How to be the most efficient with your study time

In third year, you lose control of your schedule and are left at the mercy of your dead fuck my life GIFattending and residents. With the early mornings and early evenings, by the time I get home, I only have a few hours to study. Especially if I go to the gym, things are even more constrained. And I’m not the type to stay awake late, I’m surely in bed by 11. So, when I sit down to study, I have to be efficient. Here are some tips to help you maximize your time.

First and most important is to make a SCHEDULE. Before you sit down to study, you should already know what you’re about to accomplish. This way you keep yourself on track and can sense if you’re getting behind. You can do this day-to-day with to do lists, but to be most successful, you want to make this schedule at least on a weekly basis. On Sunday, you can generally map out what you plan to accomplish that week. Then each day, before sitting down, review that plan and make amends based on the amount of time you have to study that night. Particularly during third year, when you already know what resources you want to get through, you can actually plan out your study schedule entirely before the rotation starts, then make changes to it as you go along (this is what I do).

phone call GIFWhen you sit down you need to minimize distractions. Turn your computer notifications off and put your phone on do not disturb. I usually keep my phone in another room or on the floor out of my sight. You can check up on messages/DMs/snaps during a break, but never mix your studies with your social life if you’re trying to be efficient. If you aren’t in an ideal location, plug your ears or listen to your favorite background noise with headphones.

Take advantage of your time during the day to decrease the amount of other random things you need to do at night when it’s study-time. Respond to emails, online shop, do busy work for school, work on the application, etc. Do these more mindless things before trying to squeeze in studying during the day–which actually requires brain power. So when it’s time to focus on studying, you won’t have so many little tasks to complete beforehand and waste time.

Lastly, you need to intentionally prioritize your studying. Seems intuitive, but if you don’t believe that your readings/questions/review/etc. are top priority in that time period, you will easily find distractions and reasons to do other things. You might find yourself cleaning something, constantly getting stuck on instagram, fiddling with another hobby of yours, or caught up on the phone with friends/family. So when you say the next 2 hours you are going to finish X, Y, and Z, you need you be firm and really mean that!

funny cat GIF

Hope these tips help you next time you prep for a study session! Have a wonderful week, and Happy Valentines Day in advance!

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How to incorporate STEP1 studying into the spring semester

For second year medical students, there’s a looming dark cloud that is seemingly getting closer and closer with each passing month–STEP1. Everyone’s been talking about it since you got in and everyone ahead of you, even physicians, tells you that it was the darkest period of their medical school career (which I agree). So now it’s happening and panic is creeping in as you try and create the prefect schedule and plan to perfectly balance UWorld/USMLERx/Firecracker/whatever questions with school lectures. Hopefully this blog post can help simmer you out and give you a workable plan.

First of all, there is NO magic solution–you have to KNOW YOURSELF. This is what the first year and a half of med school was about–learning what type of studier you are. Because there’s a million resources out there for every study style. Videos, traditional flashcards, Anki decks, textbooks, etc. My first suggestion is to select your resources now and don’t plan to change them. People all around you will talk about what they’re using to study, and you need to be secure in knowing that you already have solidified yours. Those resources need to include at minimum: UWorld, First Aid, and Pathoma (UFAP). For me, I also included Sketchy micro and pharm, Goljan audio, and USMLE STEP1 Secrets (a textbook I used to supplement First Aid). I did not use a formal video course like Kaplan or DIT.

Second of all, you have to be flexible with yourself. The more rigid you are, the more stress you’ll bring on yourself WHEN you can’t keep up with your schedule. You will eventually fall off the tracks, that’s a normal phenomenon when you make a 6 month schedule. Don’t panic, just breathe, woo-sah, and get back to it at YOUR pace.

Third of all, when you need advice, seek it vertically, not horizontally. Your classmates are just as clueless as you are. You need to reach out to people who have dealt with this beast before to guide you.

During the semester, you need to familiarizing yourself with your primary resources (UFAP). Use FA and Pathoma to study the material you’re learning in class. Be familiar with the formatting and where to find certain information. I promise this will make your dedicated time much smoother. ProTip: don’t annotate too much. Now is the time to be incorporating board-style questions into your day if you haven’t already. I personally don’t suggest using any other Qbank for STEP studying than UWorld. Other banks can be used along with lectures to help you study for school exams. The UW questions you begin doing should only be on past material that was covered in the past semester, and newer material can be teased in as you complete your spring semester blocks. During this time, I suggest targeted question blocks (ex. GI, pathophys & path) because you may not have the knowledge bank to be answering q’s on 1st year physiology, anatomy, or random biostatistics questions that you’ll run into on random sets. Once you start dedicated time, random sets all the way.

