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What exactly is med school like? (structure, etc.)

Gallix23

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Hey everyone,

I hope this is in the right forum. Anyways, I have been reading around the boards of people describing medical school, and I'm a little confused about how it is actually structured. Are there standard classes? Tests? Attendance? things like that? Do you attend classes and what-not daily?

If someone could describe a typical, generic med school day it would be great,

Thank you!
 

RySerr21

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Hey everyone,

I hope this is in the right forum. Anyways, I have been reading around the boards of people describing medical school, and I'm a little confused about how it is actually structured. Are there standard classes? Tests? Attendance? things like that? Do you attend classes and what-not daily?

If someone could describe a typical, generic med school day it would be great,

Thank you!

i'm not in med school so this is going to be as generic as it comes, but the first two years of med school are similar to the school you have been going to all your life in the sense that you will be going to lecture and taking tests. Depending on what courses you are taking at that time, you might also have lab (such as anatomy). The way this is structured differs greatly at each school, so i wont go in to the detail. However, they all work in the same basic format of the first two years being the basic sciences (except for Duke, which is a little different). For the last two years you are no longer "going to class" but you are instead doing rotations through different departments in the hospital such as family medicine, internal medicine, etc etc down the list of specialties. I believe that at the end of each rotation (which can last between 4-8 weeks) you take what is called a "shelf" exam which is basically a huge exam on that specialty you were just rotating through.

Attendance requirements will vary along with school. The way some schools are set up you must attend calss (Problem based learning curriculum) and the way others are set up (most med schools) you can go to class if you feel like it but if you dont want to you dont have to. The good thing is that a lot of schools will stream teh lectures so you can listen to them online from home if you choose not to go in to school.

Thats just a very basic run down. Hope it helped. Any more specific questions can probably be better answerd by a curretn med student.
 

MilkmanAl

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Here's what my schedule has been for the last 5 months or so: 3 lectures from 9-12, gross lecture at 1, gross lab from 2-3:30/4 or so. After that, I work out, screw around for maybe an hour or two, and then study. I probably put in 2-3 hours of studying per day. On weekends, I'd up that to 5-6 per day since I try to cover the whole week. On test weeks, up those studying numbers by about 50%.

edit: I just realized how woefully incomplete and useless that information is for someone unfamiliar with the typical ins and outs of med school.

Arkansas's curriculum is integrated by organ system which means that instead of learning each subject on its own, we learn every subject for each system (musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, etc.). The first 8 weeks were biochemistry and cell bio, then we started the integrated approach which included gross anatomy, microanatomy (functions and structures at the cell level, mainly), physiology, and clinical correlations. The study time has remained roughly steady throughout. Our tests test all of the information learned for a particular system all at once, so we have one giant test every 2-3 weeks instead of the sporadic testing schedule you're probably used to in high school and will have in college.
 
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Law2Doc

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Here's what my schedule has been for the last 5 months or so: 3 lectures from 9-12, gross lecture at 1, gross lab from 2-3:30/4 or so. After that, I work out, screw around for maybe an hour or two, and then study. I probably put in 2-3 hours of studying per day. On weekends, I'd up that to 5-6 per day since I try to cover the whole week. On test weeks, up those studying numbers by about 50%.

Bear in mind that some med schools suggest to their students a minimum of 4 hours of studying a day, because it's suggested that you preread for each upcoming lecture, and review the one you just had, each day, which takes a decent chunk of time. The volume is huge compared to college, which is in turn huge compared to high school. (So you folks on this board really have no frame of reference yet.) Everybody does it differently, and more or less efficiently, (there is no one size fits all) but I'd suggest that more people than not in med school will exceed the 2-3 hours/day suggested by MilkmanAl, some will dwarf it.

