What Should You Do if You Just Don’t Understand a Topic No Matter How Hard You Try?

medical student studying

Every single medical student in the history of modern medicine has struggled with at least one topic during their many years of education. Though it may feel frustrating – and in some cases, you might think it’s impossible to learn – there are a few helpful things you can do to reinforce those tricky topics during your study sessions and put you on a path to mastery.

Look Through the Professor’s Recommended Texts

Sometimes, and especially in medical school, the professor for a specific course will include a list of recommended texts on the course syllabus, even if he or she doesn’t teach from or even mention those texts during lectures. If you’re struggling to grasp a concept or topic, pull up your course syllabus and look for those various materials. You might be able to find various online tools or resources that you can use to gain a better overall understanding.

Re-Watch Lectures (or Find Alternative Lectures Online)

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many professors are lecturing their classrooms virtually. It’s highly likely that somewhere amongst your resources, you’ll be able to find recordings of all the lectures from your course, and these can be wonderful tools. You can even search for lectures from other professors (or even other universities) online. Sometimes in order to grasp a concept, you need to hear it from more than one angle. Recorded lectures can help you do this.

Email Your Professor(s)

If your syllabus or the texts it references aren’t of much help to you and you’re still struggling to understand a topic, reach out to your professor in an email. He or she may schedule a phone call or video meeting with you, or your professor may be able to point you toward some texts or resources that will help you get a better grasp of the topic’s foundations. Working your way up from the simplest concepts is the best route, and your professor can help you do just that.

Access a Question Bank

Believe it or not, question banks are wonderful tools for students who are struggling to grasp certain concepts or topics in their studies. Before choosing one, take a look at the various features it offers. The goal is to ensure that the software allows you to customize your experience so that you can focus your studies on the topic or topics that give you the most trouble. Even better, that software should also give you answers to questions you miss along with a detailed explanation, references, and a place to take your own notes.

Utilize Your Course Forums & Discussion Boards

Course forums and discussion boards have been important tools for students for many years – even long before COVID-19. They allow students to discuss topics amongst themselves and help one another in a virtual sense, which is important in today’s world. Simply search the forums for posts about the topic you’re struggling with, and if not, create a post to ask for help. Be specific about your needs so that the right people can provide you with the information you need and be sure to cross-check any facts provided to you with internet searches.

It’s easy to feel frustrated or defeated when you find yourself stuck on a difficult topic during your medical studies, but fortunately, there’s no hurdle that a determined student can’t overcome. Use all the resources that are available to you and don’t be afraid to ask for help.



How Social Media is Changing the Way Medical Students Study


Just a few short decades ago, medical students had only a handful of ways to study their materials. They sat in classroom lectures, went to the library, studied on their own at home, or met up in a coffee shop to discuss the topics at hand. In today’s world, there are dozens of options out there – and social media is a key player. Here’s how social media is changing the way medical students around the world are studying.

Integration into Online Courses

Students choose to take their courses online for a variety of reasons. Some need the flexibility that online courses can provide, especially if they have families or their jobs make it difficult to attend lectures in real time. With the COVID-19 pandemic, some universities are closed for in-person instruction and are instead reliant on virtual learning. In many cases – and in many courses – professors rely on social media as a tool to keep their classes connected. In fact, many create Facebook groups designed for a specific course and then use them to start discussions. It’s a wonderful tool that helps medical students study more effectively.

Virtual Study Groups

Another way in which social media is changing the way medical students prepare for their exams has to do with study groups. Despite social distancing guidelines and restrictions around the world, students are utilizing social media platforms to group virtually for meaningful and helpful discussions. Facebook Rooms, which is available through the social media giant’s Messenger app, is a popular hub for these groups. It allows students to see one another in real time, which is the next best thing to an actual group.

Round-the-Clock Access to Help

Study groups are important because each member of the group has a specific set of topics they understand well – and perhaps even a topic or two that they don’t. When all of these students get together in one virtual place, they can draw on one another’s knowledge to learn in a way that lectures and reading simply can’t provide. Social media platforms give groups of students the ability to form personalized chat groups so that they can ask questions around the clock and receive answers as the other members have time.

