As the academic year winds down, second-year medical students are buckling down to study for Step 1, an intimidating but necessary part of the medical education process. Here are some tips to help get you through it:
- Make a schedule. Creating a study schedule that emphasizes the subjects that you struggle with will be your map! I tried to follow the same routine every day, and spelled it out on an Excel spreadsheet: wake up at 6AM, be at the library by 7AM, review cardiovascular pathology in the morning, lunch at noon, 80 timed practice questions and review of my answers in the afternoon, run at 5PM, dinner at 6PM, flashcards at 7PM…
- …but don’t be afraid to make adjustments. Despite your attempts at making THE perfect schedule, you will have to move things around. And that’s okay! Be willing to adjust your schedule to your educational needs and leave a couple days open on your initial schedule to allow for some flexibility.
- Find the best study environment for you. Surrounding myself with other stressed medical students stressed me out even more, so I did most of my studying at the law school’s library (it’s a lot quieter than ours, too!). Whether it’s at home with your parents, your apartment, a coffee shop, the public library, or the same cubicle you’ve taken up residence in over the past two years, find a spot that you feel comfortable and least stressed in.
- Take practice tests. The only way to test your knowledge is to, well, test your knowledge! I know some students who take them weekly during their study periods, but I took one every two weeks and felt like it was an excellent gauge to assess my improvement and boost my confidence.
- Do something that makes you feel like YOU every day. For me, looking forward to running after a long study day was absolutely necessary for my success. Don’t forget that you’re more than a student. Take care of yourself mentally, and you’ll perform better in your preparation and exam.
- Do you. Don’t get bogged down in what everyone else is doing. Take advice from others with a grain of salt. Use the resources you’ve been using all year and that have helped you be successful. You know yourself best!