite notes from the previous day. While I do this I try to study it by "reteaching" myself. This document eventually becomes the document that I use to study for my tests/quizes.
9 to 11 I review the next day's material, review old notes, skim the textbook, or re-watch a lecture I'm having trouble understanding.
11 - 12 snack, you-tube, sex w/ partner, bed.

repeat until Saturday. Saturday I go back to that master document and highlight info that is "high yield" or interesting or something I am not recalling.
Day before test, try to re-write that document from memory on my white board by topic (like a "brain dump") and teach it to my partner. In the evening I do a practice exam that the TA or course tutor prepared. Usually get to bed around midnight. Exams are at 8AM.
 
OP
Henry101

Henry101

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You must become one with the minutia, man. When you see those "small, tiny details in the footnote of the slide," don't ignore them. Embrace them. They're what will set you apart from the horde.
hahahhaa I should just buy the big Robbins and just memorize it from cover to cover.
 

sliceofbread136

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Outside sources are the last thing you need, it will just take away more of your time. Spend a bit more time focusing on the details, sounds like you just need that little extra push
 

Donald Juan

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So in the mornings until around 3 I am in either lecture/lab. Take notes on PowerPoint slides
3-4 I have a snack, watch my shows, etc.
From 4 to around 7 I re watch all the lectures at around 1.5 speed I make sure that I didn't miss anything.
From 7 to 9 I condense/rewrite notes from the previous day. While I do this I try to study it by "reteaching" myself. This document eventually becomes the document that I use to study for my tests/quizes.
9 to 11 I review the next day's material, review old notes, skim the textbook, or re-watch a lecture I'm having trouble understanding.
11 - 12 snack, you-tube, sex w/ partner, bed.

repeat until Saturday. Saturday I go back to that master document and highlight info that is "high yield" or interesting or something I am not recalling.
Day before test, try to re-write that document from memory on my white board by topic (like a "brain dump") and teach it to my partner. In the evening I do a practice exam that the TA or course tutor prepared. Usually get to bed around midnight. Exams are at 8AM.
I was about to make a joke about how you should forego snacks and sex, but then I realized it sounds like you are legitimately studying inefficiently. You go to lecture, then rewatch lecture, then watch it again if you don't understand? You also rewrite notes from the previous day? It sounds like you do a lot of passive learning and busy work that makes you feel good without actual active learning. I would suggest studying with partners to quiz each other, identify small points you may not have noticed, or some type of flash card system where you are quizzing yourself.
 

lymphocyte

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our exams usually have only 50 questions each and, as a result, usually missing just a couple of questions really has a significant impact on one's grade.
I'm going to jump off the deep end and propose the following: it doesn't matter. Your preclinical grades have zero bearing on your chances at residency (unless you fail), and these tests probably aren't reflective of how well you'll perform on Step 1. Plus, nobody can realistically suggest more resources that will help you correctly answer "a couple of questions" on topics unknown. It sounds like you're already at the limits of sanity, so you have three options: 1) push yourself into insanity, 2) continue on your current path and accept being average, or 3) focus on learning better. I'm a fan of option 3. If you're not doing as well as you'd like, more of the same is rarely the correct answer. It's time to experiment.

I strongly agree with the advice above that your learning is probably too passive. You have to attack the material and let the material attack you. That's an over the top metaphor, but it's accurate in the following way: learning, done correctly, is pretty uncomfortable. You should constantly feel uncertain--as opposed to the certainty that comes from rewriting a bunch of notes. Rewriting notes feels comfortable--so tangible!--but that's exactly what makes it bad for learning. Here's a question: do you rewrite notes from memory, summarising only the key points? That would probably get you a lot further than what you're currently doing. Still inefficient though.

