How To Study in Medical School (Ultimate Guide)
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How To Study in Medical School [Ultimate Guide]

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How to study in medical school? I get emails and messages on this all the time.

And believe me – I looked up how to study in medical school all the time.

Now after finishing 4 years of medical school – I consider myself to have a great grasp on my studying. I managed to finish med school with a 3.9 GPA and had tons of free time.

Want to learn to do the same?

In this post I’m going to teach you just that!

I created the ultimate guide on how exactly you should study as a medical student.

This post will be a combination of the topics I looked for prior to starting medical school and common questions from my readers.

Free Guide: Want to learn how I study faster in medical school? Check out this free video course where I show you how I cut my studying in half. Download it here.

How To Study in Medical School

Is It Hard To Study In Medical School?

So this question is common among pre-meds and first-year medical students.

How hard is studying in medical school really?

Short answer – it’s difficult.

Is it because the material is difficult? Not really.

Here are a few reasons which make med school hard.

Increased Volume in Medical School:

The main difference is the volume of material.

While you may be used to going to 3 lectures per week in college, medical school typically will have 3 classes per day! (That’s 5x the volume each week).

Now it’s not that medical school is necessarily more difficult – there are just more opportunities for difficulties.

With more and more classes, you’re just likely to find more information which gives you trouble.

But obviously you still have to master these topics – so you have no choice but to spend more time on them. This impacts your studying time and adds up quickly!

High-Stakes Exams in Med School:

The volume in medical school may not phase you very much. Honestly, after a few months – the volume becomes expected and second nature.

What really puts the stamp of difficulty in medical school are the exams.

Are they more difficult than what you had in college? Yes.

In addition, it’s not uncommon to have one test per class. Thus it’s critical and stressful that you perform come exam time.

Thus for students who are high achievers (most of us) or are wanting to go to a competitive specialty – studying long hours seems reasonable.

As someone whose primary goal was to do well in the least time possible – I can understand why I had classmates study 10 hours a day in medical school.

(But if you’re like me and want to learn how to study faster – check out the free video course here.)

The Need For Long-Term Learning:

We touched on the volume, but the other reason medical school can be so hard to study for is the need for long-term retention.

That old college approach of cram, pass the exam, and forget is not acceptable anymore.

Youll be expected to have that knowledge (if not most of it) to take care of your patients.

If you’re early on in the process – long term learning may not be the #1 priority. Surviving may your main goal at this point.

But I promise you that by the time you’re wrapping up medical school – you wished you absorbed as much info as possible.

And if you’ve accepted that long-term retention is important – you also know that it requires more time and focus.

Once you combine the volume, need for long-term retention, and the high-stakes exams – you’re left with difficult school experience.

How Many Hour Should A Medical Student Study?

How To Study in Med School

So we’ve accepted that studying in medical school is difficult.

But does that mean you have to be miserable and spend countless hours doing so?

No!

In fact, check out a post I wrote my second year of medical school when I was able to cut my studying to just 5 hours a day!

5 hours? Some of you may be dreaming of an 8 hour day.

How do you get there and what’s the right number when it comes to studying in medical school.

The number varies depending on the following factors:

  • Required vs. Optional Attendance to lectures
  • Daily Class Schedules
  • Grading scheme (Pass/Fail vs. A/B/C’s)
  • Long Term Goals (Competitive Speciality vs. Not So Much)
  • Outside Obligations (Family, Significant Other)

So I can’t fairly say that you can also study just 5 hours a day.

But you can use the same principles to likely decrease the number of hours you’re spending now.

If you want to learn of a great way I recommend to study less – try out the fluff/impact ratio.

Here’s a video where I talk about what it is and how to apply it. (Be sure to subscribe if you enjoyed the video).

Also if you want a FREE studying evaluator worksheet, click here to download it!

Study Habits For Medical School:

Before I get into study strategies, I think study habits are really what separates the top students from the rest of the pack.

Because let’s be honest – your exact study method doesn’t really correlate with your final grade. Different strategies will work differently for every student.

