Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Medical school is hard.

I always knew that it was going to be difficult to succeed in medical school. But the last four months have been even more busy than I'd ever pictured. The thing that they don't tell you about before medical school is the exams. Partly the bi-weekly quizzes they give us to make sure we're staying up on the material, but mostly the standardized national exams. Since December I've switched over to a system where I study all day, every day for my national board exam (I take it in June) for 10 days, then cram for three days to pass the quizzes. At first I was hesitant because I was afraid that I would start failing the quizzes--oddly enough I started doing better. I have two theories for why this is:

1. There is some overlap between the board material and the class material.
2. The quizzes touch on small details from the powerpoints that are better held in the short-term memory for a couple of days (knowledge binge-and-purge method).

In reality it's probably a mixture of both. Either way, I've discovered a few things about my learning style in the process that have been helpful.

I think that there are three different principles of learning: memorizing, understanding, and integrating. Unfortunately for me, memorizing has never been my strong suit. I've always known this, but haven't had a good solution to the problem. But I'm coming to realize that if I can memorize stuff I can usually do pretty well understanding bigger picture concepts. So I've started focusing on flashcards (yesterday I made my 2000th flashcard since December). I spend at least a couple of hours going through cards every day on my computer in an effort to memorize everything. The remainder of my time I do practice questions (which is a whole different beast--I'll try to describe what they're like on here some other time).

These days I spend about 15 hours a day studying or in class, leaving about three for playing and eating. As much as that would have sounded miserable to me a couple of years ago, it's actually surprisingly rewarding. In some ways it feels like being a missionary again--you kind of just put your head down and go. It's not impressive or exceptional--it's just what you do when you're in medical school. And you find happiness in small successes, like getting the right answer on a question you would have missed a week before. It's progress, and that feels good.

As you can imagine, all this studying doesn't leave too much time for blogging. Even if I did have more time for it, not too much happens to you when you live at school. Still, I'm not ready to completely abandon my blog. But if you're reading this I'll warn you that, while there may be a couple more posts in the next few months, they're not likely to have anything too interesting.