I suggest two things: lots of practice questions, preferably hard ones, and getting in the habit of teaching others who will question you, i.e. form a study group. I stopped going to lecture soon after I realised lectures weren't for me and were generally a huge waste of time. I'd instead look through the syllabus and use high-quality resources (audio, visual, and written) to teach myself what I needed to know. Only then would I 2x the lectures to make sure I didn't miss anything important. I'd top it off with relevant questions from a good QBank and then actively engage in a weekly study group. Fear of sounding like an idiot in front of my peers, much more than just seeing a low number on a piece of paper, was phenomenal motivation for me. It worked well, but everybody is different. Experiment is the key word. Good luck OP!
 
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darknecrosforte

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So... if OP is being accurate with the self-assessment, the issue could be dilute or weak focus. There is definitely a problem if material is passed that many times in a short time frame and there is a lack of stress testing feedback (as lymphocyte mentions). Animals are capable of lifelong learning from ONE EXPOSURE to certain stimuli, like when you get the accidental peripheral peek at someone's junk, or from the rustle of bushes that hid the tiger attack that you barely survived afterward. Spaced repetition principles also work for most things, but require that your timing always be updated to match a certain "forgetting threshold" that might change as you continue learning.

Random starting points for experimentation that were not mentioned:
1. Skim relevant slides/books for 10 minutes. Quickly say out loud what you think the main idea of what you read is. Immediately take some sort of quiz or test on the same topic, preferably old exam questions from your school. Bask in the shame of getting about only half right. But guess what? Unless you 100% randomly guessed something right, you probably don't need to study that information so much since you were able to use logic and that main idea to figure it out. Focus on the things you got wrong and why you got them wrong. As you do this, notice where the material came up during your skimming and analyze how the text or slide presented it. You may notice that all the tested material came after a specific color of bullet point. Or consisted of second-order material of the main 3 clinical examples in each PowerPoint. NOW you have just improved your skimming skill. To validate it, your next skim&quiz session should have slightly better scores.

2. Plenty of students can draw the brachial plexus or the Krebs cycle. Maybe they can do them artistically/3D/blindfolded/from-memory-in-two-seconds. But can you draw that brachial plexus with the bones/landmarks, the muscles they innervate, and the vascularization whilst that arm flexes a pose? The idea is to go at least one step beyond your last study feat (ie. drawing something from memory).

3. Experiment with decreasing your allowed study time and sticking to only that time slot. Maybe give yourself only 5 hour slots a day. If you run out, you're done. When your grades decrease, you'll stop dicking around and actually use those hours effectively. If you give yourself 5 hours to read a 3 hour book, not surprisingly, it will take you 5 hours to read it. But if you give yourself 2.5 hours, you'll probably STILL get it done. I would say that being/feeling comfortable while learning IS possible, but ONLY IN A DISCIPLINED, PURPOSE-DRIVEN person. But since most of us are generally more like harried disciples with vague teachers, being slightly in fight-or-flight is probably where the most learning occurs. You want the alertness and posture of readiness, not the watching Netflix with Cheetos comfortable feeling.
 

Goro

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Go read my post on med student success.

Hey ya'll,
I hope all of you are having a good week.
I know this is a stupid thing to post about but just wanted some thoughts/advice from other students that have been in similar situation....

A little about myself:
I'm a first year student at a big MD school in the East Coast. If one were to rank it, I'm almost positive it would be "low/mid-low" rank. 22 y.o, went to med school straight out of college. Scored in the top 20% in both bio and chem. Did much worse in verbal (ESL student).


Basically, to sum it up, I've been performing at our class average (~80% on exams) on the past 3 exams. I usually don't have a problem with retention and am performing ok on the clinical vignette questions. Most of the time the questions I get wrong are small, tiny details that are a footnote on a slide that I don't end up writing down because I think it is unimportant (for example, random bacteria in micro or an obscure enzyme, etc.). Other times it is a clinical application or biochemical question that I just misunderstand or incorrectly apply the science to the clinical question. I already study 6 days a week, from 4 PM (when classes end) until 11PM and the thought of cramming more time into my study schedule scares me. I guess I want to ask ya'll if there are any resources/strategies/tips that you've noticed that could give me that little "bump" that I'm looking for to meet my goal (top 25%)? Firecracker? Anki? BRS? Just want to be more "competent" in the basic science topics and perform a little bit better on exams.