But the habits – that’s where the best students really earn their grades.

I’ve written an entire post on the best study habits for medical students. We’ll briefly touch a few here.

Being Deliberate With Everything You Do:

If I asked why you’re studying a specific way or why you organized your study schedule a specific way – you better have a better answer than “because that’s what everyone else is doing”.

Time is limited in medical school. Thus you can not waste time on ineffective techniques for you.

Be deliberate with which study methods you choose (more on this later), how you spend your time, and when you choose to study.

Don’t be casual with your study routine. I’ve learned through personal experience (and coaching many students) that a failure to plan is planning to fail.

So here’s a simple question to ask yourself each time you’re doing something.

Is this helpful?

Don’t do anything unless it’s required or benefits your long-term retention.

Just because a top student in your class is doing it a specific way doesn’t mean you should alter your study routine.

They Make Small Changes To Their Routine:

Don’t alter your study routine every week and do a complete a 180.

I’ll be honest – I did this all the time. And it sucked.

Not only did a majority of the techniques not work for me, but I also couldn’t pinpoint what was right for me.

I was trying to become a better student by trying to be a different student every time.

Instead, I should have been working on being a slightly better student with each change.

Here’s another simple exercise that can help you make small improvements.

    1. Track every hour you spend for a week (Monday – Sunday)
    2. Give each activity an overall score on it’s contribution to your life. (How effective was it to your learning? If you were taking some time to relax – did that specific task actually accomplish that?) Score them from 1-10
    3. Remove the 1-4’s from your life for just 3 days. Not too bad. Just do it from Monday-Wednesday
    4. Assess your quality of life on Thursday. Do you miss anything you took away? How productive were you?

You see what’s unique about this approach is that we are improving your academic life in medical school simply through subtraction!

You are learning to do more with less.

Identify Their Fluff/Impact Ratio:

I love talking about this concept because medical students are notorious for sucking at it.

Stop using studying techniques that don’t work for you!

Seems obvious but you may be surprised how much time you’re wasting on what doesn’t work.

Want to see for yourself? Download my free excel sheet where you can visually see how optimized your studying is.

Based on the results I’ve seen from my coaching students the average students spend nearly 50% of their time on techniques which they consider to be ineffective!

Keep in mind this is not a third-party evaluating their studying. This is the student, themselves, stating that essentially half of their studying is useless.

Case Study: Decreasing Studying Time By 30% And Getting Better Grades

I once had a student who was studying 10-12 hours a day! That’s over 60 hours a week!

But when we looked closer, she found that only about 25 hours led to improved long-term retention!

Nearly 60% of her studying was spent on ineffective techniques. But she was still doing them!

So what did we do? We simply removed the techniques which she considered to be useless (again download the FREE excel sheet to do this yourself) and replaced half the recovered time with her best study methods.

Why half? First of all, she didn’t need to be studying for 60 hours. She was a C-B student and wasn’t that far from getting high B and A’s in medical school.

So we took the recovered 35 hours (60 total hours – 25 effective hours) and dedicated 17.5 hours (35/2) on her top study techniques.

Now she was spending a little over 40 hours a week instead of 60! That’s over a 30% decrease!

But since she was studying using methods which worked for her – the grades started to increase as well!

Within two weeks she went from barely passing her clinical exams to becoming one of the top students in her class.

This by no means in an anomaly. Many of my readers have had similar results.

So remember to pay attention to your fluff/impact ratio. Download the fluff/impact ratio worksheet here to identify your strengths and weaknesses.

Recommended Blog Posts: Top Study Habits of Effective Medical Students

Best Study Methods For Medical School:

How To Study in Med School

So you know a few of the things to keep in mind in regards to habits -let’s get into the juicy part of this post. The study methods.

When I’m asked “how to study in medical school” this is basically what students want from me.

I’ve shared what important to know before getting to this point but I think you’re ready now.

Here are a few of my favorite study methods for medical school.

The Brain Dump:

Do you know what the #1 complaint from my readers is? It goes something like this:

“I don’t know how to keep with all this information! How do I study it all?”

