The Best Advice for Acing the USMLE

MCCQE Examination

If you’re like many students who will be taking the USMLE later this year, there’s a very good chance you’ve spent several hours reading blog posts, scouring forums, and looking for the best possible advice available for acing it. Though there’s no one magic recipe that works for everyone, there are a few things you can do that will drastically improve your chances of not only passing but doing so with flying colors.

Study Religiously

Everyone who’s ever scored a 99 on the USMLE will tell you the same thing: the key to acing the exam is studying. Though there are a few exceptions out there, most people can’t simply sit down at a computer and fly through the questions with a perfect score without putting in an incredible number of study hours. No matter how busy your schedule between school and work, you must set aside some time every single day for studying – no exceptions. This is the only way to ensure the information is ingrained in your mind in such a way that when test day comes, you have no trouble at all recalling answers.

Use the Right Study Materials

It is also important to remember that no two people learn the same way, so you’ll need to make certain that you’ve tried various study methods. Whether you respond better to lecture-style learning, quiet reading, using flash cards, or like many other students, online question banks, try to discover which of these methods gets you the best results and then stick with that. Of course, you should use the other methods to your advantage as well, but if question banks seem to help you memorize information better than textbooks, try to schedule most of your study time around the question banks.

Learn More about the Exam Itself

Though a lot of students spend a great deal of time learning the material that will be on the exam, they fail to spend much time learning about the exam itself. Via the USMLE website, you can find out everything you need to know, including how the exam works, how to apply, the fees you can expect to pay, and even get access to your scores and transcripts after you’ve taken the exam. It’s always a great idea to check the USMLE website often for information, and reading the FAQs can help you familiarize yourself with many different aspects of the site and the test itself.

Keep Calm and Prepare Yourself

It may seem tough to stop thinking negatively at times, especially when you come across specific topics or material that seem intimidating or difficult. In these cases, rather than worrying about your ability to learn the material, continue to go over it in different ways using different methods. If it still seems too difficult, reach out to professors at your school or ask about mentors and tutors who may be able to provide you with the insight you need. Allowing anxiety to take over will only make it more difficult for you to learn.

Though acing the USMLE is a great feeling, it’s important to remember that you don’t need a perfect score – you only need a passing score. You should always do your very best but be careful about allowing your desire to achieve perfection hinder your ability to properly study. Above all else, know you can do it, and be sure that you put in the time to study the right materials.

 

5 Things to Look For when Choosing Question Banks for a Medical Licensing Exam

USMLE Step 2 Test Prep

Thanks to the internet and improvements in technology, you have your choice when it comes to question banks for medical licensing exams. There are dozens of them available, but not all of them are cut from the same cloth, so to speak. Here are five things you should look for when choosing the question bank platform that is right for you.

#1 – Plenty of Questions

When choosing a question bank, it is critical that you find a provider that offers you more than just a few hundred questions. In fact, look for question banks with thousands of questions that allow you to take mock exams numerous times without seeing the same question twice. Better still, make sure that those questions are broken down into categories and topics for easy referencing later.

#2 – Customization Features

Customizing your question bank will give you more study opportunities than ever before. For example, if you understand pharmaceuticals but you struggle with anatomy, you should have the ability to customize your questions to show you only those that you need help with. Similarly, you should be able to choose only questions you haven’t answered, and you should also be able to study in various modes. A timed mode makes your session feel like a real exam while a study or tutor mode is more relaxed.

#3 – Accurate Questions with Answers and Explanations

No question bank will help you pass your medical licensing examination if the questions aren’t broad in scope and accurate. In fact, if you choose a less-than-reputable provider that is not known for its accuracy, you may actually be harming yourself more than helping yourself. Ensuring that each of the thousands of questions available to you has an answer and an explanation will also help drive comprehension and make it easier for you to retain information on test day.