The benefit of starting UW early is in learning the question style and practice in deciphering what they’re trying to ask you–which is a skill on it’s own. You won’t actually remember that much of what you’re learning from the questions themselves–especially not in January if you’re taking the exam in June. So I wouldn’t go too ham on Q review and note taking. You’re not officially STEP studying just yet. Plus you will do it all over again when you reset the QBank before your dedicated time, which you should absolutely do.

How many questions is enough? I would start now with 10 questions a day. This should take about an hour +/-. Remember, you’re not official yet and you still have school lectures to get to. I chose to bump it up by 5 questions each month. So I was eventually at 25 a day in April. Of course there were times when I didn’t keep up with this, but I did my best. I think I officially stopped going to class in March and watched lectures online. My 6-week dedicated time started May 1. If you have questions about planning that time out, feel free to contact me! Your dedicated time looks so different depending on the resources you’re using. There’s lots of resources online/youtube available to help with dedicated time schedule making as well.

Hope this helps! Please reach out to me for more advice and guidance!
Happy Studying!

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Update: STEP Studying has taken over my life

Go become a doctor, they said…

Who sent me to go and become a doctor?

It’s not too late there’s probably still openings at *insert place of  lesser establishment*…

Can we just skip to 2019? *gets question wrong* Never mind I’ll probably ruin my first patient…

My brain hurts, I’m tired, there’s no food in the fridge, I’m broke…


Just a few of the thoughts that have run through my head over the past 4 weeks of my STEP1 study journey. Of course, if you know me, there’s 10x’s more positive thoughts floating around than the negative stuff, but just saying that these times have been trying. I’m 2 weeks out from my test with no intentions of pushing my test back by the grace of God. But when I say I’ve never studied for a test as hard as I have for this, I mean it. Every morning I’m up at 6am, spend quiet time with God, watch the sunrise as I go to school (sounds good right?), then sit in a room for the next 12 hours or so before coming home to keep pushing. I mean I take “breaks” in that time of course, and I still go to the gym to maintain my sanity. But I barely have time to do anything else. And it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I find myself asking “is __ really worth this extra UWorld set I could be getting done?” or “should I work on my blog/go to the gym/call this friend or finish this chapter of reading/go through these anatomy points/review micro?” And with such a cramped amount of time to study, I can’t afford to get behind! So I’ve made many sacrifices in this period for sake of my studies–which will pay off in due time (at least that’s what they tell us). Some days my body just can’t do it and I find myself in the fetal position, other days I’m stronger than ever.

Despite everything, I’m still standing, and here’s a few things I’ve learned over the last 4 weeks:

You can still laugh

During the first week of studying, I was so locked in that I didn’t realize how deprived I was from social interaction until we had some friends over our apartment studying. I don’t even remember what we were talking about, but we were just cracking up and inside I was like woah, I feel like I haven’t done this in a while! So that was a quick simple lesson to not get caught up in all the moroseness of studying.

Your classmates know the real you now

During the year, I had weave, twists, crochet, etc. so I didn’t have to worry about managing my natural hair. But during this period I’ve just been wearing my natural hair because I don’t like having hair all in my face. I’ve done cornrows, french braids, etc. to try and spice things up, but after a few days, especially without any make-up I just go back to looking homeless haha. So the classmates I see these days on campus have gotten to know the real me, because I just don’t have time. And unfortunately my Nigerian hair doesn’t just pull back into a nice ponytail/bun.

You need sleep

When I don’t get enough sleep the night before–at least 7 hours–I surely pay for it the next day. My neck just gives out on me and my eyelids follow suit. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, I rely on sleep to make sure my brain is alert the next day. So I have to think twice before I decide to do any extra work after my bed time (which is very tempting actually–wow, how sad is my life lol). When the sleep man comes for me during the day though, I make a double dose of green tea to keep it pushing.

You’re not stupid (even when you miss a Q that 95% of people got right)

I remind myself of this constantly. It’s so easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to everyone else also studying. Especially when you’re constantly being tossed into percentiles. But I’ve learned to trust in my knowledge and have confidence in what I know which has brought me very far. There’s a lot of things I don’t know, but there’s a lot I do know too!

You’re not a machine

The human body wasn’t designed to live like this. No way. You can’t expect yourself to be able to sustain this kind of intensity day in and day out. Common medical school is one thing but this is a whole ‘nother level! It’s OK if you get tired, it’s OK if you want to spend hours on the phone instead of study, it’s OK to rearrange your schedule to squeeze in more time for yourself. Now let’s not get carried away of course, this isn’t play time I have to do well on this exam, but I just have to be real with myself and continue listening to my body.

God is faithful

All the time. I write my prayers out and there are days when I’ll say God if I make it through this day still standing on my 2 feet then I know it was only by your grace because I just don’t have the strength. When I am weak he is strong. Ancient of days. When I finish this marathon I will praise Him without end.

Ok that’s all the rambling I got. I’ll keep y’all updated on my journey! Keep me in your prayers!