Yep, I’ve been there too.

But here’s one principle you need to understand – medical school is all about finding your gaps.

There is a lot of information and it will serve you well if you stop trying to learn everything the first time around.

Thankfully medical school leaves rooms for multiple iterations. You can review tough topics after classes, the following day, weekends. You can also review them months and years from now. (You’ll likely have to anyways).

But once we accept this fact that not everything can be learned at first glance – we need a strategy.

This is where the brain dump comes in.

How The Brain Dump Works:

The brain dump is all about actively identify gaps in your knowledge.

Here are the steps:

l. Understand the flow of lecture and memorize as much as you can
2. Regurgitate that info on a blank piece of paper
3. Identify when you have trouble going from Topic A -> Topic B. Mark them. These are your gaps
4. Review the gaps
5. Repeat!

It’s super effective and one of my favorite study techniques!

Here’s a video where I go over the brain dump (and more techniques!)

The Review Container:

One of the concepts which I teach in my free course: How To Be A Superstar Student is to always work on your weaknesses.

Your grades tend to suffer because of the topics which give you a hard time. So let’s make sure we work on these pain points.

The review container is what I created to help me do this. Here’s how it works:

    1. While reviewing lecture, keep an eye out for topics which are giving you a hard time
    2. Write them down on a scratch piece of paper or post-it note
    3. Place the note in a small box or container of some sort
    4. Review 5-10 every evening through active techniques (quizzing, brain dumps, drawing it out, etc.)
    5. If you get it correct -> take it out of the container. If you don’t, put it back in.
    6. Repeat

The review container works wonders because it makes you focus on the topics which would have cost you points.

If you’re a student who suffers from last minute text anxiety because of how much there is left to know – the review container is for you!

Expedited Flashcards:

This is what most readers know me for. This is the technique that personally gave me results in medical school.

Note: If you want to learn the exact method – get access to the FREE video course here. 

How To Study in Medical School

Many pre-meds and med students like yourself have heard of Anki.

For the few who haven’t, Anki is a free flashcard making software. But it’s so much more than that. It’s also built to use the concept of spaced repetition.

What is Spaced Repetition?

Here’s a great article from Thomas Frank on how spaced repetition works.

Don’t want to read another article? No worries.

Spaced repetition is all about keeping our retention as high as possible thorugh routine learning over time.

Here’s an example.

Monday: You learn concepts A, B, and C for the first time.

Tuesday: You review concepts A, B, and C in the morning before class. You struggle with topic B and C but topic A seems to be easy.

Wednesday: You review topic B and C before the lecture. Topic B and C are starting to make sense now.

Weekend: You review topic A-C again.

Week Before Exam: You review topic A-C again.

Spaced repetition puts emphasis on the first few days – where we’re likely to forget the material if we don’t review it.

In addition, it also helps us spend extra time on harder topics.

This is one of the most important concepts to understand if you want to know how to study in medical school.

There’s a lot of info which you’ll be required to learn for the long haul. Spaced repetition is the way to do it.

Using Anki in Medical School:

So now that we know that spaced repetition is king. How do we use it?

This is where Anki comes in (download Anki free here).

Anki – in addition to making flashcards – uses spaced repetition to quiz you on your weaker topics more so than your strengths.

This isn’t, however, breaking news. Most students know about this.

Students also know of the biggest gripe regarding Anki – it takes too much time to make flashcards and too much time to review them.

I used to believe that too. But it’s not actually true.

What I discovered in medical school was the power of screenshots and question stacking to spend 80/90% of my time on reviewing vs. making the flashcards.

This post would become extremely long if I broke the entire method down. So I have two options for you.

Option 1: Download the free video course where I walk you step-by-step how I used Anki in medical school to study.

Option 2: Watch the following video which is a more expedited version on the technique.


If you want to learn about other study methods I recommend – check out this post on the top 5 study methods for medical school.

Memorization Techniques for Medical Students:

How To Study in Med School

Whenever I’m asked about how to study in medical school – there’s usually a question about how to memorize better.

Below I’ll suggest a few ways which may help you study better in medical school.

Combine these with some of the previous study methods we’ve discussed and you’ll find yourself remembering for the long-term.

The Feynman Technique for Medical School:

I’ve written an entire post on the Feynman technique which you can check out here.

But this is what is basically boils down to – can you teach it to someone 4 years younger than you?

What?

Yep – can you teach the concept to a college student (if you’re in med school) or a high school student (if you’re in college).

What does this have to do with memorizing in medical school?

Well, the Feynman technique is a vocal version of the brain dump we’ve talked about. Similar to the brain dump – the Feynman technique is focused on identifying our gaps.

Only difference is we’re acting like we’re going to teach it.

If during your “teaching session” you have difficulty explaining a concept – then it’s a sign you need to look it up.

The Memory Palace in Medical School:

Another memorization technique for medical school is the memory palace. 

Check out the full article here for the complete details on the memory palace. But here’s how it works.

Your brain remembers images better than just words on a text. But it remembers silly images even better.

In addition, our brains tend to connect images that happen naturally. For example, you can easily remember the details of your drive/walk to school. You remember each turn, major landmarks, and smaller nuances.

We’re going to use our visually inclined brain to help us in medical school.

Here’s how:

1. Imagine your drive/walk to school and identify 5-10 objects in the order they occur on your path. (ie. You may pass or see a fast food restaurant, a parking garage, a funny billboard, a bus station, the school gym, and finally your lecture halls.)

2. Find a list of items you need to memorize (names of bacterias/drugs, etc.)

3. Create funny memorable images for each item.

4. Place each memory item to each memorable object/landmark on your path to school. (In the order they happen).

I know this process can be tough to understand by just reading about it. So check out this video example below.

How To Learn New Material in Medical School:

So we’ve touched on study methods and memorization techniques. How does all of this apply when we’re learning new material in medical school?

Everything Is Not Equally Important:

Remember this principle if you don’t remember anything else from this post – don’t try to learn everything. 

Some of you may read that and take it as a challenge. You’re likely under the wrong impression that there’s no other way to get high marks without committing everything to memory.

But that’s not how medicine works. Even the best of us have to look up the simplest concepts years after learning them.

Your job as a med student is to focus on the high-yield material and do your best to commit it to long-term memory.

All of that extra detail may seem important, but all it’s really doing is taking your attention away from the high-yield material.

How To Know What Information Is High-Yield?

So you accept the fact that you need to focus on the high-yield. How are we supposed to know what’s high-yield the first time we’re going through a med school lecture?

Fair question. Luckily I have a few options.

Use A High-Yield Resource First:

There are a nauseating amount of resources for medical school. But they can be a blessing if you use correctly.

One of my favorite strategies is to use to skim through a high-yield resource prior to the lecture.

Here’s an example:

1. Look up your lecture topics for the next day and skim corresponding topics in your high-yield resource.
2. Skim your lecture slides to be prepared of the topics that will be covered. Look for overlaps between your high-yield resource and the slides. These are likely your high-yield topic.
3. Pay attention to those topics during lecture and make sure to take awesome notes on them (more on that later.)
4. Refer back to your high-yield resource to assure you understand the information.

If you use this simple study strategy in medical school you’ll be sure to be able to identify what’s important quicker.

Then you can spend the remaining time on your weak points and details.

How To Learn The Details in Medical School?

Once you understand what high-yield, how should you study the details?

After working with countless coaching students, I found this decision to be personal.

I’ll give you a couple of options.

1. Make Flashcards Of Your Weakness

Not every piece of detail is worth remembering. But it’s likely worth working on the details which have given you trouble in the past.

So use a system such as practice questions to identify which details you’ve missed in the past.

Now make a flashcard for each missed question or detail you’ve forgotten.

I’ve had students who would use question banks (such as USMLE-Rx) and then make a flashcard for each answer explanation which didn’t make sense.

Then they would quiz themselves each evening.

2. Use The Brain Dump

Remember the brain dump from earlier in the post? It’s a great way to learn details.

