Perseveration, or Perseverance?

By Patrick Sylvester

Alternately titled… what to do about topics you just don’t feel comfortable with!

From my own experience, and from talking to other students, a common theme that comes up during Step 1 studying is the nagging feeling that “I just can’t remember X,” or “How long did you spend on Y topic?”

As we’ve discussed before on, including this post by editor, Walter Wiggins, an important part of studying for Step 1 is setting a schedule and sticking to it!

Let’s take a moment to talk about what happens if you feel “stuck.”

Perseveration (n) – continuation of something, usually to an exceptional degree or beyond a desired point.

One of the common reasons students studying for Step 1 get stuck is that they feel like they have not “mastered” a particular subject. They perseverate, and like an individual described in a vignette for acute endocarditis, they need “just a little bit more” before moving on.

What do I mean by this? Take an example from my own experience: the lysosomal storage diseases (p. 114 of FA2014, for those of you who have just broken into a cold sweat). I believe my thoughts were as follows:

“How am I supposed to remember the difference between s#oi23ewal—idase and dj@ks*—ase deficiencies?”

“Surely as soon as I flip the page, this information will be wiped clean from my memory!”

Had I let this anxiety run amuck, I might have spent the first three weeks of my dedicated study period on biochemistry alone.

Perseverance (n) – continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.

Knowing that I might feel overwhelmed throughout my Step 1 studying, I had planned my schedule such that, by the end, I would have made three full passes of all subjects. This, I believe, is what allowed me to persevere despite my feelings of inadequacy. At each point, I wasn’t ever too worried about getting through something without retaining it, as I knew I would see it again.

But, that’s actually not entirely true. I was still worried! Yet, there are ways of getting around that. As I encountered topics in First Aid or question banks that I thought were likely to give me trouble, I began to create a running list. In fact, I think I called it “The List of Things I Don’t Understand,” If I had time later on at night, or while doing something else, I would go back and refer to these topics.

Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend using such tactics to simply “blow off” studying difficult topics. Rather, my point is this: don’t let your studying get in the way of your studying.


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