It’s time to study for your board exams. You open First Aid with a highlighter in hand but realize no matter how much you read and take notes, it feels like things just aren’t sticking. You need to hear and repeat the information out loud in order to retain it. Does this sound familiar? If so, you may be an auditory learner.
Four Learning Styles
According to the VARK model of student learning, there are four main learning preferences: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic.
According to a 2012 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the majority of first-year medical students surveyed identified as auditory learners or used a multi-model approach to learning, including auditory-reading/writing and auditory-kinesthetic. Final year students and postgraduates had a slight preference for kinesthetic (hands-on) learning.
Learning Styles and the Step 1 Review Course
One misconception people have about the Doctors In Training Step 1 Review Course is that it only works for auditory and visual learners. However, the course is continuously updated based on student feedback to engage multi-model learning styles.
Below are some tips to help you implement the appropriate study strategy while utilizing the Step 1 Review Course.
Visual Study Tips
Visual learners learn best by seeing information displayed in a visually pleasing way. Graphic organizers such as graphs, diagrams, and maps that explain ideas and information using symbols and images are essential for productive visual learning. The Step 1 Review Course contains more than 800 images, illustrations, charts, graphs, animations, and pathology slides. Visual learners can practice the below tips for optimal retention while working through the course:
Auditory Study Tips
Auditory learners learn best through listening and speaking in situations such as group discussion and lectures. The Step 1 Review Course includes 70-75 hours of focused, high-yield videos. The average video is approximately 20 minutes long. Auditory learners can practice the below tips for optimal retention while working through the course:
Read/Write Study Tips
Students with this learning style learn best through words. They access and understand information through reading and writing. The Step 1 Review Course includes convenient page references to the most recent editions of First Aid and Step-Up to USMLE Step 1 so readers can easily follow along in their textbooks. Read/write learners can practice the below tips for optimal retention while working through the course:
Kinesthetic Study Tips
Kinesthetic learners learn best through tactile representations of information. They prefer a hands-on approach to learning. Kinesthetic learners can have trouble sitting through long hours of focused study, which is necessary for Step 1 preparation. The Step 1 Review Course is delivered in a way that allows you to build your bank of high-yield knowledge over time. Additionally, the Part 2 video series includes more than 50 entertaining Right Brain Bonuses, to give your brain a short break between lectures. Kinesthetic learners can practice the below tips for optimal retention while working through the course:
If you aren’t sure what learning style you prefer, there are several free questionnaires online to help you find out. For more information about the Doctors In Training Step 1 Review Course, click here.
Student loan debt can feel like a huge burden to tackle, especially for a recent medical school graduate. According to the 2016 AMA Insurance Report on U.S. Physicians’ Financial Preparedness, the average student loan debt amount after medical school for physicians in their 30s is between $150,000 and $200,000. Even with an annual salary averaging between $170,00 and $220,000, one in 10 physicians is still paying off student loans in their 50s.
If the thought of paying back your loan debt gives you angina pectoris, understand that you’re not alone and there are strategies to help you manage your finances and pay off debt before you’re gray. Here are five tips for managing medical student loan debt.
1. Consult a Financial Planner Early
Fewer than half of physicians in their 30s use the help of a financial advisor. The AMA Insurance Report advises physicians to “find an advisor early. Don’t wait until you ‘think’ you have enough money.”
A Certified Financial Planner (CFP) can help you set a budget around your student loan payments and other essential expenses. While there are plenty of budgeting tools available, the less time you have to spend on your finances, the more you can spend on practicing medicine and enjoying life.
Hiring a financial planner can be expensive; however, there are affordable options. LearnVest is a tool that helps you set up a financial action plan and pairs you with your own financial planner for a low monthly fee. Mint.com is a free personal finance tool that provides automated budgeting support. Qapital is a free iPhone app that helps you save money by rounding up prices from everyday expenses and puts the extra change into a savings account.