Often it’s the details that happen to be your gaps. So look them up and try to do the brain dump from scratch.

This was my favorite way to learn the details in a fun nonstressful way.

Note: If you want to learn of more techniques to study in medical school, check out my How To Study in Medical School book for advanced strategies.

How To Study in Medical School

How To Take Notes in Medical School:

How To Study in Med School

Now we have our study habits, methods, and an approach to learning new material. How do we organize all that information in the forms of notes in medical school?

Question/Evidence Method:

I learned this style of note taking through one of my favorite authors – Cal Newport. (Check out my favorite book from him here)

The common approach to note taking is flawed. We tend to go to lecture, jot down what we think is important, and then hope we can absorb it at a later time.

Often our notes aren’t enough or we don’t use them. This can leads to a lot of time wasted.

But what if our note taking was actually helping us reach long-term retention? 

Instead of just hoping our notes are good enough – what if we could make sure they are useful?

This is where the question/evidence method comes in.

I learned two principles early in med school.

    1. To prepare for exams and to memorize facts – you have to be in a constant state of quizzing.
    2. You have to master the big ideas before you focus on the tiny details.

The combination of the two principles led to my question/evidence method.

Here’s how it works.

    1. Make the major ideas/headings of your syllabus chapter or powerpoint slides into questions before the lecture
    2. Then add in the details from the following paragraphs which answer those questions
    3. Go to lecture and add more questions and details that you may have missed.
    4. At home quickly reformat your notes. Take away unnecessary details and redundancies. Make sure the evidence applies to the main question.
    5. Quiz yourself through each question and see if you can name all the evidence.
    6. Mark any major questions you fail to get 100% correct and look up what you missed.
    7. Repeat step 5-6

If you want an example of how to use the question/evidence method to take notes in medical school – check out my free course How To Become A Superstar Student here. 

How To Be A Superstar Student

Alternative To Typical Note Taking in Medical School:

I’ll go over in separate posts how to take notes using OneNote, iPad, and more. But I want to share with you how I used flashcards to take notes in med school.

If the expedited flashcard method I laid out earlier is not for you, this alternative may for you.

    1. Skim the lecture slides to be prepared of what topics will be covered
    2. Use Anki to use the Q/E method and fill out the questions and evidence in the respective fields.
    3. Review Anki flashcards at home instead of your typical word document.

It may not seem that different, but here’s where the power of Anki for med school comes in.

Because each question (big idea) and evidence are individual flashcards – you can quiz yourself using spaced repetition.

You don’t have to review the entire lecture over the span of the week – you can just review the flashcards that Anki recommends. Over time you’ll tend to focus on the “notes” which gave you the hardest time.

How To Prepare For Exams:

Notes check. How to study check.

Now, how the hell do you prepare for exams in medical school?

If you’re hoping for an “easy secret strategy” I’m sorry to say I don’t have it.

Med school exams are tough as you already may know. They tend to test combinations of big ideas we should be prepared for, but also headache inducing minor details.

In all honesty, if you follow just a few principles from above, you’ll feel calm while preparing. You’ll have a game plan and the right study habits – that’s already 80% of the victory.

Now here are a few tips on preparing for med school exams.

1. Create Your Study Schedule From Day 1

Each med school curriculum is different, but traditionally you’ll cover an organ system or medical topic over a 4-week block in med school. (Again this may differ for you)

Regardless – once you know when the quiz/test day is, you need to start working backward.

Ask yourself the following questions:

    • How many lectures will be covered?
    • How many syllabus pages/lecture slides do I need to review?
    • When is the latest I can start reviewing to cover each lecture at least twice?

The last point is the most important and also the least followed by medical students.

We know the importance of repetition in medical school, but most students don’t prepare for it.

The average med student (including myself) needs at least 2 or more focused reviews of each lecture to feel comfortable with the material. These reviews don’t include the review you may do the day of the original lecture.

But due to poor time management – students begin to compromise. They’re lucky if they can even cover one lecture more than once. No wonder most are so stressed before an exam.