Basically med school works the way RySerr described. It's two years of lecture and lab stuff, with some PBL (problem based learning -- small discussion groups) mixed in at some places. Then a year of core rotations, ranging from 1-3 months apiece where you work on the wards in various specialties, seeing patients, writing notes, assisting in operations, doing procedures, taking call, with a standardized shelf exam test at the end of each rotation which you have to study for in your "spare" time. During third year you may approach or exceed the 80 hour work week at times, with lots of weekends and overnights, and have other rotations which are much more like 40-50 hour/week jobs. Then 4th year where you usually have a sub-I or two (where you effectively act as an intern but with no salary), and a bunch of electives, and maybe an away rotation or two at other hospitals (where you are effectively auditioning for a job), but your real job during 4th year is to apply for and interview for residency positions, culminating on Match day in mid march. In the meantime you have the boards to take, with the Step 1 to be taken at the end of the second year summer (effectively eliminating all fun that summer), and the two parts of Step 2 being taken sometime in 4th year (or sometimes late third year, if you are ambitious).
 

Gallix23

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Thanks for all the help guys. So, is med school grade-oriented? Or is it more of a pass/fail type of thing? And do you have class everyday? (besides the 4 hours of studying =P)
 

Law2Doc

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Thanks for all the help guys. So, is med school grade-oriented? Or is it more of a pass/fail type of thing? And do you have class everyday? (besides the 4 hours of studying =P)

Some schools are P/F others have grades. There are usually Honors for the top couple of people per class. Class rank and AOA are grade based. In terms of residency, however, the first two years' grades are fairly low in importance. (Most med students won't get or believe this, so competition still abounds throughout the first two years at some places). How you do on rotations is much much much much more important, and a lot of that is subjective grading, so it's very different than you are going to be used to. The Step exams are very important for residency, and doing well in the first two years of med school tends to be very good prep for learning the material necessary to do well on Step 1.

In the first two years, you will have class 5 days a week. You will study on top of that. And you will also want to study much of each weekend, because those are the only days you aren't getting any new information, so it's the ideal time to review stuff and cement things into longterm memory.
 

Gallix23

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Some schools are P/F others have grades. There are usually Honors for the top couple of people per class. Class rank and AOA are grade based. In terms of residency, however, the first two years' grades are fairly low in importance. (Most med students won't get or believe this, so competition still abounds throughout the first two years at some places). How you do on rotations is much much much much more important, and a lot of that is subjective grading, so it's very different than you are going to be used to. The Step exams are very important for residency, and doing well in the first two years of med school tends to be very good prep for learning the material necessary to do well on Step 1.

In the first two years, you will have class 5 days a week. You will study on top of that. And you will also want to study much of each weekend, because those are the only days you aren't getting any new information, so it's the ideal time to review stuff and cement things into longterm memory.

I see, thank you. By class 5 days a week, is that like high-school structured as in going to one building for like 6 hours, or is it the college type one-or-two classes a day?
 

MilkmanAl

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For use, it's one building, one room, all day and then off to the gross lab which is in the same building. It's more like high school in that respect.
 

WatchMeRise

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So would you say in comparison to undergrad, medical school requires a totally revamped style of studying?
 

KillingMeSmalls

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I wouldn't say you'd need a change in style so much, just in scheduling. You'll certainly need to learn to be as efficient as possible, but the biggest issue is making sure you've allotted enough time in your schedule to for studying that is appropriate for you. It'll be different for everyone based one what kind of grades you want, how quickly you learn, and what you are naturally good at.

Stylistically, the method of studying in the first two years is still pretty much just rote memorization. In retrospect, I thought I understood certain concepts in the first two years, but realized once I hit clinicals what the actual big picture was. If I went back and did pre-clinical now, it'd go so much smoother because I have a better framework with which to understand the material instead of just memorizing words on a page. It's too bad we can't really do it that way! I'd still suck at biochem, though...
 

beanbean

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A quick overview of my med school days:

1st Year:

Mon-Fri 8am-12pm : Approximately 50 min lectures in a large lecture hall with the whole class and Anatomy lab (1-2 hours, several days a week from Sept-April). During the beginning of the year (Aug-Sept) and the end (April-May) when we were not dissecting we just had lecture. Our curriculum was "Systems Based." When learning the Neuro systems we learned the physiology of the nervous system, the histology of neural cells, head, neck, brain and spinal anatomy, etc. When learning cardiology we studied the physiology of the cardiac and vascular systems, the histology of heart cells and the vascular system, and dissected the heart. One morning a week was set aside for PBL -Problem Based Learning. In PBL small groups of students work together to learn about concepts by working through a clinical case and researching about the topics. Lectures were taught my both MDs and PhDs who had expertise in whatever we were learning. There were also histology labs (microscopic study of tissues) and some small group learning sessions for practical applications like radiology. Exams were every 6-8 weeks and consisted of a written, multiple choice exam covering all the material plus a practical anatomy and hsitology section where you had to identify or answer questions regarding tagged structure on cadavers or microscope slides. Each exam was about 4 hours long.