2. Find Out If You Qualify for a Deferment or Forbearance
If you have trouble making loan payments, you may be eligible for a loan deferment, or temporary delay in payment. Depending on the type of loan you have, the federal government may or may not pay the interest on your loan during this time. It’s important to research how much interest could accrue before deciding if deferment is right for you.
If you don’t qualify for a deferment, you may be able to get forbearance. Forbearance allows you to stop making payments or reduces your payments for up to 12 months. However, interest will accumulate on your subsidized and unsubsidized loans during this time. Anyone serving in a medical or dental internship or residency program can request mandatory forbearance, which lenders are required to grant.
3. Start With an Income-Driven Repayment Program
If you start out on a 10-year repayment plan, your monthly payments could be well over $1,000. The average first-year resident earns $52,200 annually. For most young physicians, 25 percent of take-home income going toward loan payments is far too high.
Income-driven repayment programs allow you to pay what you can afford based on your income and cost of living. According to the AAMC, this would reduce a first-year resident’s payments to approximately $300 a month.
Make sure to research each of the federal income-driven repayment options and/or consult with your financial planner before deciding on the plan that works best for you.
4. Refinance Your Student Loans
It’s not uncommon to have several loans with a few different student loan servicers. Refinancing and consolidating your student loans can help you to get out of debt faster and save you money.
According to Student Loan Hero, “If you have a steady monthly income and good credit score, then your risk as a student loan borrower has dropped significantly since you initially got the loan. Student loan refinancing can help you take advantage of your decreased credit risk. With a lower interest rate, you pay less overall on your loans. Plus, you have one interest rate for your entire student debt, which makes the whole thing a lot less confusing.”
Many students find that consolidating debt also makes their loans easier to manage and allows them to work with a lender that can be flexible and accommodating based on their unique situation.
5. Be Aware of All Options Available
There are several state-sponsored programs that provide loan repayment and forgiveness incentives for physicians to practice in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) designated by the federal government.
There’s also a variety of tech companies popping up with the goal of helping students pay off loan debt faster. SponsorChange.org helps volunteers raise funding to pay off student loan debt. Givling is a crowd-funded trivia app that pays up to $50,000 in loan debt per person to a few lucky winners each day.
It’s important to remember that there are a plethora of options available for medical students and physicians when it comes to managing student loan debt. Consult with experts, do your research, and stay aware of any new programs available and you can begin your journey toward stress-free student loan management.
What Programs Are NOT Supposed to Ask You In Interviews
On September 20, 2016, the NRMP established a new communication rule that comes into effect for all Matches opening after June 30, 2016. Programs are not allowed to request the names, specialties, geographic locations, or other identifying information about programs that you have or may apply to. The answers below in quotations are quoted directly from the NRMP COMMUNICATION BETWEEN PROGRAMS AND APPLICANTS FAQS.
Can They Ask Where Else You Are Applying and How You Will Rank Programs?
Why Are Program Directors No Longer Allowed to Ask You About the Programs That You Apply?
Can Program Directors Ask You About Geographic Regions You Applied to?
Can a PGY-1 Director Ask About the Advance PGY-2 Programs You Are Applying?
What If It Happens To You?
How should you respond if an interviewer breaks the rules and asks you an illegal question? This could also include questions about your age, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, plans to have children, religious practices, etc. If you feel comfortable answering them honestly, then do so. If you are not comfortable answering them, the “most appropriate next step” can be quite tricky. You should not assume that the interviewer has malicious, illegal, or discriminatory intent. These topics often come up innocently in an attempt to get to know you on a more personal level. Experts often recommend that you ask the interviewer to (diplomatically) ask how that question is relevant to your performance in medical school or in a future residency position, in an attempt to get the interviewer to rescind the question. (For instance, you might reply, “I’m not sure I understand how this relates to the residency position. Can you explain?”)
Nevertheless, refusal to answer interview questions—even illegal ones—may raise flags and cost you any chance of matching at the program. You may also want to reconsider how badly you want to match at a program that asks potentially illegal questions.
Read additional tips on Interviewing from previous blogs below.
Medical Residency Traveling Interview Checklist
How to Interact with Residents During Residency Interviews
Residency Interview Season, by the Numbers
When Should I Schedule Residency Interviews?