But you’re reading this post – so you’re not the average med student.

To avoid this last minute test anxiety – work backward and create a study schedule that allows you to cover each lecture twice before test day.

I provide a few examples of study schedules in my book How To Study in Medical School. 

You can also grab my special sales bundle here for a discount. 

TheMDJourney Bundle

Regardless if you check out the book or not – it’s important to understand how many lectures you can realistically cover in a day.

If you have 10 lectures before you quiz and can only review 2 lecture M-F and 4 lectures on the weekends, then you’ll need about 8 days to review.

Do your own math and mark your start day for your review on your calendar. Then add in the lectures you expect to finish each day.

2. Account For Laziness in Medical School

This doesn’t seem like a test strategy but believe me it is. We all procrastinate and underperform compared to our study schedules.

So let’s freaking account for our laziness and not get off track.

To do this, if I planned to review for 8 days, I’ll add a 10-25% buffer and add anywhere from an 1-4 days to my review schedule.

Thus if I’m being lazy one evening or if something comes up – I can still commit to my study schedule without missing a beat.

Accounting for laziness, procrastination, lack of motivation, and just life has been one of the best things I did for myself in medical school. Stuff happens, but you don’t want that to affect your grades.

3. A Focus on Weakness:

Test anxiety is real in medical school.

But think about what causes it. It’s not the stuff we know well, it’s the topics which are tough. 

Now like many students you may have said a version of the following:

“I don’t have time to review this. I just hope it doesn’t show up on the test.”

Yep, praying the hard topics don’t show up is classic for pre-meds and med students. But med school is tough – so there’s going to be a lot of topics which we’d like to pray don’t show up.

Now, how much test anxiety will you face if those topics do show up (highly likely)?

A lot right?

Then why not create a study plan to prepare for this.

This is why it’s important to focus a disproportionate time on your weaknesses during test prep. Over time they will become your strength and the very least approach comfort levels.

We’ve already covered a few in our study methods to cover our weaknesses, but let’s revisit how the review container could be used.

The Review Container For Test Preparations:

Remember the review container is jotting down tough topics as we cover new lectures. Each night you can pull a few out of your “container” and quiz yourself. If you master them – take them out.

By test prep, you should already have a growing review container. Now as you go through your first pass of reviews through the lectures, make note of old topics which are tough that are not in your container. 

Add those in.

As you go through the first pass of your review – increase your daily review from the container. If you typically did 5 items a night, try 10-15.

Remember we’re trying to make our weaknesses our strengths and it’s likely we may not master them on the first try. So increase the volume to help you do this.

Throughout the second pass of the review, you should find your review container begin the dwindle. The tough topics have now been quizzed on so many times that you finally feel comfortable with them.

The likelihood of test anxiety has dropped significantly.

This was just a sample approach, but you can use such a method with any study strategy of your choosing.

4. Focus on Earning Points

My longtime readers know I love going on and on about this point. Focus on earning points vs. losing them.

Yes it’s the same thing, but as med students, we need sources of motivation, not extra stress.

If you look at every question as an opportunity for a better grade – you’ll likely do better. On the flip side, you’ll likely underperform due to stress.

So if you know it, do a mini celebration in your head! If you don’t, guess and consider an opportunity to get an even higher grade.

I used this for my Step 2 CK study prep and it helped me stay calm throughout the 9-hour exam!

Best Study Tools For Medical Students:

Best Study Tools For Med School

So this is a question I get often when it comes to studying in medical school – what resources and study tools should I use?

There are a lot and I have a more exhaustive list here. 

I’ll recommend some of my favorite study tools (in no particular order) that I recommend all med students try out at one phase or another.

1. OnlineMedEd

This is by far one of my favorite resources for medical schools.

Why? I don’t know about you but I love having a resource which introduces, solidifies, and tests me on the high-yield concepts.

OnlineMedEd does all of these three things so well!

I’ve written a full review on OnlineMedEd where I go over all the features and how exactly I used it as a med student. (Check it out here).