Recommendations & More

If you’re looking for a new restaurant to try, there’s a good chance you’ll use one of several social media sites to ask your friends what they would recommend, then simply wait for some enticing answers. This works the same way when it comes to studying for medical exams. Via social media, medical students can ask questions of specific groups of friends and receive numerous answers. These questions might include, “What time is the virtual lecture?” or even, “Where can I find a specific textbook?”

Simply put, social media is a wonderful resource for not only staying in touch with friends, families, and colleagues, but also for studying and getting the most out of your medical school experience. Whether it’s a specific group put together for an online course or a place to ask your fellow students which resource or text they would recommend, every student can benefit from social media as long as they use it responsibly.

Digital vs. Handwritten Notes: Which Works Best?


As a medical student, you’re more than likely aware of the importance of taking notes during lectures and as you read your course texts. Deciding whether to take digital notes or handwritten ones is personal, and each can be equally effective depending on your individual needs. Below, you can learn more about the pros and cons of digital versus handwritten notes so that you can use the system that best helps you succeed.

Handwritten Notes

Writing out notes by hand is still the most popular system among students. It requires only a pen or pencil and paper, which are easily obtainable – even at a corner convenience store. In some cases, you may choose to annotate your textbooks, which is a secondary means of writing notes. It involves listening to the lecturer speak or reading a paragraph in your text, then making a note of the most important concepts that you will need to know for your clinicals or your exams.

The downfalls associated with handwritten notes are very few. For some students, though, these downfalls make handwritten notes impractical. They include:

  • The need to store piles and piles of notebooks. When you’re studying for your licensing or placement exam, you will need every single note you take to serve as a study tool. If you’re taking good notes, then they are also thorough and cover a variety of topics and information. Unfortunately, in order to continue to study these notes, you’ll need to keep them – and that means piles of notebooks in your dorm, apartment, or room.
  • Inability to write fast enough. Many students who take handwritten notes attest that learning basic shorthand is essential, especially in medical school since there are so many facts and figures to remember. Those who don’t know shorthand often struggle to write fast enough to keep up with lecturers.
  • Illegibility or disorganization. If your handwriting isn’t the greatest, then there’s always the concern that you’ll pull one of your notebooks out of the pile only to discover that you can’t make out what you wrote. Along those same lines, if you failed to organize your notes in a cohesive way, you might have to spend hours digging through pages and pages of terms to find the topic you need to study.

Digital Notes

Digital notetaking makes up for many of the downfalls associated with writing them by hand. You can save all your data in the cloud, which means all you really need is a tablet or laptop – or maybe even your phone. Most people can type much faster than they can write, too, which means any device with a keyboard will allow you to get your thoughts down quickly. Finally, you can arrange your notes into folders by date, topic, or any other criteria, and you can search every single document for specific terms, too.

For most medical students, as long as they have the laptop or tablet that allows for digital notetaking, there are no real pitfalls – especially if they back up their notes to the cloud regularly. However, studies have found that students who handwrite their notes tend to recall more information than students who type them, so keep this in mind. A way to circumvent this involves using one of numerous handwriting apps on your iPad or convertible laptop so that you can get the best of both worlds.

5 Tips for Practicing Social Distancing while Studying for Medical Exams


If the social distancing guidelines for COVID-19 prevention from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as from the World Health Organization (WHO) have left you scrambling for new ways to study for your medical exams, you are certainly not alone. Even with these measures in place, though, it is possible to continue your studies uninterrupted. Here are five tips for practicing social distancing without sacrificing your study time.

#1 – Study Alone

Most students benefit a great deal from scheduling solo study time into their daily calendars, but as with all things, moderation is key. Studies have suggested that group study is the best way to reinforce previously learned material, so when it comes to review sessions, visiting a fellow student’s dorm or meeting up at the library is ideal. However, with COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions in place, this is simply not possible. To make the most out of your solo study time, try saying things out loud – even if there’s no one there. This simulates a group setting and may help you recall more of your studies later.