Mon-Fri 12pm-5pm: One afternoon a week was set aside for Student Continuity Practice (SCP). Each student was assigned to a primary care MD preceptor (Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, or Family Medicine) and spent the afternoon seeing patients in the outpatient office and presenting them to their preceptor. This continued for the first three years of med school. Another afternoon was spent in Principles of Clinical Medicine. This was where I learned how to do a physical exam and we talked about some of the "touchy-feely," more humanistic side of medicine. Another afternoon was spent in elective. There were many electives to choose from in diverse subjects from "Art in Medicine" to "Current topics in Emergency Medicine Research"

Break from June-August

Year 2:

Mon-Fri 8am-12pm The same structure as first year without anatomy lab, but now the focus was shifted to learn the mechanisms of disease, pathophysiology and pharmacology. In first year I learned how everything worked; in second year I learned about everything that goes wrong and a little bit about how to fix it. PBL sessions continued one morning a week. In addition, a section on health and human behavior, including medical ethics, was taught. Same exam structure including histology, just no cadavers or anatomy.

Mon-Fri 1pm-5pm Again, a similiar schedule to first year with Student Continuty Practice and Principles of Clinical Medicine. The clinical focus shifted from how to do a general physical exam to how and when to perform more focused exams based on a patient presentation. More touchy-feely stuff.

May-June Study for and take Step 1 National Board Exam

Third Year: A full year of rotations; all were required:
OB/GYN 1 month
Family Med 6 weeks
Outpatient Surgery 2 weeks
Internal Medicine 1 month
Surgery 1 month
Psychiatry 1 month
Outpatient Medicine 1 month
Orthopedics 2 weeks
Pediatrics (Outpatient and Inpatient) 1 month
BTE (Beginning to End - pick up patients in the ED and follow then through the entire hospital course) 2 weeks
Outpatient Psychiatry one afternoon a week for 3 months

During inpatient hospital rotations I was expected to assist the residents in patient care, round on patients in the morning and present patients during rounds with the attending and the rest of the team. I had to stay overnight for call approximately every 3rd or 4th night. Each rotation also had some required lectures and of course, reading. There was an exam for each rotation as well. I also continued to have Student Continuity one afternoon a week.

Year 4: Four required rotations:
Emergency Medicine
Sub-Intern (Medicine, Surgery, Pediatric or Family Medicine)
ICU (Medical, Surgical, or Pediatric)
Scholarly Project (Research, education, or community health based project)

The rest of the rotations were electives I could choose or set up on my own. Students often use this time to do a rotation in the specialty they hope to match into for residency. Fourth year is very focused on applying to residency, interviewing at programs and, hopefully, matching.

Graduation May, 2007
Residency started July 1, 2007


All med schools are a little bit different form one another, but I hope this gives you a general idea of what the four years are like for many of us.
 

Terpskins99

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Are there standard classes? Tests? Attendance? things like that? Do you attend classes and what-not daily?

If someone could describe a typical, generic med school day it would be great
Years 1 + 2 (basic sciences)
8 am - noon: 4 x 50 minute lectures with 10 minute breaks
Noon - 1 pm: break/lunch
1-3 pm: either 2x50 minute lectures, 2 hour anatomy lab, small group sessions

Most lectures have optional attendance, though any lecture provided by a guest speaker will usually have mandatory attendance (typically enforced by a sign-in sheet).

Years 3 + 4 (clinical clerkships)
Your schedule would depend largely upon the rotation you were on.

So would you say in comparison to undergrad, medical school requires a totally revamped style of studying?
I would say there is no comparison to undergrad. You have 3-4 times the amount of lecture, you have exams literally every other week and you are expected to memorize EVERYTHING. Needless to say, you are studying constantly just to keep pace with the rest of the class.

