Medicine | What I wish I knew during Preclinical years

Hello!  It's been a couple months since my last post as I dedicated that time to research and studying for my final pre-clinical exam.  Given the pandemic, my May exams were postponed to August.  Nonetheless, I recently got my results and can officially call myself a Third Year Medic! I will be starting my clinical placement which is a huge milestone to many medical students.  Here are a few tips that I wish I followed myself more religiously or found really aided my learning.  A lot of this will be straightforward tips you would've heard elsewhere or common sense (sorry!).  

Little but often.

Often times, medical students are seen as the epitome of studious. They're expected to be hitting the books 24/7.  This is far from the case.  Instead of spending every waking hour worshiping Gray's Anatomy, do a little bit often.  

Admittedly, I wouldn't do all the pre-reading for every subject before lectures because that material is generally covered on the day.  Unless the subject is one I found particularly hard, I wouldn't bother.  

The day of teaching, I would revisit the lectures we had to make sure I understood the material and make appropriate notes on the lecture slide (Link here for how I take notes in med school (I prefer the 'second place')). Do not waste time writing out your notes or making them aesthetically pleasing.  Just ensure the information you need is accessible and understandable. This was a far better use of my evenings.  If your university offers practice questions or a workbook for each subject like mine, I recommend working through those (which I wouldn't always do) to consolidate your learning.   

Empty your plate.

To prevent burnout, it is vital to have hobbies and interests outside of medicine.  However, don't make the mistake of having too much.  In my first term of Year 2, I had dance practice 9 hours a week and worked in the hospital on a research project every weekend and morning off.  This left little to no time for me to revisit lectures or even relax.  Extracurriculars are important for your CV, socialising, and ensuring you're a well-rounded individual and not a med-head.  However, it is equally important to do nothing. I found that I did not manage my time well in the beginning of my second  year which made for a gruelling 3 weeks of revision during Christmas. I didn't take care of myself physically or mentally.   

Society promotes this idea that success equals hard-work at the expense of self-care and a balanced lifestyle.  Looking back, I would ensure that I give myself a couple evenings off to do nothing, spend time with loved ones or friends,  or even just binge watching Netflix.  Not every moment or day in your life has to be 'productive'.  I feel accomplished if I have an evening not touching or thinking about work.  

Don't leave revision to the holidays.

Medicine is not hard; the volume is hard.  Learning objectives tend to span pages, the number of systems feels infinite, and there is always more to learn.  I made the mistake of leaving revision to the holidays which made for the worst breaks and a lot of cramming.  We may think 3 weeks or even 5 weeks is enough but in actual fact, the amount you need to learn is so vast that you will always be kicking yourself for not keeping up with the material during term time. 

Revisit old material. 

My med school will test us on anything and everything that has been covered, even if it is the most obscure fact from a 10 minute lecture in term 1.  Make peace with the idea that, you will never know everything, but take time out to revisit old yet high-yield information.  On the other hand, revisit old material that was covered which directly correlates or links to other subjects.  For example, how heart failure can result in kidney disease.  I recommend spider diagrams for some conditions that are multi-systemic.  In the process of making it, go over the specific physiology of those systems to understand how and why the pathology presents as it does. 

Questions. Questions. Questions. 

I cannot emphasise how important practice questions and active learning is when it comes to revision.  It's extremely difficult but the most efficient.  It can be writing out everything you learnt, doing MCQs, teaching your stuffed animals (my way), or going through questions/cases.  Our university sometimes puts MCQs from practice quizzes in the exam which provides more of an incentive to actively learn.  

Favourite resources.  

Textbooks are overwhelming.  They are great for quick referencing but even so, most people turn to google.  I hardly use my textbooks because there is so much low-yield information.  Your brain can only handle so much.  Even if you're from the UK, I do like the USMLE First Aid book and Pathoma as it discusses pathology and physiology of diseases and conditions short and sweetly. 

90% of the time, I am just reading my lecture slides and hitting all the learning objectives.  I'll turn to Youtube to watch videos on anything I'm struggling with such as embryology or specific diseases.  My favourite Channels are:

Osmosis - If you can, I recommend getting a membership on their website as their 1 week free trial proved very helpful for my finals.

Geeky Medics

Medicine in 3 Minutes

PassMedicine - Question Bank.

Dr Najeeb

For a quick, yet thorough overview on specific topics I love:




Thank you so much for reading! 

1 comment

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