#2 – Make Use of Online Groups & Rooms

Now that social distancing is occurring on an almost-global scale, numerous companies have provided access to online meeting rooms and chatrooms that provide a simulated group meet experience. Some of the best options include Zoom, a popular video conferencing platform, as well as Facebook, which has recently implemented its “Rooms” feature, available via Facebook Messenger.

#3 – Use a Question Bank Frequently

One of the best and most underrated ways to study involves utilizing question banks that mimic the questions that you will be asked on your placement or licensing exam. However, not all question bank platforms are created equally, which means you’ll need to be sure that you know what to look for in a quality platform. Similarly, the platform you choose should come with numerous customization options – and perhaps even room to compare your mock exam scores to others to see if you’re on the right track.

#4 – Visit Online Libraries

Libraries – and especially reference libraries – often become second homes for medical students. They spend countless hours poring through piles of medical journals and texts to understand the most complicated parts of human anatomy, physiology, and psychology. Though students cannot simply go to the library every day like they did before the pandemic, they certainly can explore most (if not all) of what the library has to offer online. What’s more, some libraries even offer prerecorded lectures that you can access if you feel like you need a little extra help.

#5 – Ask Your School’s Faculty

Finally, if you are unsure of which resources are available to you in your local area or through your school, the best way to discover them involves simply asking the faculty. Contact the school’s library or perhaps even your professors to ask them about digital study materials that may be available to you, any Zoom study groups that may be taking place, or even opportunities for phone or video tutoring for students who need some extra help.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed the way most of us go about our daily lives, it doesn’t have to put a complete damper on your studies. You can study alone with a question bank or through an online library, or you can study with groups through video conferencing apps like Zoom or social apps like Facebook. The possibilities are limitless – just like your potential. All you have to do is embrace them.


The 5 Most Difficult Topics on the USMLE According to Medical Students

Medical Students Surviving

The United States Medical Licensing Examination, or USMLE, is one of the most difficult and rigorous exams you will ever take. The questions focus on numerous topics ranging from anatomy to communicable disease, and you’ll need to recall several years’ worth of information to pass and obtain your license to practice. Below are the five most difficult USMLE topics according to students who have passed their exams with flying colors.


Most medical students agree that biochemistry is by far the most difficult topic you will find on the USMLE. Not only is there a ton of information to memorize and absorb like a sponge, but because biochemistry is at the cutting edge of medicine in 2020, it’s also changing almost every single day. Doctors recommend devoting a period of your daily study time to biochemistry and keeping up with the latest trends and news, too.


Much like biochemistry, the strange and expansive world of microbiology is difficult to study and even more difficult to truly understand. Nevertheless, microbiology is the very basis for disease; microbes like viruses and bacteria must be fundamentally understood in order to provide the best possible diagnoses and treatment plans for patients. Be sure that you spend plenty of time reviewing microbiology texts, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it.


Pathology is the study of disease and is often referred to as the bridge between science and medicine. It’s at the very center of every single interaction you will ever have with your patients, from diagnosing them to treating them – and even slowing the spread of contagious diseases. Like biochemistry, the way we understand pathology changes on a daily basis, which means it’s incredibly difficult to study effectively. Dedicating a lot of your study time to this topic and keeping up with any new findings will go a long way toward helping you score well on the USMLE.

Ethics/Medical Legal Issues

The ethics and legality of the practice of medicine is quite complicated, and with every single passing year, that complication grows. Doctors and nurses fill out piles of paperwork with every patient interaction as dictated by numerous healthcare regulations and laws. Learning the ethics and legal aspects of medical practice is difficult because there’s simply so much to take in and it never stays the same for long.


Gross anatomy is one of the least difficult topics on the USMLE according to med students and doctors, but neuroanatomy is a different story. This is the term used to define the anatomy of the nervous system, and while it may not seem all that intimidating at first, it’s important to remember that neuroanatomy also encompasses the complex anatomy of the human brain and the way our bodies respond to it. With so much still left to understand about the brain and how it works, it comes as no surprise that students find neuroanatomy an incredibly difficult topic.

Biochemistry, microbiology, pathology, ethics and legal issues, and neuroanatomy are arguably the five most difficult topics you’ll find on the USMLE. It’s important to utilize a variety of study tips to focus on these areas so that you can pass your licensing exam with flying colors.