#4 – Accessibility & Community Features

The platform you choose should be highly accessible, and it should also give you access to an entire community of medical students and professionals who want to help each other succeed. Make sure the platform you choose is available not only on your desktop or laptop, but also on your mobile device and/or tablet so you can get some quick studying in from anywhere. You should also look for things like Facebook groups and even YouTube channels that provide you with access to a community.

#5 – Affordable Pricing

Medical students sometimes struggle to maintain their finances throughout school. Even though many have jobs, the amount of time they can work is limited by their need to study. Too many question bank providers require a massive one-time purchase that is well out of many students’ budgets, but others offer budget-friendly subscription options with monthly payments and no long-term contracts. This means you can use the platform only as long as you need it without fear of overpaying.

Choosing a question bank platform may seem overwhelming, but when you take the time to look for these important features, you can rest assured that you are making the right choice. CanadaQBank offers all of these and more to help medical students around the globe succeed.

The Benefits of Timed and Tutor Modes in Test Prep Software

Test Prep Software

Since the internet became widespread, medical students have relied on mock exams and question banks to help them study for their exams. However, while simply answering questions can help students to a degree, the ability to switch back and forth between timed and tutor modes in test prep software is ideal. Here’s what you should know.

Timed vs. Tutor Mode: What’s the Difference?

A “timed” mode is like a sudden death challenge. It requires you to answer as many questions as you can correctly within a very specific amount of time. This puts the pressure on and requires you to think quickly and make snap decisions, which is a great way to prepare yourself not only for a medical exam, but for a medical career in general. With timed modes, you can even compete and challenge yourself against others, then see how you performed when compared to your competitors.

“Tutor” mode, on the other hand, allows you the opportunity to answer questions at your own pace. You can study up to 50 topics at once, or you can focus on only one topic. During tutor mode, you can take your own notes, save questions to come back to later, and simply use the question banks as you see fit with no pressure, no competition, and access to a variety of helpful features.

When to Use Timed Mode

Timed mode is best reserved for topics and areas that you feel comfortable with. You can really challenge yourself with this mode. Often, students who believe they have mastered the content within a topic or group of topics find that they maybe could have spent a little more time studying. Because the timed mode gives you access to the questions you missed, you can go back and study any areas that seem to be giving you trouble, and you can see how other people fared when they answered the same number of questions as you within the same timeframe.

When to Use Tutor Mode

Whereas timed mode is best for students who feel as if they have mastered a topic, tutor mode is for students who are familiarizing themselves with the content and who want to learn more. There are no time limits here, so you can feel free to study at your very own pace, even if one question leads to hours of research in books and videos. Tutor mode allows you to take your own notes, so if you need a reminder as to the context of a question or the definition of a word, you can feel free to leave it in the notes. What’s more, you can choose which questions you want to answer and which you want to avoid, allowing you to completely customize your experience.

Using timed and tutor modes appropriately in test prep software can make a huge difference in the amount of information you can learn, master, and ultimately recall when your examination date comes around. Be sure that you switch back and forth in these modes as appropriate whether you study on your computer or a mobile device.

The Benefits of Academic Coaching for US Medical Students

academic-coaching

Most people associate the idea of coaching with athletes. Those athletes determined to be “coachable” tend towards having the most success in their pursuits. Why?

The idea is very simple. Through the art of coaching, a naturally talented athlete can refine their skills and work on their weaknesses. The same premise can be applied to medical students.

Why Medical Students Need Coaching

Medical students who seek out academic coaching opportunities show a strong, innate desire to improve themselves. This self-improving eagerness shows dedication towards their chosen field of study, which most often translates towards a more skilled physician.

Those students who do not pursue academic coaching opportunities while in medical school, however, would not benefit from the experience anyway. Coaching is a “program” of sorts, which requires absolute want. If a student does not want coaching, they will not dedicate themselves in such a manner as to make it beneficial.

The Benefits of Medical Coaching

There are numerous benefits associated with medical coaching. Below we look at some of the biggest benefits.

Achieving Goals: Students who participate in academic coaching are advised to create both long- and short-term goals. This gives the coaching a direction and ensures that those goals are met. The coach will help align studies, extra curriculars, and activities towards achieving those goals students set.