Send the Right Message During a Residency Interview
Residency interview season can become quite hectic. It is exciting to break away from school and visit so many programs, dreaming about what the future holds, but interviewing at multiple programs back-to-back while also doing rotations and studying for Step 2 presents many challenges. To help you minimize stress, we are sharing a Travel Checklist for your use.
Download printable Medical Residency Travel Checklist
Interview Day Items
Travel Planning Hints:
Use a site like Priceline/Kayak or trip advisor to book your hotel/rental car/flights
Sign up for a credit card that gives free miles during sign up
In case you missed this announcement, the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) recently announced changes that will affect medical students.
Small Increases In Registration Fees
After June 30, 2016, the applicant fee for the Main Residency Match will increase from $70 to $75. The fee will increase to $80 after June 30, 2017.
SOAP Reduced From 5 Rounds to Only 3 Rounds
In contrast to previous years, the 2017 Main Residency Match Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) will conclude after only three rounds at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Thursday of Match Week. This will only affect applicants who do not successfully match in the main Match process.
The NRMP also announced changes for Rank Order Lists in the couples match. You can read the full release here: http://www.nrmp.org/important-notice-policy-changes-implemented-by-nrmp-board-of-directors/.
How can you integrate studying for classes and board exams? This is a common question from medical students. One plan does not fit every student. The best approach is to come up with a plan that takes into consideration several things including; your performance in medical school thus far, your learning style, your test-taking skills based on past scores, and an NBME self-assessment (if you have already completed this). We will give you general advice, but you should tailor this plan to your learning style, background, and abilities.
First and foremost, you should not ignore your classes for board preparation. Focusing on learning the information for your classes, and not just studying the week before an exam, is good preparation for boards.
If you want to do something over the holiday break, review a weak area from your first year. You can begin working on the Primer videos and question banks in subject and tutor modes to get comfortable with the information.
Purchase a comprehensive review book that you will be comfortable utilizing until your test date. This review book can be utilized in conjunction with class work to create a strong foundation for Step 1. Reference your comprehensive review book in order to see what your classes are and are not covering. After you locate areas not taught in your classes, mark them accordingly. Add notes to your review book as needed as you go through your classes; although, if you don’t have time, you can always do so later.
We would not suggest studying 12-15 hours a day in January because by May you will be burnt out. However, you do want to begin integrating board preparation into your day. If you have signed up for the DIT course, you will begin to receive questions posted to your dashboard in mid-January. You can spend 10 hours per week working on these questions along with adding notes in your comprehensive review book from board review books related to your course topic (see #2 below).
If you are not a good test taker, you might consider subscribing to more than one question bank, sorting them by topic, and using them to practice taking questions for your exams. However, if you are not good at time management, this may not be a good solution for you. Instead, you may want to wait until you are finished with your classes and on a study break. Many students purchase a second question bank but find they never use it because it is too much to manage with their schedule. If you already feel overwhelmed and have a very full day, you should wait until you have time to dedicate to studying just for your board exams. If you do use question banks during classes, be sure to save one question bank to use during the period where you are concentrating solely on studying for Step 1.
Most students take or receive 4-6 weeks off to prepare for Step 1 without the distraction of classes. Students from International schools can take more time. If you can take 8 weeks, you can use the plan below and incorporate more books during the study break. During this time, there are several strategies to incorporate:
1. Take an NBME self-assessment to get a baseline score. If your score is below 50, then you may need more than 6 weeks to prepare.
2. In the first few weeks, finish preparing using board review books. This is especially true if you made 50 or below on your diagnostic NBME self-assessment.
Use board review books instead of your course texts. The review books are designed to teach you what you need to know for success on boards.
3. Do ALL of one of the most popular question banks that students recommend and be sure to study the explanations. You may not do well until you are past the halfway mark of the question bank. This is not uncommon. Once you are 60% through the question bank, you will likely see your scores improve. Take your average over the last 10 quizzes to track your improvement. Do a block of 40-50 questions per day to finish the question bank by the end of the 6 weeks.
