What Weekends Mean as M1 – A Study Break Entry

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No new material to stuff into my brain, that is what weekends mean to me now. Yes, this still means I study on the weekend; but instead of studying while being swamped with new information, on the weekends I can finally come up for air because there is no new material being added to my “study list”. But, medical school isn’t all work and no play, today I went to an 3D printing fair at MIT. I saw a couple of cool things while I was there, I found a few objects crafted from the 3D printers and decided to make a display for your viewing pleasure:

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But, the weekend doesn’t mean it’s time to slack off either, most because I can’t afford to. I spend less time studying on the weekends than during the weekday, except a week or two before the exams. On average though, I spend about 6 hours a day studying during the weekday and 4-6 hours on the weekends. Typically, Friday is making a game plan for the weekend, the weekday is surviving getting hosed by new material. Getting into medical school is analogous of thinking you’ve just climbed Mount Everest, but you find out quickly once you start medical school you’ve only reached the first base camp; and not only that but the mountain is growing each day. Those hours of studying also don’t account for the time spent watching and attending lectures. All in all though, I say things are working out for most of our class — we’ve only had one person drop out of the program thus far (they decided they would follow other goals). For myself, I’m doing what I can do to not only learn the material but to also get better at getting the material to “stick”. After all, studying endlessly sounds noble but it’s not that efficient, and time management is the name of the game now.

The trouble with the first year is really figuring out how to retain information efficiently, this will be easier or more difficult depending on your classes. We are the last year to not have systems based learning, and we are doing the traditional format, so we have seemingly disparate courses that somehow weave together as you slowly gain epiphanies by endlessly working on your general base of knowledge. I’m not sure if the more archaic way is for everyone, but it’s pumped out exceptional doctors those far so I’m okay with it (power to you systems based people!). With that said, each course here takes a different approach to how I should study. For anatomy, it’s mostly change into those dingy scrubs and spend more time with my donor — it’s faster then trying to imagine what it should look like. Sometimes, I prefer a library or coffee shop over than dissection lab, go figure, and at those times I use a combination of Netters (illustrated gross anatomy), Color Atlas of Anatomy, and now like everyone else in my class 1 mm axial cross sections of cadavers. Netters is very good for seeing the ideal form of how things should be because everything is rendered. The Color Atlas of Anatomy is a book full of prepared cadavers, so you’ll see the more visceral things you should see in real life. But, when I don’t have those at my disposal, or want a break from that type of studying I try to draw or make diagrams:

Heart
Heart

When I need to understand minute differences, I’ve always find that drawing made me spend more time conceptualizing the object that I’m sketching. So, this is how I studied the heart, and made a lot more sense after one drawing without looking at the real image. Another thing I used drawing for was the lungs, to capture the differences in relationship between the pulmonary arteries and the bronchi. Though, I still need to study a lot of things more to become more confident in my answers:

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Sometimes, watching videos on Youtube and using Anki cards are the way to go for learning things I need to both memorize quickly and understand — tonight it’s cardiac embryology. About Anki cards, I’ve found that just taking notes almost straight onto Anki cards is more efficient then having to make them later. I’ve also try to make a variation of primary to secondary type questions for some of the content I understand less, for me, it’s important to spend more time with material that I don’t like and keep up with stuff I’m okay on to keep on schedule.

For some classes, you just need to discuss it aloud and you’ll understand things more. For example, if you’re having problems conceptualizing an ethical question or law, some times a conversation is a lot more effective than flash cards. The only important thing, for myself at least, is to have a decent foundation. That’s a fancy euphemism for memorizing a plethora of nouns and simple ideas. After I have those things, I can hopefully both understand the language of my classes and build a higher performance level of understanding from my foundation of memorized knowledge. I’m not saying this is the most ideal way to study, in fact, I’m sure others study differentially in my class and probably get scores and maybe with less effort. But, for me it’s how I pick up things besides reading it.

Medical school is very interesting in that there’s a lot of ways to get it done, even though everyone takes essentially the same courses — and you’ll be astonished at how each person in your class who makes it will work hard to make things work. And now, my study break is over, and I must go back to my studying. Good luck if you’re interviewing for medical school, I’ll see a fresh batch of applicants on Monday as usual, I’ll be sure to try to calm any nervous one I see — for me it’s back to work!

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