Improve Test Scores: Medical coaching can help significantly improve test scores, which are vital in the quest to become a licensed physician. While many students and coaches warn not to set benchmarks on tests, the results are the same. Students who took advantage of academic coaching opportunities while in medical school saw higher test results.

Create Higher Self-Confidence: A coach is not like a teacher or mentor. They will not tell you exactly what you should do, nor will they lay out some grandmaster scheme which aligns all their pupils on the same path. The true key in coaching is the creation of higher self-confidence and a better realization of what needs to be done. This is vital, as it equips students with vital self-regulation skills necessary for the workplace after schooling.

Understanding and Developing Strengths: Each person is a unique individual possessing specific strengths. A person’s strength, for example, may lay in an ability to ace tests. Alternatively, a person may do amazing at studying but has testing fears that lower their scores. One student may excel in textbook studies while another does better in hands-on clinicals. Coaching can help students understand and develop these strengths, so they become the most beneficial.

Understanding and Mitigating Weaknesses: Just as everyone has their own unique strengths so do they have weaknesses. While it is never possible to entirely do away with weakness, it is possible to mitigate them. By understand where a person’s weaknesses lay, it is possible to hone them to be the least disruptive. For example, if someone suffers testing fear than learning coping techniques would be highly beneficial.

Study Session Preparation and Advice from Doctors and Surgeons

medical-students-studying

For every single student just starting medical school or getting ready to take their medical licensing exam or boards, there are dozens of doctors out in the big, wide world who have been in those shoes. Below are some of the best tips and hints for getting the most out of your study sessions from surgeons and doctors around the world.

Classical Music is a Good Study Aid

Though it may seem as if you need perfect quiet to really concentrate on what you’re learning, there are actually studies and articles showing that classical music can help you absorb, retain, and recall more information if you play it at a low to moderate level while studying. Even if you don’t like classical music, think about using Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, or another streaming music service to curate a playlist for you for your next few sessions. You might be surprised by the results.

Eat Before You Study

Other studies and articles have shown that your memory is not as sharp as it should be when you are hungry. Just as you might not remember your fourth grade teacher’s name when your stomach is rumbling, you probably won’t retain or absorb as much information during your study session if you spend much of it wishing you had a taco.  Hunger is triggered by a hormone called ghrelin, and like any other hormone, ghrelin needs a receptor to trigger in order to make you feel those pangs of hunger. Some scientists believe that the ghrelin receptors in your brain exist to augment how your memories work rather than play a metabolic role. Eat before you study if you want to retain more of what you learn.

Dehydration has a Tremendous Effect on Your Brain

If you feel thirsty, then you’re already at least partially dehydrated, and that’s bad news for your brain. Per a study out of the Georgia Institute of Technology, being dehydrated for as little as two hours can have a huge impact on your ability to concentrate, thus rendering your study session useless. The best way to combat this is the same thing you’ve heard since childhood – try your best to remember to drink roughly 64 ounces of water each day – more if you feel thirsty or perspire due to strenuous activity, and less if you are in a humid environment performing sedentary tasks.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff & Move On

Every single medical student since the beginning of time has struggled to understand a specific concept, topic, or group of topics. The reasons for this are many, but despite what your brain might try to tell you, it isn’t because you are incapable of learning. In fact, when you’re really struggling with something at least semi-specific, you may just need to see it from a different perspective. Don’t get upset if you find that you cannot understand a concept during your study session; instead, flag that concept and set a reminder on your phone to ask a professor, mentor, tutor, or fellow student – or to perform a Google search later to peruse forums. All of these are great ideas.

At one point, every licensed surgeon and doctor in the world today – even the most successful ones – were in your shoes, and they were able to pass their exams and go on to enjoy the careers they dreamed of. Whether you try classical music during your study time, make sure to eat a good meal and drink some water beforehand, or do your very best to move on when you’re “stuck” on a topic, each of these things will make your sessions far more productive.