Usually the students at my school that perform the best on the boards are those that have a high rank/GPA. Just want to perform well enough to keep as many doors open as possible 3 years from now. I now I should be happy that I'm performing the average and should realize that I did better than half the class. I just want to "know" the material "better," be more "proficient" in it and have that reflected in exams.

Best,
Henry


PS: our exams usually have only 50 questions each and, as a result, usually missing just a couple of questions really has a significant impact on one's grade.
 
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OP
Henry101

Henry101

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Jul 15, 2014
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So... if OP is being accurate with the self-assessment, the issue could be dilute or weak focus. There is definitely a problem if material is passed that many times in a short time frame and there is a lack of stress testing feedback (as lymphocyte mentions). Animals are capable of lifelong learning from ONE EXPOSURE to certain stimuli, like when you get the accidental peripheral peek at someone's junk, or from the rustle of bushes that hid the tiger attack that you barely survived afterward. Spaced repetition principles also work for most things, but require that your timing always be updated to match a certain "forgetting threshold" that might change as you continue learning.

Random starting points for experimentation that were not mentioned:
1. Skim relevant slides/books for 10 minutes. Quickly say out loud what you think the main idea of what you read is. Immediately take some sort of quiz or test on the same topic, preferably old exam questions from your school. Bask in the shame of getting about only half right. But guess what? Unless you 100% randomly guessed something right, you probably don't need to study that information so much since you were able to use logic and that main idea to figure it out. Focus on the things you got wrong and why you got them wrong. As you do this, notice where the material came up during your skimming and analyze how the text or slide presented it. You may notice that all the tested material came after a specific color of bullet point. Or consisted of second-order material of the main 3 clinical examples in each PowerPoint. NOW you have just improved your skimming skill. To validate it, your next skim&quiz session should have slightly better scores.

2. Plenty of students can draw the brachial plexus or the Krebs cycle. Maybe they can do them artistically/3D/blindfolded/from-memory-in-two-seconds. But can you draw that brachial plexus with the bones/landmarks, the muscles they innervate, and the vascularization whilst that arm flexes a pose? The idea is to go at least one step beyond your last study feat (ie. drawing something from memory).

3. Experiment with decreasing your allowed study time and sticking to only that time slot. Maybe give yourself only 5 hour slots a day. If you run out, you're done. When your grades decrease, you'll stop dicking around and actually use those hours effectively. If you give yourself 5 hours to read a 3 hour book, not surprisingly, it will take you 5 hours to read it. But if you give yourself 2.5 hours, you'll probably STILL get it done. I would say that being/feeling comfortable while learning IS possible, but ONLY IN A DISCIPLINED, PURPOSE-DRIVEN person. But since most of us are generally more like harried disciples with vague teachers, being slightly in fight-or-flight is probably where the most learning occurs. You want the alertness and posture of readiness, not the watching Netflix with Cheetos comfortable feeling.

I suggest two things: lots of practice questions, preferably hard ones, and getting in the habit of teaching others who will question you, i.e. form a study group. I stopped going to lecture soon after I realised lectures weren't for me and were generally a huge waste of time. I'd instead look through the syllabus and use high-quality resources (audio, visual, and written) to teach myself what I needed to know. Only then would I 2x the lectures to make sure I didn't miss anything important. I'd top it off with relevant questions from a good QBank and then actively engage in a weekly study group. Fear of sounding like an idiot in front of my peers, much more than just seeing a low number on a piece of paper, was phenomenal motivation for me. It worked well, but everybody is different. Experiment is the key word. Good luck OP!