How to Train Your Brain to Make Study Time More Effective


Studying is at the core of a medical students everyday life, but staying focused and motivated can be difficult, especially now that so many students are learning with online courses from their dorms or homes. Learning how to focus on the task at hand and avoid distractions is by far one of the best things a medical student can do, and the techniques below can help.

How Your Brain Works

The human brain can focus on any given topic during a study session for about 25 minutes before it starts to find ways to distract itself. Though there are some exceptions – such as when the content you are studying is interesting to you, personally – 25 minutes is a solid average. For the most part, forcing yourself to continue studying when your mind simply cannot focus isn’t productive at all. You aren’t likely to retain more information, and you’re probably just wasting your time. However, thanks to something called brain plasticity, you can train your brain to stay focused for longer periods of time and really make the most out of the time you have to study.

The Pomodoro Method

The world-famous Pomodoro Method for studying has been around for quite some time, and it’s based solely on the notion that most people can only stay truly focused on a task for roughly 25 minutes. The method, which applies not only to studying, but also to other tasks, involves setting a timer for 25 minutes, focusing intently during that time, then setting another timer for a five minute break during which you remove yourself from your desk or study area to stretch, drink water, or listen to a song.

This complete 30-minute interval comprised of 25 minutes of work and five minutes of play is referred to as a “Pomodoro”, and you can use numerous Pomodoros to accomplish the task at hand. You may need four or five of them to finish studying your microbiology chapter, but you may only need one clean your apartment. It can be used for virtually anything.

Extending Your Pomodoros

Once you’ve gotten the knack of using Pomodoros to get through your study sessions, your brain’s ability to adapt (brain plasticity) will allow you make each cycle longer and longer, all without losing focus. After a week of 30-minute Pomodoros, try extending it to 45 minutes with a seven-minute break. If you can stay focused for the full 45 minutes, move to an hour with a ten-minute break. Over time, your brain will learn how to stay focused for longer periods, and you’ll get much more out of your study sessions.

With so many medical students now taking online courses, distractions are everywhere, but there are things you can do to stay focused, and over time, you’ll even learn how to block out those distractions. Aside from using the Pomodoro method, you can also try some exercises recommended by Harvard University to keep your mind fit throughout your med school years and beyond.

How to Customize an SMLE Question Bank Platform for the Perfect Personalized Experience


There are dozens of different options for SMLE question banks available to medical students, but not all of them can offer a customizable experience that’s best suited to your individual needs. Here’s how you can utilize CanadaQBank’s innovative platform to completely customize your SMLE qbank to suit your goals and needs.

Use Tutor Mode First

CanadaQBank offers two unique study options: timed and tutor modes. Timed mode is designed to represent a real testing environment by giving you a set amount of time to answer a set number of questions. Though it is good for judging your knowledge, it can be a stressful way to spend all of your study time and is meant more for assessing yourself. Tutor mode allows you to take your time to answer questions. You can immediately see if your answer was correct, and you’ll get an explanation if it isn’t. You can take your own notes in Tutor mode, too, which is helpful.

Save Questions to “My Questions”

The questions that you miss during your Tutor mode study time can be placed in a separate section in the platform called “My Questions”. This area can hold any number of questions that you would like to come back and review or revise later down the line. In fact, you can study only the questions you’ve moved into this section of the platform until you’ve mastered them, and then move on to something else in a cycle. You can leave notes for these questions if you choose, too, which allows for impressive, customized learning.

Select Your Difficulty

CanadaQBank makes it easy for you to choose the right difficulty for your needs during your study sessions, too. If you’re a new medical student who wants to make the most of the platform as a study tool throughout your education, choose “Easy” for access to some simpler questions that will help introduce you to the software and how things work. Later, as you study and become more confident in your ability to answer the “Easy” questions, you can move into “Average”. Finally, before your big exam, you can start to study the “Difficult” questions. There’s also a setting that will allow you to study a mix of these difficulties.

Use Video to Your Advantage

CanadaQBank is dedicated to providing medical students with the best possible resources to help them obtain their medical licenses, and because of this, they offer outstanding multimedia content in the form of videos. During Tutor mode – as you study – you can access videos that provide instruction and in-depth explanations for certain topics. Incorporating this new way to learn helps to keep things fresh and may help you avoid burnout in the long run, too. Check out the CanadaQBank YouTube channel for a list of helpful videos that you can watch any time you choose.

As you can see, it’s easy to personalize your SMLE question bank when you choose CanadaQBank as your platform. With timed and tutor modes, the “My Questions” feature, the ability to select your difficulty, and access to multimedia options to keep your study sessions fresh and interesting, it’s possible to create the study session that benefits you the most in minutes.

How Med Students Around the World Avoid Studying Burnout


Medical students work and study hard for years to become doctors and surgeons, and as a result, almost everyone will face some sort of studying burnout at some point. Fortunately, there are things students can do to avoid the “stuck in a rut” feeling, and even the American Medical Association (AMA) is on board.

Why Burnout Occurs

Medical students typically enter the field because they want to work with patients to save their lives or at least provide them with a better quality of life. Before that can occur, there are many years of study that must take place, and the difficulty of the study – the sheer time spent staring at textbooks or listening to lectures – is daunting, at best. The overwhelming amount of information and study leads to burnout in about 45% of medical students according to a study conducted by the AMA and Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

What Doctors (Former Medical Students) Recommend

Burnout is definitely real, and it can take a toll on a student’s ability to succeed in their studies, and in some cases, it can be detrimental to their careers, too. Fortunately, there are things that students can do to avoid burnout altogether, and many of these same things will go a long way toward resolving burnout once it occurs.

  • Take care of your body and mind. The four facets include eating a healthy diet and staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and meditating. It may seem simple but failing to cover even one of these tenets of keeping yourself healthy will have a serious impact on your wellbeing and can quickly cause burnout.
  • Seek support from other medical students. There’s a reason why there’s a support group for everything, and when it comes to medical school, your peers are often as effective as therapy when it comes to avoiding burnout. Talk to them about your struggles and be there to help support them, too.
  • Ask your school counselors about support programs. Today’s world is much different than it was even a few decades ago. Medical professionals understand that the rigors of getting an education can be exhausting and overwhelming, so many universities have numerous wellness programs in place that you can take advantage of. Aside from simply learning how to be a doctor, it’s important to learn how to deal with stress and pressure that comes along with not only your education, but also your choice of career.

Mental Healthcare is Important

Finally, it’s important to note that serious burnout can be the result (or even the cause) of anxiety disorders and significant depression. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention notes that between 300 and 400 doctors die by suicide each year, yet very few physicians actually seek mental healthcare due to confidentiality concerns. Today, the AMA in partnership with other organizations works to provide confidential, affordable, and accessible mental healthcare for medical students and physicians alike.

Burnout is indeed real, and it’s actually quite prevalent among medical students. To avoid it, or to overcome it, make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Nourish your body and mind and seek the support of your peers and your university whenever you can. Finally, make sure you access mental healthcare as needed to keep yourself healthy.

Can You Use an AMC CAT Question Bank to Create Your Own Mock Exam?


The Australian Medical Council Computer Adaptive Test, or AMC CAT, is a multiple-choice examination given to individuals who wish to become licensed to practice medicine in Australia. It’s a rigorous and difficult exam, and students spend months or even years preparing for it. Below, you can learn more about utilizing an AMC CAT question bank to create your own mock exam for practice.

What is an AMC CAT Qbank?

An AMC CAT qbank is a set of questions delivered via an electronic platform that is designed to closely mimic the questions found on the actual exam. In many cases, these questions have been pulled from previous years’ AMC CAT examinations, and in others, they are written by medical professionals – including those who have written questions for the examination in the past. These questions are balanced across every topic found on the AMC CAT, and they are designed to be a terrific study aid that can help students determine whether they are prepared for their licensing examinations.

What is a Mock Exam?

A mock exam is different from an AMC CAT qbank because it’s designed to closely mimic the environment and delivery of the multiple-choice questions that students find on the real examination. Not only does this test their knowledge, but it also tests their ability to recall information under the pressure of time constraints, which can be nerve-wracking to say the least. Mock exams are typically the same number of questions given in the same amount of time as the real exam, and they can be taken over and over again until the student feels confident in his or her ability to pass.

Making a Mock Exam from a Qbank

Though qbanks and mock exams are different study aids, it is entirely possible to use a high-quality question bank platform like CanadaQBank to create your own mock exam for the AMC CAT. CanadaQBank’s numerous features make it an outstanding study tool that goes far beyond just asking questions. It offers two unique modes of study, note-taking features, and the ability to choose question banks for the AMC CAT based on the topic. Using these features, students can create their own mock exam in just a few steps:

  1. Answer a series of random questions in the software. Students can adjust the difficulty and topics from which these questions are pulled, as well.
  2. Review the questions that were missed. Once the questions have been answered, students can review their answers and find detailed explanations for their incorrect selections.
  3. Leave notes in the missed questions. Here, students can type their own notes, which may include a resource to study for the correct answer.
  4. Move missed questions to “My Questions”. This will make it easier for students to come back and study only the questions they struggled with later.
  5. Make a mock exam. Once students feel confident with their studies, they can create an average to difficult mock exam by choosing the appropriate number of questions and the appropriate amount of time.

As you can see, when you have access to the right platform and the right features, you can not only access your AMC CAT qbank as needed, but you can use it to create your own personalized mock examination, too. Over time, you will feel more confident in your knowledge, and you’ll be able to pass the licensure exam.

What Every Med Student Should Know about the Australia Medical License Exam

question bank amc cat

If you want to practice medicine in Australia, you must first pass an extensive and rigorous examination. This exam, known as the AMC CAT, or Australian Medical Council Computer Adaptive Test, is incredibly difficult, but you must pass it to receive your licensure. Below are some of the most important facts all medical students need to know about the AMC CAT.

It Tests Your Knowledge in All Categories

The AMC CAT consists of multiple choice questions that are designed to help test how much you know about the principles and practice of medicine. It covers a wide range of categories, including general practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, surgery, and obstetrics and gynecology. These are incredibly broad categories, and there’s a lot to cover in each one. It takes most students a long time to adequately prepare.

There’s a Clinical Exam or Workplace-Based Assessment, Too

There’s more to passing the AMC exam than the AMC CAT examination you will take on a computer. You will also need to pass the AMC Clinical Exam or the AMC Workplace-Based Assessment, which tests your knowledge and ability in a real-world environment. You cannot participate in either of these until you have successfully passed the AMC CAT. Either is acceptable, but you must apply for a WBA program directly through a provider that offers it.

You Can Find a Trial Exam on the AMC’s Website

Though you can utilize AMC CAT qbank questions to create your own mock exams as a study guide, the Australian Medical Council makes an actual trial examination available through its website. This trial exam is identical to the actual test you will take, but it asks different questions at random. Your ability to pass the trial AMC CAT within the given time limit is a good indicator of your readiness to sit for the actual exam and pass. There is a fee to take the trial exam, but there are no limits on the number of times you can take it.

It is a Pass/Fail Exam

Like most other medical licensing examinations around the world, the AMC CAT exam operates on a pass/fail basis. You will be given the ability to participate in a Clinical Exam or Workplace-Based Assessment if you can pass the CAT portion of the exam, and if you fail, you will need to retake the exam according to the AMC’s guidelines. The exam consists of 150 standard MCQs, and of these, only 120 are scored. Your performance will be measured on a scale from zero to 500 with each question weighted individually, and the pass mark is set at 250.

You Can Take the Exam Again if You Fail

It is important to note that not all students who take the AMC CAT exam pass the first time. If you are one of these students, you have the option to retake the test as soon as you have received your results from your original examination. You will need to reapply for the next available exam, and you will need to pay the exam fees a second time, as well. Unlike licensing exams in other parts of the world, you can continue to pay for and sit for the AMC CAT as many times as you wish until you have passed.

The AMC CAT is a difficult test, and it’s only the first step toward getting your license to practice medicine in Australia. However, there are numerous study materials available to you, and if you study wisely and use those resources, you can absolutely pass with flying colors on your very first attempt.