But bottom line – as a med student, you need to selective with your time and resources. OME deserves that time.

Dr. Williams does an amazing job throughout all his videos, outlines notes (my favorite), flashcards, and practice questions to teach you the core topics in medicine.

OME is the reason I did so well on many of my shelf exams (check out my internal medicine post here) and how I crushed Step 2 CK.

As an added bonus, OME is always added topics and new products to make med school easier.

They recently announced (as of 2019) Case-X, a platform to solidify your knowledge beyond just multiple choice questions.

There are close to 100 cases with real-life patient examples, histories, physicals, labs, and more to help you perfect managing common diseases.

As someone who will begin a residency in a few short months – this is where I’ll be spending my time to make sure I’m on top of my game day one of intern year. (Full review coming soon!)

If you want to learn how to become a better student and future doctor – check out OME here. (You can save $80 by using my affiliate code OME18 for $80 an annual membership!)

Again you can check out my full how to use OME and review post here.

2. SketchyMedical/Picmonic

I love learning with images (just like we discussed with the memory palace). Why not study that way for all of med school?

If you’re someone who has a tough time remembering facts and details – Sketchy Medical and Picmonic may just be what you need!

What are these resources? Think of them as mini-movies for high-yield medical topics.

But they’re not just any movies – they images are funny and memorable!

Need to learn about bacteria – there’s a movie about it. Want to learn about Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – there’s a video for it.

So for all my visual learners – these resources are for you!

Which should you choose?

I will make a post in the future comparing the two, but here are the benefits of both.

Sketchy is notorious for giving you high-quality videos of microbiology in an organized fashion. Their pharm section is a bit denser but still very useful.

Picmonic has a lot more topics and they tend to be shorter. So if you can’t watch a 20-30 minute video all the time – this may be your choice.

You can get 20% OFF of Picmonic by using my affiliate link here! 

Regardless of which you pick, they’re both a great supplement to add to your studying. Try watching the corresponding video prior to a lecture. Then watch it again a twice the speed (check out my speed listening video below).

3. First Aid:

I have to mention this amazing resource because Step 1 is likely something you think about once (or a bazillion times) in med school.

First Aid is a great resource to use throughoFirst Aid Step 1ut your first two years alongside your classes.

How exactly should you use it? I’ll likely create a more detailed guide in the future, but here’s a sample approach.

Refer to the First Aid section prior to reading a lecture or powerpoint. This is to help you spot high-yield resources which show up in First Aid and your lectures. These are clearly important to remember.

Honestly, as an initial pass, this is more than enough. Try not to use First Aid are your primary source of learning. It is after all just facts. You need the context to make the book useful.

Thus after lectures or using other high-yield resources (OME) you can add annotations into your First Aid to help make that topic memorable for future reviews.

Then prior to exams flip through the pages of First Aid and see if you recognize a majority of the information. It shouldn’t be that foreign to you by now.

This is my simple approach for First Aid. You can check out more on how to use it for Step 1 here. 

Get a copy of First Aid here.

4. USMLE-Rx:

Since we’re talking about First Aid and Step 1, let’s add another great Step 1 resource you should try out.

I loved using USMLE-Rx for Step 1 studying during my first two years in medical school.

Why? Because it’s made from the makers for First Aid!

Thus I’m getting Step 1 level questions that are quizzing me on the best book for the test.

If I do well on USMLE-Rx questions then I’m sure to have mastered the high-yield material for the real thing, right?

I’d recommend giving USMLE-Rx a shot with your first and second-year med school classes.

How often you do practice questions is up to you.

Some students like to use them as practice questions prior to the real exam. Others will use them throughout the course to quiz themselves.

Pick your preference. Lean towards the option which doesn’t add too much of a burden on your study schedule.

Check out USMLE-Rx here.

5. Brosencephalon or Zanki Cards:

I love Anki cards – I’ve mentioned them several times in this post. (Which is getting very long. Congrats for making it this far!)

And to prep for Step 1, rotations, and Step 2 it’s nice to have pre-made flashcards right?