4. Take another NBME self-assessment to make sure you are ready to take the Step 1 exam.
This is a very general study plan not personalized to fit your unique academic background or learning style. If you need assistance creating a study calendar, click here to contact our Student Advising team, who is happy to explain the various advising products available for purchase. Whatever your advising need, we have got it covered.
As you advance in your medical career, you can expect future employers to take an in-depth look at your life outside of the hospital walls. As a result, it is imperative that you remember your persona is more than what you put on your resume or state in person; your persona is also who you appear to be online. You are a combination of all the information available online about YOU, and it is probably more than you think.
What Will a Google Search of Your Name Reveal?
The list includes links or images your friends link you to, things you pinned in Pinterest, photos, screen shots of Snapchat, court records, social profiles, schools you’ve attended, police reports, genealogy, significant others, places you lived, an aerial view of where you live, home values and much more. For under a dollar, several sites will provide more detailed personal information. What can people find out about you on these paid service sites? Your current address, phone number, email address, location history, family members, marital status, photos and social profiles are all readily available.
For under a dollar, several sites will provide more detailed personal information. What can people find out about you on these paid service sites? Your current address, phone number, email address, location history, family members, marital status, photos and social profiles are all readily available.
Go to Google or your favorite search engine and type in your name. You probably see LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, White Pages, Pinterest, Google +, Instagram, Amazon Reviews, the Myspace account you created in 2001 with photos from that awesome middle school dance.
View All Your Profiles As Others Would See Them
On Facebook, go to your profile, click View Activity Log in upper right hand corner, click view as, and then choose public or a specific person. Your tweets are easily searchable on Twitter, which is good, but not so good if you don’t want it to follow you around when you're trying to land a job. When using Twitter, post with the assumption that your employer will see it one day. If your grandma wouldn’t be happy to see it, don’t post pictures, tweet about it or allow others to post and tag you.
It’s not uncommon for job seekers to be rejected because of what employers find about them online. According to a Career Builder Survey, 43% of employers are now using social media to research job seekers. If a potential employer senses that you might be a bad apple, they will continue to look through the plethora of qualified people. You need to make sure that your entire online world portrays you as the sensible, hard working, intelligent physician you want them to see you as.
If you want to stand out and get noticed for the right reasons, be sure your online presence reflects this fact. Ensure that your online persona reflects the individual you are and strive to be.
Below is a complete list of all forms available this year for the USMLE NBME self-assessment and practice exams for USMLE Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3 offered by the NBME and some guidance on using them in your study preparation.
The expanded feedback option, which is available for some of the self assessments, is an additional $10. It provides a count of incorrect items with an opportunity to review them as well as the ability to obtain a longitudinal assessment. The expanded feedback does not tell you which questions you answered incorrectly, nor does it include explanations to the exam questions. Students we have spoken with speak highly of the longitudinal assessment. The longitudinal assessment highlights your strong and weak areas and indicates lower performance, borderline performance or higher performance.
Further, the longitudinal assessment is an excellent way to determine what areas you should devote more time to studying so that you can improve. Please note, NBME practice exams taken on or after March 6, 2015 cannot be longitudinally compared to exams taken before that date. You can take the practice exams in standard-paced or self-paced mode. We recommend taking the practice exams in standard-paced mode; you can still pause in standard mode.
Step 1 NBME Advice
Based on student feedback, the following advice is what we have found most helpful to students. Take Forms 11 and 12 to get a good baseline assessment before starting your intensive review period. Forms 13, 15 and 16 appear to be the best indicators of your Step 1 score. We suggest you take these during your intensive review period to help determine if you are ready to take Step 1. The NBME removed NBME 7 and added a new NBME 17 in March of 2015. We do not have enough student feedback to make a recommendation about Form 17 at this time.
USMLE Step 1 NBME Assessments
|Comprehensive Basic Science (Forms 11, 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17)||$50|
|Comprehensive Basic Science w/ Expanded Feedback (Forms 11, 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17)||$60|
Step 2 NBME Advice
Based on student feedback, we recommend taking all four forms from oldest to newest.
