Wednesday, September 08, 2010

back to school special

study tips (part 1)
because perhaps if i write a post about it, i'll actually be able to follow my own advice!

it's no secret that a medical career requires a lot of studying. there are tests (big ones!) blocking nearly every intersection on the crowded road towards becoming an all-powerful attending physician.

the medical testing ladder
of course, it all begins with the SAT! how can you get into medical school without making it into a great college?

then, there are approximately 1 zillion tests to take during college itself. orgo final, anyone?

and then comes the MCAT. looking back, i would probably consider this the most stressful, pain-in-the-ass exam that there was.

oh, so you got into medical school? get ready for tests, tests, and more tests those first couple of years -- sometimes as frequently as every week!

and then there are the shelf exams. the clinical years just wouldn't be the same if you didn't have tests to cram for when you are hours behind on sleep.

and then the ante is upped: HERE COME THE USMLE exams (ie, med school BOARDS!) all the sudden, test fees climb from the hundreds to the thousands. whaa? first, there's the minutia-filled basic-science focused step 1 (in my opinion, the hardest). then step 2 CK (better) and the 'live-action' CS. and finally (easiest!) step 3.

and finally, when you thought you were through, there are specialty boards (like my general peds boards on october 18th -- yeah, as in about a month) -- and even sub-specialty boards (uh, sometime in 2013 or so).

and for all that, you get the privilege of having to take (and pay a pretty penny for) recertification exams every 7-10 years.

i suppose it's a good thing that there are a few sizeable barriers standing between high school geometry class and, say, a cardiothoracic OR (or writing prescriptions for narcotics). but it does tend to get old. i admit i'm finding it hard to muster the zeal that i had for step 1 (or even step 2).

but i at least have this blog as proof that i used to be a good student and test-prep master! plus, working for kaplan for several years (i taught MCAT and then did teacher training for a while during med school) must have left me with something.

so why am i having so much trouble now?

just not feeling the urgency. well, this one is about to get thrown out the window! i now have approximately 5 weeks (and work-filled weeks, mind-you) before test day. if there was ever a time to focus, it is now.

too many distractions, with #1 by FAR (though i hate to admit it) being my google reader. i am about to make a bold statement: aside from 20 minutes in the AM while eating breakfast, planned study breaks, and during weekends, i am going to leave my much-loved reader alone for the next few weeks. promise.

i don't have a plan. see, i did, but then i got behind, and instead of making a new one i just kind of ignored it. THIS IS GOING TO CHANGE, TODAY.

i just haven't been feeling very productive lately. i think it's a little bit of mental backlash from adjusting to the first two months of fellowship. i finally feel more comfortable at work, so it's time to put the effort back into the other areas of life.

well. it's now time to conclude this post, and i have yet to get to any tips. i promise, i do have some! i think i will just make this 'part 1' and tackle the actual tips later this week. any master test-takers have any tips of their own to share? i will include some of them (with credit, of course!) in the upcoming post.

and because a pictureless-post would just be sad
here are some $#(* gorgeous coats.

pattern maker's coat is my favorite color: STRIPED!

cream confection coat is the perfect blend of frilly + military. frillitary?



workout: rest day

cooking: uh, rest day

studying: FINE, i did nothing yesterday other than go to work. so sue me. (kidding :) ).


  1. Anonymous9:04 AM

    i'm sending you focusing vibes for studying :)

    i feel you with all the reasons why you can't though. i'm waiting on my mcat score and should be polishing my application essays. but since i don't have my score i'm not feeling the pressing need to. which isn't such a great idea. oops.

    sadly i have no tips for you as i've never really had to study! but my mcat instructor told us to study in 3 hour bits like this: study 50 minutes, 10 minute break. then repeat. don't know if it'll help you but it's worth a shot. even if you can only do it for an hour.

  2. No advice for you here. I hated taking tests and am so so so glad I don't have to take them anymore. I'm definitely not a "performer". Good luck studying, though. Seems like you have run the test gauntlet, and I'm sure you'll be ready when the actual test day gets here.

  3. I like your "rest day" for cooking :P

    For law school, a large majority of students wrote "outlines" which is essentially distilling information about an entire class down to nuggets of truths, then reading and re-reading and some people did study groups where you tested your knowledge against "hypos" - a way to learn the practical application of the law. Outlining was also a kind of a way to "re-write" information - when you re-write it helps you absorb material and memorize. I guess the outline method drew on a few different ways of studying.

    Also, studying where there was no access to tv or the internet was important at times ;)

  4. My best studying advice was to get away from all distractions! Sitting next to your computer so you can gchat/twitter while you study is NOT effective. For organic chemistry (woo!), I used to take all my notes and book and head to an empty room in my dorm/library. The only thing I took with me was maybe some music in case people around me were loud. No computer or TV! I was focused for that time that I was spent studying...and it worked! I was an orgo ace. :)

    Just don't ask me about any reactions now...

  5. Anonymous11:23 PM

    Oh god I still remember studying for the SATs - my super asian parents made me start taking SAT prep courses in the 7th grade. Anyways good luck on your test! BTW I LOVE the "frillitary" coat! Perhaps you can bribe yourself into focusing with the promise of a new coat? :-P

  6. Oh my! Right now I'm thinking about when I'll be stressing for Step 3. It just makes me nervous...I haven't done anything but kids in over a year and they are expecting me to take a test over much more than that. Didn't I already do that on Step 2? Grrr!