 

Using Video to Reinforce Ideas while Studying for Your Medical Exam

video studying

Medical licensing exams are difficult, and they are packed with content that takes years of education to understand. For some students, simply listening to lectures and reading textbooks is not enough to help them reach the level of comprehension they need to succeed. That’s why using video to reinforce ideas while studying for your medical exam is so very beneficial.

How Popular is Video in the Classroom?

Across all grade levels – from kindergarten all the way through medical school – teachers and professors utilize video as a powerful learning tool. In fact, research shows that some 94% of all teachers have effectively used videos during any given academic year and found it effective. Some believe it is even more effective than traditional learning via textbooks and lectures, too.

Reasons to Consider Using Video as a Medical Exam Study Aid

The reasons to use video as a study aid while preparing for your medical exams are many, but you can find some of the most important ones below.

  • Video triggers the visual processing center in your brain. Though the human brain is certainly capable of absorbing the information we read and hear, it is far better equipped to learn by processing information (other than just words) that we see with our eyes. It’s faster than reading, and our brains retain the information we learn through video for a longer period, too.
  • Video is powerful self-study. Reading words in a textbook or answering multiple-choice questions is a great way to reinforce your knowledge, but when it comes to learning in the first place, visual learning is best. That makes video a powerful means of self-study and by far the best way to learn new things.
  • Videos offer context. Textbooks often attempt to put things into context, but when it comes to complicated diseases or pharmaceutical contraindications, context can be hard to understand. In a video, it is possible to combine demonstrations and information in such a way that the context becomes clear.
  • Videos are like illustrations, but better. Finally, if you rely on illustrations in books to help you better understand concepts, you will find video to be one of your most relied-upon tools. There is no better way to illustrate than with a moving picture.

Video and Critical Thinking

Finally, it is important to note that video is one of the most powerful ways to promote critical thinking in both children and adults. The connection between visual cues, the processes of forming memories, and the ability to recall new knowledge is very strong, and above all else, it gives students the ability to learn how to think critically and infer outcomes. Over time, students who use video to learn more about medical topics come to understand those topics more thoroughly – and able to recall them more quickly and accurately – than students who did not use video.

As you can see, video is a powerful tool in any medical student’s arsenal, and it’s one that can help students who might otherwise struggle with comprehension, context, and recollection succeed. Whether you watch documentaries, videos that come along with your medical school courses, or even YouTube videos from reputable sources, you are sure to find videos a great addition to your study sessions.

 

How to Maintain a Healthy Work/Life/School Balance in Medical School

medical-students-balance

Medical school can slowly take over a student’s life. If you don’t believe it, just ask any student! The extreme amounts of information needing retained comes in waves of classes, studying session, and exams. This doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

Unfortunately, this single-minded life can have devastating effects. Suicide and depression are alarmingly high among medical school students. The key to avoid this in your own career path is to maintain a healthy balance between work, life, and school. While studying is, undoubtedly, important, it should not be the only thing in a person’s life.

Learn to Prioritize

Everything in life has a certain amount of priority but knowing how to properly prioritize life during medical school can be trying. Here’s a secret: your studies are NOT number one. Your very first priority should be to take care of yourself. Without a healthy physical body and emotionally state you won’t do well in your studies, anyways.

Studying should come second to personal health and well-being, and work (if necessary) should come after that. Students will be surprised to find out that putting themselves first will actually get more studying done – and that studying will be more efficient, too.

Schedule Everything

Creating a schedule that includes everything helps you ensure that there is always time for everything. That may sound a little silly, but people often don’t realize there is free time in their schedule until they see it on paper.

Get a daily planner and start by filling in those things you can’t move around. That includes classes, work shifts, and any appointments you might have. Then, fill in your study times. Instead of scheduling a big block of studying you should try to space it out throughout the week. Maybe you have half an hour in the morning and in the evening, five days a week. Leave room in the evenings for a leisurely shower and bedtime routine – about half an hour to an hour should do.

