How to Take Your Studying to the Next Level in the First Year of Med School

It’s often said that going through medical school is like trying to sip from a firehose — and it’s true. From the first day of classes, there’s an abundance of information you’ll need to learn and commit to memory.

Med school is supposed to be difficult. You’re taking on one of the most challenging and complicated courses of study out there, and you have a responsibility to know everything you can about the disease processes your patients will come to you to diagnose or manage. Although it’s difficult, it’s also totally doable!

There are plenty of med school study tips and resources out there to get you through the first year of med school. Remember, though, that not all resources work for everyone — flash cards and Anki decks may be the keys for retaining concepts for one person, but quizzes focused on personal content gaps may work better for another. Some students may practice both of these methods and more!

Don’t feel like you have to follow everyone else’s lead, though. We all have different study styles, and the key is finding the study system and tools that work best for you.

What Is My Study Style?

Here’s how to find the study system to meet your needs and help you excel in the first year of med school:

  1. Try out different study styles.

Everyone learns differently, and medical schools have already adopted a multitude of techniques for delivering educational content — from problem-based learning to flipped classrooms to traditional lectures. In addition, there are visual content sources, such as First Aid for the USMLE Step 1, audiovisual content, including USMLE-Rx Express Videos, and interactive tools, like Rx360+ and Rx Bricks. To figure out your study style, try each approach and see what works. Then, combine resources to fit your study system.

  1. Locate the right study place.

Where you study can have just as much impact as how you study. Maybe your home is full of distractions, but you can focus better in the library or a coffee shop. Alternatively, maybe studying alongside a dedicated friend in a quiet setting and quizzing each other on topics is where you’re most productive.

  1. Work on your time management.

One of the biggest challenges in the first year of med school is carving out the time and building the stamina to study when there’s so much material to absorb. Luckily, there are some excellent evidence-based techniques you can use to maximize your time and improve your knowledge stamina:

  • Spaced repetition is woven into programs like Anki and USMLE-Rx (with its Study Stream feature). In this technique, learning is more effective when study sessions are spaced out and the material is reviewed on a regular basis — allowing for the long-term encoding of newly gained knowledge.
  • The Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to break down studying into intervals; people typically spend 25 minutes focused on the task at hand and then take a short break. This helps maintain focus and keeps your mind from burning out on the material.
  1. Find high-yield info and questions.

In the first year of med school, it’s important to start identifying high-yield information (i.e., the most important pre-clinical concepts you’ll need to know for exams). Qbanks, Rx Bricks, flash cards, and First Aid are indispensable in this regard. In addition, high-yield video reviews to supplement and fill in the details from classroom materials can help you cross the line from struggling to passing — and from just doing OK to excelling.

  1. Ask for advice.

Asking classmates and upperclassmen what they recommend for supplementing coursework can help you devise the best study system for your needs. Faculty can also help you figure out weaknesses and content gaps while providing clinical context to support your learning.

With the constant flow of new information in the first year of medical school, it’s critical to develop a personal study system that’s adaptable, effective, and tailored to your needs. Medical school is a challenging commitment, but remember that it’s a marathon rather than a sprint! You can get through it victoriously if you pace yourself, practice intentionally, and put in the work.

If you want help studying for the first year of med school and beyond, click here to get a free five-day trial of USMLE-Rx. Even after your trial ends, you’ll still be able to access more than 150 Rx Bricks, including the full collections for general microbiology and cellular and molecular biology.


Related Articles