Medical student resources

Starting Medical School - Succeeding with Low Stress

For many, August and September bring the beginning of medical school. It will be one of the most exciting transitions in your education, and no doubt one of the most anxiety provoking too. You're probably wondering - Will I ever get to sleep in again? Will I pass out in gross anatomy? How should I study? Do I have to remember the difference between an sn1 and an sn2 reaction? The quick answers are: yes, no, a lot, and no.

In fact, many people find first year to be pretty low stress.

The long answer is, the first 2 years of medical school are a lot like college - if you study hard and play enough you'll do great. And I can pretty much guarantee you won't pass out in gross anatomy (if you do happen to pass out, well, it has happened once before).

It's not uncommon for the disciplined student to have plenty of time for extra-curricular activities. One lawyer kept a weekend law practice going, while many athletes keep rigorous training schedules. The key in all these cases is discipline - studying in medical school is a job. Plan to be in class or studying 40-50 hours a week, and you'll succeed.

And keep in mind that more universities are offering online medical courses, which provides flexibility for busy students.

Here are a few other tips that will help make your first year in medical school low stress and successful:

  • If allowed, get old tests from the course. Exams are often built from a question database. Working several year's of exams lets you study the question database.
  • Use on-line tests. There are a lot of practice questions available on the web. You can find a list of practice questions and tests in the USMLE questions-study guide section of the MSRG.
  • Study for the national board exam section. This is great advice, especially if your final exam is the national board.

Go to class. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you'll soon be strongly tempted to cut class. Most schools have note services where lecture transcripts are available for a small printing fee. Invariably, though, the people who rely solely on these notes and their textbooks (this is can be 30 percent or more of the class) fare much worse than the people who go to class regularly.

Study for the test. You're probably wondering if I'm going to say anything that isn't obvious. The problem here is that there can be so much material for a course, it's easy to lose track of what you need to concentrate on. Some purists will object to this advice, saying you should learn everything you can, not just what you need for the test. The counter argument is that if the professors are doing their jobs right, they'll be testing what's important to medicine. The questions you see on med school exams keep coming back - on national boards, in the wards, and in dealing with patients. Here are a couple of easy ways to get some focus into your studies.

Starting Medical School continued (Part 2)

How competitive am I for residency?

Will you be AOA?:Yes
Have you done research?:Yes
Do you have publications?:Yes
Are you a US senior in med school?:Yes