USMLE Step 2 NMBE Assessments
|Comprehensive Clinical Science (Forms 3, 4, 6and 7)||$50|
|Comprehensive Clinical Science w/ Expanded Feedback (Forms 4, 6, and 7)||$60|
Step 3 NBME Advice
We recommend taking an NBME at the beginning of your study period to make decisions about your board preparation goals. We have a blog on USMLE Step 3: Preparing for Computer-Based Case Simulations that will assist you in understanding and preparing for Computer-based Case Simulations.
USMLE Step 3 NMBE Assessments
|Comprehensive Clinical Medicine (Forms 3 and 4)||$50|
|Comprehensive Clinical Medicine w/ Expanded Feedback (Form 3 and 4)||$60|
The Clinical Science Mastery exams are new for shelf practice exams and cover the following disciplines; Clinical Neurology, Medicine, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Surgery.
Clerkship NBME Advice:
We recommend you take the assessment in standard mode for the Clinical Science Mastery Exams so you get used to doing that many questions.
Clerkship NMBE Assessments
|Clinical Neurology w/ Expanded Feedback (Form 1)||$20 – Standard-Paced or Self-Paced|
|Medicine w/ Expanded Feedback (Forms 1 and 2)||$20 – Standard-Paced or Self-Paced|
|Ob/Gyn w/ Expanded Feedback (Forms 1 and 2)||$20 – Standard-Paced or Self-Paced|
|Pediatrics w/ Expanded Feedback (Forms 1 and 2)||$20 – Standard-Paced or Self-Paced|
|Psychiatry w/ Expanded Feedback (Forms 1 and 2)||$20 – Standard-Paced or Self-Paced|
|Surgery w/ Expanded Feedback (Forms 1 and 2)||$20 – Standard-Paced or Self-Paced|
Additional information on NBME practice exams can be found here: http://www.nbme.org/Students/sas/information.html
It’s important to have a strategy for what and when you will study. Many students find the structure of the Doctors In Training USMLE Step 1 Review Course, the Doctors In Training USMLE Step 2 Review Course and the Doctors In Training USMLE Step 3 Review Coursebeneficial to their exam preparations. Our courses present the high yield information you need to know and are updated annually to reflect student feedback.
In the heat of USMLE/COMLEX study season, it’s easy to cruise through the drive-thru for fast food and consume tons of caffeine in coffee or energy drinks. Your blood sugar level spikes, the greasy foods hit your stomach, you feel full and satisfied, then suddenly, you hit a point where you crash. You no longer have the drive to study, and you would rather be on the couch watching a Netflix marathon. Why is this? Well, you didn’t properly fuel your body.
When you study right, you test well, and when you eat right, you feel better. Below are nine super foods and a few ideas on how to prepare them.
Everyone knows water is essential to keep a body healthy. Choosing water rather than sodas or caffeinated drinks will help tremendously in keeping your body happy while preparing for USMLE or COMLEX exams. A few benefits of drinking water include clear skin and improved kidney function, and water fights fatigue caused by dehydration. Eight 8 oz glasses of fluid per day is the recommended amount from the Mayo Clinic, and there are many mobile apps available to help keep your motivated to drink water such as Waterlogged, Daily Water, iDrinkWater and Daily.
Olive oil’s monounsaturated fatty acids are considered healthy dietary fats. They are known to lower risks of heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, and help with blood sugar control. Controlling your blood sugar levels will help reduce the mid-study session crash.
How to incorporate: You can cook your proteins such as chicken, fish or steak in a skillet using olive oil instead of butter or fat. You can also drizzle the oil in with your steamed vegetables or before you roast your veggies or nuts.
Blueberries are famous for their high antioxidant values. These antioxidants fight free radicals in the body such as cancer. Blueberries are also good for heart health, and the vitamin C gives an immune system boost helping your body fight off sickness that may hit during your study period.
How to incorporate: Drop them in your cereal, oatmeal or you can just have them next to you mixed with other berries for a healthy study snack. You can even make a smoothie with bananas, almond milk (or milk of choice), protein powder and blueberries.
It is high in Vitamin K which helps boost brain power. This veggie is also high in vitamin C, and its antioxidants fight inflammation. Broccoli is a versatile vegetable that can be included into a variety of meals.
How to incorporate: You can snack on broccoli raw or you can steam it in a mixture of olive oil and water. Another quick way to prepare it is to spread broccoli out on a cooking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and put salt, pepper and any other seasonings you prefer. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes then let it cool. This makes for a tasty side dish to any meal.
Kale has been in the news a lot for being a “super food.” It is high in vitamin C, K and A as well as containing omega-3 fatty acids. One benefit of eating kale is the B vitamins and folic acids help to keep the mind sharp. Raw kale also contains protein which will fight hunger and help keep blood sugar levels stable.
How to incorporate: Throw kale into a leafy salad mixture and top with a light oil-based salad dressing. If you’re not a fan of the bitter taste of kale, you can sauté it in some olive oil (benefits listed above), add salt and top with some lemon juice. Another choice is to bake the kale, similar to the instructions above for broccoli and make kale chips.
Pumpkin seeds are little health ninjas. They are packed with magnesium, omega 3’s and zinc. The zinc helps ramp up your immune system while the magnesium helps with bone, tooth and heart health. Men can also benefit from the sexual health benefits.
How to incorporate: Wash your pumpkin seeds in cold water, then lay them on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes to dry them out. Bake them for an additional 20 minutes at 350 degrees with your choice of seasoning such as cinnamon and sugar or salt.
Avocados are packed with tons of vitamins. You will find tons of potassium (more than a banana), fiber, vitamins B5, B6, E, C and K. It also has small amounts of magnesium, iron and zinc along with other nutrients. When you eat an avocado, you’re helping improve your cholesterol, immune system and regulating blood sugar along with many other benefits.
How to incorporate: you can cut it up and add it to a salad or sandwich. You can even create a spread to put on your sandwich instead of using mayo or mustard. We know that guacamole often costs extra at restaurants, but the health benefits are surely worth it.
Whole grains contain dietary fiber that help keep your body on a regular schedule. They also contain antioxidants, B vitamins and minerals such as iron and magnesium. Whole grains help control your blood sugar levels, helping you avoid the crash feeling mid-day. The fiber keeps you feeling full so you’re not snacking throughout the day, which will also help with managing your weight. Another benefit of whole grains is that they are good for your heart and help control cholesterol levels.
How to incorporate: Some examples of whole grain include, quinoa, rolled and steel cut oats, brown rice and popcorn (don’t add the salt and butter) just to name a few. Avoid sugary granola bars and breakfast cereals/oatmeals and opt for whole grain pasta, breads and crusts if available.
Salmon, canned tuna and trout are a couple popular fish options when it comes to omega 3 fatty acids which benefit a healthy heart, brain function and reduce inflammation. Adding fish into your meal rotation two to three times a week will greatly improve your health.
How to incorporate: Pour some olive oil with salt, pepper and other spices of your choice into a skillet and cook over medium heat it until it’s nice and flaky. You can also make a Panko bread crust and bake your fish in the oven. Another idea is to cook your fish, put it in the refrigerator and then make fish tacos with some avocado the next day.
To simplify the process and save time, stock up on these items, cook in volume and then divide them into plastic containers for easily accessible, nicely portioned meals. Eat what you need and freeze the rest for later.
A healthy brain and healthy body are going to keep you pushing through these weeks and months of studying for the USMLE and COMLEX exams. The options and suggestions above are just simple, easy ways to get into healthy habits. There are many nutritional websites, and you can even check Pinterest for lots of fun recipes if you’re feeling like a chef and want to spice things up a bit. The extra 15-30 minutes it takes to prepare a meal will not only benefit your brain and body on marathon exam days, but it will also benefit you in the long run. We know your goal is to improve your future patients’ health; please don’t forget the importance of your own.