Does that mean that you'll have to change your studying method? If you're inefficient with your time, probably. But I wouldn't worry about it now. I don't think anyone walks-in thoroughly prepared for medical school.
 
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Law2Doc

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I would say there is no comparison to undergrad. You have 3-4 times the amount of lecture, you have exams literally every other week and you are expected to memorize EVERYTHING. Needless to say, you are studying constantly just to keep pace with the rest of the class.

Does that mean that you'll have to change your studying method? If you're inefficient with your time, probably. But I wouldn't worry about it now. I don't think anyone walks-in thoroughly prepared for medical school.

I would tend to agree with this. Very few to no people find that what worked in college works equally well in med school. You end up scrapping a lot after the first test. The key is being flexible and adapting to the situation. Nobody shows up knowing how to be a good med student. You spend some of first year learning it, and tweaking things until you've got it right. Which is why lots of med students find 2d year easier, even though the material is more voluminous. I'm not sure why folks on a high school board are worried about this though.
 

Gallix23

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Wow, thanks for all the detailed responses guys. So, in a nutshell (correct me if I'm wrong:)

Years 1 and 2 is pretty much book learning, tests on the material, gross anatomy labs, and lectures (aka "classes"?). However, most lectures are optional? I'm guessing it wouldn't be a wise choice to skip them?

Years 3 and 4 are more hands on, with clinical rotations and things taking the place of the lectures, and tests being on the material learned while on the rotations.

That's basically an overview right?
 

RySerr21

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Wow, thanks for all the detailed responses guys. So, in a nutshell (correct me if I'm wrong:)

Years 1 and 2 is pretty much book learning, tests on the material, gross anatomy labs, and lectures (aka "classes"?). However, most lectures are optional? I'm guessing it wouldn't be a wise choice to skip them?

Years 3 and 4 are more hands on, with clinical rotations and things taking the place of the lectures, and tests being on the material learned while on the rotations.

That's basically an overview right?


like I said in my original post, you can skip class if you want to, no one is going to care. There is so much information that you are going to be told to learn that what it really comes down to is learn the best way that YOU can. If that means go to class and listen to lecture, then do it. If that means skip lecture and just study on your own, then do it. No one is going to tell you to do anything, you have complete control over how you learn. A lot of med students I have talked to do not go to class b/c they say its just more efficient to study on your own. Its all a personal choice. And also, like i said in my first post, many schools stream the lectures online so even if you dont go to class you can listen to the lecture later (sometimes at 2x speed).
 

MilkmanAl

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That's definitely true. Also, many people I know skip class and largely ignore the lectures in favor of reading the comprehensive review books you can get for each subject. That seems to work for them, and you can do that at any school since they all cover the same material.
 

Gallix23

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Ohh, I see. So essentially, you could stay at home every single day studying on your own, and then only come in for the labs and tests?
 

beanbean

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Some schools, such as those that have primarily PBL based learning as opposed to formal lectures, have attendance requirements. At UCONN we were required to attend anatomy and histology labs, PBL sessions, Principles of Clinical Medicine, Student Continuity Practice and electives. Morning lectures were optional, but most students attended them. I went to most lectures in my first year and the beginning of second year. I then started listening to the lecture MP3 files at home and reviewing the Powerpoints for each lecture at home in addition to my regular studying. Of course, 3rd and 4th year attendance is mandatory!
 

Terpskins99

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Some schools, such as those that have primarily PBL based learning as opposed to formal lectures, have attendance requirements. At UCONN we were required to attend anatomy and histology labs, PBL sessions, Principles of Clinical Medicine, Student Continuity Practice and electives. Morning lectures were optional, but most students attended them. I went to most lectures in my first year and the beginning of second year. I then started listening to the lecture MP3 files at home and reviewing the Powerpoints for each lecture at home in addition to my regular studying. Of course, 3rd and 4th year attendance is mandatory!

Yeah, it would have been nice to skip on a couple of those months--- err... classes. :p
 

Law2Doc

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Because adolescents (like everyone) naturally want to understand things about their potential future. We created hSDN for this primary reason.