That’s why I loved using Anki decks such as Brosencephalon or Zanki.

Here are a few free downloads you can get if you’re interested! There are a lot so pace yourself and just do a few every day!

Brosencephalon Anki Cards
Zanki Cards

6. Pathoma

I was going to stop at just five resources because I believe that less is more. But I had to mention Pathoma here.

Pathology is such a core part of medicine and any resource which can teach it well deserves credit.

Pathoma is that resource. With amazing videos and a great text, pathology becomes … well, a bit easier.

Like the other resources, I recommend adding it to your study schedule (if it fits). But surely add it to your Step 1 study schedule.

Check out Pathoma here.

I’ll continue to add to this list if a resource blows me away in the future, but you’ll do just fine by using the above resources!

Remember for more recommendations – check out my other resources here!

How To Be Motivated To Study:

I get it – wanting to study is hard. In fact, I never got to the point where I was excited to study.

So while the motivation to study won’t always be there, how can we keep it as high as possible?

1. Start With Your Favorite Study Strategies At The Start And End

There are certain forms of studying you’d rather do than others. You may enjoy reading more than I do. I may prefer flashcards more than you.

Whatever your preferred method, start and end your days with these.

It’s easier to thus start and you’re more likely to end up at the finish line every day.

Plus you’ll tend to have fewer days in medical school where you don’t get any studying done. These can be disastrous if unplanned so make it easy to start and finish.

2. Remember To Schedule Your Fun First

I love giving this piece of advice. My website and YouTube channel are likely saturated with this piece of advice.

Schedule your fun first. 

This means before your studying, plan one personal hobby or activity (for an hour) first every day.

This can be working out, TV, social media, reading – you name it. Just have something that is important or fun for you!

Some students have a tough time giving this tip a shot. They think it’s wrong to try to fit “me” time when they’re struggling to study.

But in all honesty, you’re going to study better with one more hour per day. But you will more sane with one more hour for yourself!

So pick the latter, make time for yourself, and then find time for your studying.

What many are surprised to find is that they actually do better because they become more efficient!

3. Remember Your Why and Future Goals

This is the corny piece of advice but stay with me.

You picked medicine for more than yourself.

You choose to become a caretaker and a healer.

And likely for the first time in your life – you can’t get away with the cram and forget mentality that you may have had in college (I’ve been there.)

The information (most of it) is important to the future you and to your future patients. Thus it’s important to work to retain as much as possible.

When you’re studying for more than just yourself, it becomes easier to sit down to hit the books. And sometimes just getting started is all we really need.

So remind yourself of your way of going into medicine. Does that reason still exist? If so, is that why worth it to do some studying today?

Want more tips on motivation? I’m full of them!

Check out the following blog posts and videos:

Staying Motivated in Medical School (Blog Post)
Are You Tired Of Studying? (Blog Post)
Stop Just Surviving Medical School (Post)
How To Being Stressed Out In Med School (Post)
Dealing With Failure in Med School (Video)
I Feel Guilty in Med School (Video)

Want More?

We sure covered a lot in this post.

If you found this even at all helpful, I have just one favor for you. Share this post with one person you think it may help.

Share on social media by hitting one of the social media icons on the corner (or copy the link).

I wish I read this post before starting med school and hope these tips can help you on your journey!

Now want more tips and advanced strategies? I have a few options for you!

Last but certainly not the least, if you want to just take your studying to the next level, check out my premier course – Level Up Your Studying.

Level Up Your Studying

In this course, I show you exactly how to transform your studying, grades, and free time in just 3 short weeks!

Check out the details and the reviews of the course here!


Now if you enjoyed this post then I’m sure you’ll enjoy the following!

How I Studied Less Than 5 Hours A Day in Med School
Step-By-Step On How To Study For Your Rotations
Top 5 Study Methods in Medical School
My Favorite Resource For Medical School

Thank you so much for making it to the end!

Again if this at all helped you, return the favor by sharing this post with your peers, med school social media pages, and wherever else you think this post is appropriate!

Thanks for the support and your time.

Until next time my friend…

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