Yes! This is exactly what I was looking for!!
Some new things I'm going to try after you two's advise:
- Stop transcribing notes from the powerpoints (passive studying) and instead study/memorize the power-points directly and make anki cards
- Schedule and stick to study time; be more efficient with that time.
- Get more sleep
- Engage more with the material
- Use anki and practice questions (maybe from BRS or Kaplan) to test/assess competency and retention

My next exam is in 2 weeks. Excited to apply these but I'm a little scared to make some of these adjustments but I really want to improve my grades and am willing to try new things haha.
Thanks you two for some awesome advice. I'm hoping it's not too late to turn my gpa around haha
 
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sharkbyte

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I'm going to jump off the deep end and propose the following: it doesn't matter. Your preclinical grades have zero bearing on your chances at residency (unless you fail), and these tests probably aren't reflective of how well you'll perform on Step 1. Plus, nobody can realistically suggest more resources that will help you correctly answer "a couple of questions" on topics unknown. It sounds like you're already at the limits of sanity, so you have three options: 1) push yourself into insanity, 2) continue on your current path and accept being average, or 3) focus on learning better. I'm a fan of option 3. If you're not doing as well as you'd like, more of the same is rarely the correct answer. It's time to experiment.

I strongly agree with the advice above that your learning is probably too passive. You have to attack the material and let the material attack you. That's an over the top metaphor, but it's accurate in the following way: learning, done correctly, is pretty uncomfortable. You should constantly feel uncertain--as opposed to the certainty that comes from rewriting a bunch of notes. Rewriting notes feels comfortable--so tangible!--but that's exactly what makes it bad for learning. Here's a question: do you rewrite notes from memory, summarising only the key points? That would probably get you a lot further than what you're currently doing. Still inefficient though.

I suggest two things: lots of practice questions, preferably hard ones, and getting in the habit of teaching others who will question you, i.e. form a study group. I stopped going to lecture soon after I realised lectures weren't for me and were generally a huge waste of time. I'd instead look through the syllabus and use high-quality resources (audio, visual, and written) to teach myself what I needed to know. Only then would I 2x the lectures to make sure I didn't miss anything important. I'd top it off with relevant questions from a good QBank and then actively engage in a weekly study group. Fear of sounding like an idiot in front of my peers, much more than just seeing a low number on a piece of paper, was phenomenal motivation for me. It worked well, but everybody is different. Experiment is the key word. Good luck OP!
Your last paragraph sounds like a terrific strategy for studying. I'm also an M1 and am struggling with passive vs active studying. I feel like I've been studying actively for anatomy by making flash cards for all memorizable concepts and using online atlases/apps to quiz myself on the locations of structures. But for subjects like biochemistry and physiology I'm having a hard time coming up with ways to study other than reading through the powerpoints/lecture notes and reviewing the material. My professors post quizzes at the end of each week for that week's material and I've done quite well on those questions, but there have only been 10-20 questions for each one. What Q banks did you use to answer questions? I'd like to answer a lot more questions to feel comfortable with the material. Thanks so much!
 

Taddy Mason

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Your last paragraph sounds like a terrific strategy for studying. I'm also an M1 and am struggling with passive vs active studying. I feel like I've been studying actively for anatomy by making flash cards for all memorizable concepts and using online atlases/apps to quiz myself on the locations of structures. But for subjects like biochemistry and physiology I'm having a hard time coming up with ways to study other than reading through the powerpoints/lecture notes and reviewing the material. My professors post quizzes at the end of each week for that week's material and I've done quite well on those questions, but there have only been 10-20 questions for each one. What Q banks did you use to answer questions? I'd like to answer a lot more questions to feel comfortable with the material. Thanks so much!
Lippincott's Review of Biochem comes with an online Qbank of about 400 questions. For phys the questions at the end of the chapters in BRS and Guyton and Hall Physiology Review (just a book of questions) are the probably the best sources for questions. Other than that maybe check out the PreTest series; I don't know what the pre-clinical ones are like but the ones for 3rd year are pretty good. For 2nd year Robbins Review of Path is the best source for practice questions.
 
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