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Third Year of Medical School: 5 most important aspects to studying effectively

Why study more when you can study less and score better?

Take a deep breath, you made it past the Step/Level 1 and you are finally in the hospital. You are excited to get out of the classroom and be a part of the healthcare team.  With all the great excitement surrounding starting clinical rotations in medical school, there is undoubtedly some anxiety about how you will study. Many of my classmates and me included were confused about how to go about it the most effectively, primarily because of the demanding schedule and lack of a standardized approach to studying. Rest assured, I am going to give you the five most important aspects that helped me rock all my rotations and destroy my COMAT exams (DO version of the shelf exams).

  1. Pocket books/Apps

You need to utilize the big pockets in your white coat and carry around a few pocket books like pocket medicine or pocket pediatrics. These books were fantastic when there was downtime in-between rounding or during lunch for me to break out and go over what I had just seen that morning. They were also great resources to look up treatments and additional diagnostics.

Apps are just important if not more important than the books. Make sure you have a subscription to UpToDate. It is essentially the Google of medicine; I would use it on nearly every patient I came across. Also Amboss has a great library that was quick and easy to look up information. Regardless, you should be looking for something small, quick, and concise.

  1. Text books

My favorite thing to do was to get a subject specific one for each rotation. I found the case files series to be helpful for this purpose. These were the things I would do if I felt I needed more knowledge in the given area. All in all, I don’t think I actually finished one of the entire textbooks, but typically made it through about half of them on each rotation. These are a great adjunct to studying in my opinion.

  1. Questions banks

Uworld, Uworld, Uworld is all that is really needed to say. I would make sure to do about 15-20 Uworld questions per day throughout all of third year. This was key, because not only did it hit important topics for rounds, it was the cornerstone to board studying and made dedicated for Step/Level 2 that much easier. Get it and do it once through third year, then reset it for dedicated.

  1. Timing

Try to get into a routine with your studying. So much of third year is unpredictable because of the fact that your schedule is based on whoever you are rotating with that month. I made a commitment to wake up early every day and at least get my questions out of the way for the day. This way, if I was too exhausted when I got home and didn’t want to study, then I didn’t feel guilty and I stayed on track with my studying. I think having a preplanned and scheduled time to study each and every day is one of the main keys to my success.

  1. Questions

Go to your preceptor with questions from your studies. A great example is my surgery rotation. I would read about say, cholecystitis and then do some Q bank questions on it, then I would take that information I learned next time a gallbladder had to come out we would talk about the pathophys, diagnostics, and treatments. It was great discussion during cases and helped solidify the different diseases for me. Also, it was a great way to show my preceptors I was interested and paying attention.

So there you have it, my five tips to get the most out of studying in third year. Go finally enjoy your time in the hospital!

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