Well, I actually think the board is more useful for high schoolers who are pre-premeds inquiring about things relating to the current or next step, not the ones beyond that. But hey, in fairness, I did answer the question before I suggested it was premature.:)
 

psipsina

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like I said in my original post, you can skip class if you want to, no one is going to care. There is so much information that you are going to be told to learn that what it really comes down to is learn the best way that YOU can. If that means go to class and listen to lecture, then do it. If that means skip lecture and just study on your own, then do it. No one is going to tell you to do anything, you have complete control over how you learn. A lot of med students I have talked to do not go to class b/c they say its just more efficient to study on your own. Its all a personal choice. And also, like i said in my first post, many schools stream the lectures online so even if you dont go to class you can listen to the lecture later (sometimes at 2x speed).

I don't attend class AT ALL! I have to go to a few clinical skills labs type things and stuff in the hospital but I've found I just don't learn well in the lecture setting with this amount of volume. My grades drastically improved when I stopped attending lecture. I get up early every morning and go to my desk and stay there just like it was a job for X hours/day (increasing as we get closer to an exam). I've found that being able to stop and look things up, go slower thru certain harder sections and faster thru easier sections of lectures, being able to draw things out for myself etc really help me learn. Plus I really like to sit around in my PJs all day, thus my interest in surgery ;)

My school doesn't have attendance. Some classes offer bonus points for attendance (random sign in sheets a few times a year) but I've found that those few points aren't worth sitting in lecture and not learning for hours on end. We have a notetaker service so I still get all the material that was covered and we have access to the powerpoints. All the higher ups really care about is that you are getting the information into your brain, they really don't care how exactly you go about doing it.
 
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Ohh, I see. So essentially, you could stay at home every single day studying on your own, and then only come in for the labs and tests?
Sure. A lot of schools have pretty frequent required small group sessions or labs though (as in, 2-4 times a week). I skipped the vast majority of lectures after my first semester of med school.
 

Law2Doc

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Ohh, I see. So essentially, you could stay at home every single day studying on your own, and then only come in for the labs and tests?

Well, I think this is kind of a dangerous concept to think about in high school. Because you don't really have the sense of the volume involved, and your frame of reference is a bit skewed. In med school you try to find what works. If going to lecture each day to force yourself to get up in the morning and get lead through the material by someone is helpful, you do that. If instead you get more by going to the library and studying that way all day, then you do that. There is no "one size fits all". I know a number of people who tried the study at home approach, ended up goofing off too much of the time and their grades suffered badly -- they quickly revised things and subsequently attended every lecture. I know others who started studying on their own and saw their grades go up. You don't know which person you are yet. I sure wouldn't go to med school expecting not to attend classes.

Anyone who tells you a "right" way to do med school really probably shouldn't. There are probably a hundred viable approaches to how to "do" med school and all will or won't work for a given student. So you spend a good amount of first year figuring out what works for you. But I sure wouldn't plan on showing up to med school and not go to class because honestly it doesn't work for about half the class, and may be sub-optimal for even more. Plan on trying different things and see what works for you. If you end up tanking a test (and some do), you switch things back quickly.

I also note that in addition to the labs and PBL and other fixed obligations in the first two years of med school you can't avoid, even if you are one of those self starters who does better studying on your own, nothing in third or 4th year is going to be "optional". So expect to work crazy long hours during third year regardless.

One anecdotal note: While skipping class is popular to talk about on SDN, I have to note that an awful lot of people applying to the more competitive specialties ended up being the folks who showed up to class each day. Not all, but more than you'd expect by random distribution if both approaches were equivalent. Now this may tell you more about the interests of the type-A personalities of folks who insist on regularly attending, or it may be a commentary on slackers who naturally gravitate away from anything classroom oriented and ease their way into the less competitive fields. But I found it interesting to note.

So I would plan on attending everything for one test and nothing for another and see what works for you. If you do better with one approach you stick to it. Med school is all about switching things up and coming up with a routine that works. Because very little of what you've done before med school will work as well with the added volume of med school. People always liken med school to "drinking out of a fire hose" -- more volume than you can usefully assimilate. So you need to keep experimenting with things.
 
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Eisley

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is this comparable to dental school at all?
 
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