Finally, you can see where time is available to socialize. Maybe you have every Saturday afternoon free and can take an hour or two to have lunch with your siblings or parents. Maybe each Saturday morning is free, so you can stay up a little late on Friday to hang out with friends.

Know Your Limits

Knowing your limits (and when to just say “no”) are incredibly important for mental health. Before you enroll in full-time classes, consider if you know this to be within your realm of capabilities. Some may find it easier to take a class or two during the summer and (if offered) during winter break in return for a slightly lighter class load during the main school year. Others would much prefer to do it all at once and have extended break periods.

If you’re already operating at your max capacity, then don’t agree to take on that extra work shift. Or, don’t accept additional responsibilities in your extracurricular clubs. It’s very important to both know and accept your limits if you want to stay physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy.

University of Alberta Changes Indigenous Student Policies

medical-students-policy

 

A new admissions policy was placed into effect by the University of Alberta recently. The new policy will eliminate a quota system which put a cap on the number of indigenous students allowed into the university per year. The old policy was in effect for more than three decades, so many are wondering how this shift in policy will affect the medical program overall.

The Old Policy

The thirty-year-old policy that the new one will replace kept five spots specifically for indigenous students who met program requirements. The reason it was put into place was a vast under-representation of said indigenous peoples in secondary schooling. This lack of academic representation was seen most strongly among medical students.

The premise of this old policy was a good one. It ensured a place for indigenous peoples in the medical community and allowed for increased diversity during a period in which there was not much.

Why Change the Policy?

The old indigenous student policy has slowly become irrelevant. As post-secondary enrollment of indigenous peoples has risen steadily over the last thirty years, the policy has become less a blessing and more a burden.

It needed changing for a few years now, but it takes consideration (and research) to ensure such a momentous change in policy is worth it. The University of Alberta did finally decide that it was and instituted a new policy to replace the old one.

The New Policy

The new policy will allow all indigenous students into the medical school, so long as they meet the standard eligibility requirements. The standard requirements for all medical students include applicable academic eligibility, a secondary medicine application, and online assessment.

Indigenous students must undergo a second portion of eligibility, however, according to tradition. Once passing standard requirements, they then undergo an interview with tribal elders and community medicine practitioners. This group will then pass on their recommendations to the standard university board.

Some individuals have stated that there are still not enough indigenous peoples attending medical school, despite a drastic increase in the past three decades. In an effort to continue assisting an increase of indigenous medical practitioners, the University of Alberta has implemented four new scholarships to these students after dispersing their five held slots. These scholarships will cover the full cost of tuition, to ease any financial burden medical school attendance may incur.

The School’s Actual Word on Their Policy Alterations

Due to a small amount of confusion as to how the policy would actually change the medical program (including admissions), the University of Alberta released a clarifying statement. It read as follows:

“The University of Alberta is eliminating a quota system that limited the number of Indigenous students admitted… through the Indigenous Initiatives Program Process (IHIP)… Starting in fall 2019, all Indigenous students who meet all eligibility requirements… will be offered a place in the medical school. The faculty previously held an upper limit of five Indigenous students admitted… per year through the IHIP process…”

 

5 Ways to Get Ready to Go Back to School After Summer Break

Med Students Back to School

Though medical students don’t get to take entire summers off school, they do have less to do, and they tend to really enjoy their summer breaks when they can. However, as summer ends and the full fall semester looms on the horizon, you might find yourself struggling to get the motivation you need to study and prepare for medical exams. Here are five things you can do to help get in the back-to-school frame of mind.

#1 – Get on a School Day Schedule Early

The number one way to get yourself ready to head back to school for the fall semester involves getting your body used to your daily schedule ahead of time. This means getting to bed early enough to wake up early while still getting a solid seven to nine hours of sleep. Be sure that you have enough time in the mornings to have a cup of coffee and some breakfast so you can get your bearings before heading out to face the day.

