A Medical Students Resource Guide

Applying to, progressing through, and completing medical school can be some of the most challenging undertakings a student will experience in their academic career. Each phase of medical school offers its own challenges, which are further made unique depending on the school attended and program chosen. Nevertheless, many of the same strategies for success can be implemented to effectively navigate medical school. Planning, preparation, and organization are the root of excellence in medical school. The responsible management of time and stress, as well as a willingness to play to learning-style strengths, also contribute to a smooth road toward matriculation.

The sheer volume of materials that students are responsible for while in medical school can be intimating. Lecture notes, large texts, and lab materials all combine to provide a challenge to personal organization. Yet organization is critical to success in this environment. Regularly clearing desks and organizing books, papers, and other studying materials has the effect of calming the mind. It also makes finding items and completing tasks easier.

The demands of medical school leave no time for procrastination. Setting an essay, project, or another deadline-driven work aside for a later time can have a disastrous effect on students' grades. For example, "cramming" for exams may not be sufficient preparation for exams in medical school because of the volume of the information that is expected to be retained and analyzed. It can be advantageous for students to create plans that help them allot specific time during the day, week, and month to study. Planning like this can also help create a personal system that will gel with a particular learning style. Procrastination can be completely avoided by making schedules and breaking up complex tasks into smaller, more manageable parts. Ironically, taking frequent and brief breaks during work sessions has the surprising effect of helping students finish tasks faster.

The ability to concentrate for long periods and an impressive memory are important characteristics of a successful medical student. Students in the medical field, however, can experience difficulty mastering these two attributes because they find themselves being pulled in many directions at once. Meditation or other grounding exercises may help students function better in tense medical environments and also stay mindful while completing routine tasks. Memory games on cell phones can exercise the muscles necessary to retain information in books. Learning the art of active listening during class can significantly reduce the amount of time needed for outside studying.

Some students find that participating in study groups helps them assimilate information more easily than independent study. Group think-tanks like these can be conducted online or in person at libraries with dedicated collaborative spaces. A benefit of study groups is that they require collaboration and aid students to actively reach class goals. The social aspect of study groups also relieves students of much of the isolation associated with reading and notating dense texts alone.

Mounting responsibilities, a need for good marks, and the fast pace of medical school often cause stress in students. Waiting to address causes of stress can have negative effects on health and schoolwork. Getting enough sleep and eating nutritious foods can calm nerves and support concentration efforts. Experimenting with study schedules so that schoolwork takes place during the most relaxing part of the day can also alleviate pressure.

It goes without saying that making the most of a medical school education involves careful personal planning, preparation, and management efforts. Good habits in these areas start when students are still undergrads and readying themselves for the medical school application process but should follow students into their graduate school of choice. Since the rigors of medical school can be far removed from the undergraduate experience, some institutions offer their own tips for success within their respective programs. Students would be wise to check their medical school's website for more information about study resources specific to their program and institution.

Visit the following links for more information about successful studying habits in medical school:

This resource page is provided by Dr. Bruce Fagel for your information. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation.