How to study for med school

Congratulations!  It’s your first day of med school!  Your most immediate tasks are to get your ID badge and to avoid having a panic attack.

You are nervously watching a bored second-year student sift through the box of IDs.  He is looking for your name.  Now, it may seem like he’s taking a long time to find it, that he’s close to frowning and saying “Uh, I don’t see your name here.. so..”:  But relax: he will not say this.  (If he does he is either a]. looking in the wrong box, or b]. not nearly as funny as he thinks.)

Do you have your ID badge now?  Fantastic.  This should remove all doubt in your mind that you are not supposed to be here.  (It won’t.  But it should.)  You’re now ready to learn how to study for med school.

1.  Gather school supplies.  You will spare no expense, because if med school isn’t important enough to justify the $20 highlighter pack, what the hell is?

For example, I... may have bought said pack multiple time.

2.  Listen to advice of sage second-year students:

“Keep your priorities straight,” one will tell you.  “Remember, you’re here to learn to be a good doctor.  So don’t waste your time on the dumb stuff.”

“What’s the dumb stuff?” you’ll ask.

“Oh, biochem, molecular bio, embryology, genetics – stuff like that.”

“… That’s the entire 1st semester.”

“Oh, is it?  I forgot.”

“Dude, just chill and enjoy the ride,” another will reassure you.  “The most important thing is to get a schedule.  Like me: I always start my day with a couple hours in the gym, coffee, racquetball, a run, a shower, research at the lab, and 4 hours of Halo.  Then I study til’ 3am and wake up two hours later.  No prob.”

3.  Disregard advice of sage second-year students.


4.  Try random study techniques in rapid succession

You will experiment with the highly technical “write things until you get tired of writing things” method, the Cornell Method, OneNote, and flashcards.  You will write these flashcards in impeccable hand-writing, with your new med school pens, and then set them aside.  You will find them 5 months later, shoved in a desk drawer.

Hey.  Cheer up.  You tried.

While you're at it, weigh the pros and cons of different study locations! ... Some pros will mean more than others.

5.  Your First Test Day

Wow, that really crept up out of nowhere, didn’t it?  You will ignore the advice of your professors, the Student Health people, and the second years – all of whom are constantly assuring your class that failing the first test is no big deal.

You know the truth:  If you fail, you will be all alone in the world, fail the retake too, and then be fed to lions.  (Or even worse: summoned to the Dean’s office, where you will be subjected to a disappointed gaze.)

As you open the test and realize you don’t know the first question, you reflect on your options.  You decide that, if offered the choice, you’ll take the lions.

At the post-test party, a 2nd year will congratulate you on finding your med school groove.  “Now you know how to study!” they will say, clapping you on the back.

“But I don’t know how to study,” you’ll protest.  “I just did a bunch of random things and then freaked out at the end.”

“… Well, yeah,” the 2nd year will say.  “Like I said.  Now grab a beer.”

And now you know.

9 thoughts on “How to study for med school

  1. Priceless!

    Looking back on my first three years of med school…. how the heck did I make myself do work from 8AM – 10PM pretty much every day, with the *occasional* break for the gym or food? More importantly, how the heck am I going to be able to make myself do it again when I go back?????

    That’s basically the secret, you know. Get your rest and study at all other times. And occasionally do something fun so you don’t go crazy.

  2. “You know the truth: If you fail, you will be all alone in the world, fail the retake too, and then be fed to lions. (Or even worse: summoned to the Dean’s office, where you will be subjected to a disappointed gaze.)”

    This reminded me of “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to bed before either of you comes up with another brilliant idea to get us killed. Or worse, expelled,” to which I promptly thought, “She needs to sort out her priorities.”

    …Sorry, my brain is on Harry Potter right now.

  3. You’re hilarious. I’m a month away from my first year and trying to veg out as much as I possibly can before committing the next 6 years of my life to endless nose-in-book syndrome. I’ll definitely be following!

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