#2 – Meal Prep

Though it may seem silly for a college student to worry about meal prep – especially if you’re in a dorm room with no stove or oven for real cooking – there are things you can do that will reduce your stress and save you time (and money!) all throughout the fall semester. Check out sales on things you have the means to prepare and buy your groceries based on those sales. Get enough for an entire week’s worth of meals, take it home, portion it out, precook it (if possible) and store it in your fridge. This way, everything is ready to go and all you need to do is pop a meal in the microwave. It’s cheaper than eating out, and a good diet is key to keeping your comprehension and memory healthy, too.

#3 – Register for (and Set Up) Question Bank Software

If you haven’t already set up your question bank platform, now is the perfect time to do so. All you need to do is register your account and then choose one of the numerous subscription options designed to fit a college student’s budget. You can even ask a school representative whether an institutional discount is available. Once you have it set up, download it to all your devices and familiarize yourself with the interface.

#4 – Find a Study Group

If you take the time to find a group of people to study with even before the fall semester starts, you’ll be that much more prepared, and that is one of the numerous ingredients in the recipe for success. Try putting up notes on message boards in local coffee shops, the school library, and even the school cafeteria, and don’t forget about online message boards, as well. You can take turns quizzing each other with question bank software or you can watch fast, informational YouTube videos to help you absorb more information.

#5 – Get Your Shopping Done

Shopping for things you need for your room can be a pain, as can buying new clothes and school supplies. Although much of your work will be done on a computer or tablet, the basics – pens, paper, highlighters, and index cards for making your own flash cards, if desired – are always a good idea. To get what you need on a budget, try dollar stores for your supplies and thrift stores for gently used clothes. You might even find discount or salvage grocery stores close to campus, and don’t pass up an opportunity to shop at a farmer’s market, either.

Going back to school can be a bummer, especially if you’ve had a wonderful, relaxing summer. However, if you follow these tips, you can reduce the shock to your system, which will help you feel better about the first day of class – and all the consecutive days after that, too.

 

Helpful Advice for a First Year Medical Student

first-year-medical-students

If you’re about to head off for your first year of medical school, you’re probably a ball of emotions. Excitement, nervousness, and in some cases even fear can all leave you feeling apprehensive about your first year. Below, you will find some advice from physicians and surgeons about how to survive your first year as a medical student – and how to succeed in the process.

Medical School is a Very Important Job

If you convince yourself that medical school is exactly like an important job, you’re far more likely to succeed. Leaving class early to go to a friend’s birthday party or playing hooky because you were up too late are simply unacceptable as they can leave you too far behind in the material to catch up. Treating medical school like a job does require some discipline, so you’ll need to practice before it become second nature.

Get Access to Study Tools and Question Banks on the Very First Day

No matter which exam you’ll need to take at the end of your academic career, you will have a far better chance at success if you get all the tools and question banks you will need starting with the first day of medical school. The more familiar you become with the interface, the better off you will be. Look for customizable questions that you can sort by topic so you can stay up-to-speed with what is happening in the classroom, too.

Eat, Sleep, and Meditate

Medical students around the world do not get enough sleep, and most of them either don’t eat enough or eat too many things that aren’t very good for them. If you want your first year to be as simple as possible, eat a balanced diet, sleep at least seven or eight hours each night, and meditate or find some other way to disconnect your mind and relax. You might try yoga, mindfulness exercises, or a quiet hobby that takes your mind away from school for a while.

Don’t Forget to Have Some Fun

While there’s little doubt that medical school is hard – and we mean really hard at times – you can’t be the best version of yourself if you never get to have any fun. It’s important to balance things appropriately, so just as you make time for studying, you should also make time for fun. Get involved with a group on campus who shares similar interests or take up a hobby that you enjoy. If you’re going to school away from home, consider getting out to see the sights and explore new things.

Your first year as a medical student does not have to be fraught with fear and anxiety. For the most part, it’s all about your mindset and how you choose to approach each day. Looking at classes like a job, taking care of your body and mind, and preparing yourself for your medical licensing exam well in advance will go a long way toward making your experience as a first-year medical school a great one.