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    My Study Journey Through Med School & Beyond

    My Study Journey 

    My scholastic journey to becoming a competent pediatrician was not a straight path. The twists and turns along the way made it obvious that, not only was I trying to learn medicine, but I needed to learn the right way to study too. Armed with the following tactics to study strong, I hope you experience fewer U-turns and setbacks than I did!

    My High School Years: Relying on Memorization

    Studying for any exam can be challenging. It can feel tiresome and like an uphill battle, especially if you find yourself taking the exam and struggling to remember a single thing that you studied. During high school, I relied on writing and rewriting everything about a topic on a whiteboard to drill the facts into my head. The luxury at that time was that most often everything I needed to know could fit onto a standard 4x6 whiteboard.

    College as a Biology Major: Finding Study Buddies

    In college, I immersed myself in study groups and found other students to review the material with. We’d stay awake into the wee hours quizzing one another on what we needed to know for organic chemistry and biology. I also relied mostly on reading and rereading everything that would be covered on the exam. I didn’t realize how important studying with another person was at this point in time. As I continued to medical school, though, I was forced to take a close look at my studying methods and what was and was not working.

    Medical School: Feeling Lost

    In my first year of medical school, it quickly became apparent that my other methods of studying were now less valuable. The amount of information that you need to know and understand is much greater than before. The high-stress environment and high-stakes exams drained my energy to an extent I had never experienced. I didn’t adapt my study methods because it wasn’t until my second year that I realized they were ultimately failing me.

    A Shift as a Second Year Medical Student

    Second year was different – I liked the subject matter a lot more. We were starting to learn how the information was relevant clinically ahead of entering rotations. I found myself a study partner, similar to when I was in college. We met regularly and we asked each other questions on everything there was to know for a certain study block. I started attending review sessions before and after lectures that included example questions that you might see on an exam and common tricks to avoid when answering.


    Tactics to Study Strong

    Realizing That Reading and Rereading Isn’t Everything

    Quote from Cherilyn Cecchini, MD

    Quote from Cherilyn Cecchini, MD

    It was during these pivotal moments that I realized an important truth: reading and rereading material, while helpful, gives a false sense of knowing. I thought during my first year that I knew everything there was to know after immersing myself in the material, but I wasn’t using my white board method and I was never recalling the information. During my second year, with a study partner, I was forcing myself to recall everything that I had read and reread when they quizzed me. Although I no longer had a whiteboard, I began to integrate flashcards into my routine, especially for the topics that I felt the weakest on.

    Struggling with Standardized Tests

    I began to excel (finally!) and felt extremely excited about my progress and growth. That was until it was time for the dreaded standardized tests, of course. My USMLE Step exams felt like unscalable mountains whenever I thought about them.

    I have never liked standardized tests. I have always found that they are far more difficult for me to prepare for. I found myself running out of time on practice exams. I became stressed and fell back into my old ways of studying. I read and reread and buried myself in the information but I didn’t rely on questions and answers (Q&As) the way my peers did. I did answer questions but often when I was fatigued, and I spent almost no time reviewing the answers (more on this later).

    Although I continued to prepare for medical school exams with a study buddy, we didn’t really know how to help one another for these standardized tests. The stress continued to mount. I put together a schedule, but I wasn’t really sure if it was strategic. I was mostly modeling it after another student’s schedule. Needless to say, the results were suboptimal (this was during a time when Step 1 was scored numerically).

    Altering My Approach Once Again (And My Outlook)

    After my approach for Step 1 proved to be a poor one, I heavily reflected on how I needed to change what I was doing when it came to standardized exams. Just as I had to reshape the ways I studied throughout medical school, I needed to adjust my methods in this scenario. I changed my outlook from a negative one to a positive one, and I told myself regularly that I could perform well on both parts of Step 2. I took that mindset with me to Step 3 and to my board exam. This change in outlook was incredibly important. I found ways to minimize the stress that had ballooned when I prepared for Step 1.

    Changing My Surroundings and Taking (Much Needed!) Breaks

    Quote from Cherilyn Cecchini, MD

    Quote from Cherilyn Cecchini, MD

    I changed my surroundings when I was studying. I went to different coffee shops. I moved from room to room throughout my house. I remembered just as much when sitting in my living room as I did when I was seated at my desk. Rather than feeling bored with my surroundings, my brain processed the differences in where I was, and I was better able to remember the information that I studied from day to day and even throughout each day. I also finally started taking sufficient breaks. Breaks can feel scary because they seem like lost time but in the end, they are a much needed reprieve for your brain, and they allow you to focus better during your dedicated study sessions.

    Finding MedStudy

    Quote from Cherilyn Cecchini, MD

    Quote from Cherilyn Cecchini, MD

    When I found MedStudy, I was extremely relieved and very excited because I finally had a tool that infused proven methods into studying. The Personal Trainer maps out how to study effectively, what to study and the path that will get you to your goal given the time that you have. It busted common learning myths, including ones that I had firsthand experience with like how reading and rereading the material isn’t actually useful and how studying in the same location doesn’t add to your learning. It relies on study truths that I can 100% affirm – recall is incredibly important as well as optimized physical and mental health. A strong motivation to learn, varied surroundings and adding interesting stories and emotion to your studies are all key.

    Give the Personal Trainer a try now with a Medical Student Core Free Trial. 

    a look at personal trainer on the student dashboard

    A look at Personal Trainer 


    The MedStudy Materials and Proven Method

    Quote from Cherilyn Cecchini, MD

    Quote from Cherilyn Cecchini, MD

    By previewing the materials, then studying (not memorizing!), and using spaced retrieval and refresh, you can master a huge amount of information. The best part is that if you only have a few months to study and are working full time, the Personal Trainer develops a strategy using an easy-to-use online dashboard.

    For my Pediatrics boards, I used the Video Board Review and supplemented that information with the MedStudy Core, a comprehensive review, while integrating their online Board-Style Q&As to help with recall. I spent a lot of time reviewing the answers and the wrong answers because I finally realized how valuable this information was. And I used the flashcards every single day. I still use them today as quick refreshers to keep my fund of knowledge strong.

    Ultimately, getting ready for any exam can be challenging but there are amazing tools that ease the pressure of studying and MedStudy is one of them. Remember to reward yourself and give yourself credit for all of the hard work that you’re doing throughout your study journey!


    Start Studying with MedStudy’s Student Materials 

    Quote from Cherilyn Cecchini, MD

    Quote from Cherilyn Cecchini, MD

    During medical school, I struggled to find a study method. Now MedStudy offers an amazing and proven system to help keep you on track as you master all of the material and move it into your long term memory.

    My favorite part? They have a Personal Trainer that helps pace your learning based on your goals and the amount of time you have to prep. My least favorite part of studying was creating a schedule and MedStudy eliminates that!

    I relied on MedStudy for my pediatric board exam because I am not a big fan of standardized tests and it worked wonders for me. I passed on the first try. I trust their approach and I love all of their tools. In addition to the Personal Trainer mentioned above, they have Core books for reading and reviewing material! 

    Plus, there are two Qbanks for Step 1 & 2 — a great self-testing method that helps you recall information, which is the number one way to remember it! Everything is well-organized and easy to follow, which is another aspect that is valuable because as a busy medical student, no one has time to waste trying to understand study materials.

    To me, it’s a no brainer — if you're looking for ways to succeed in medical school and really stand out when applying to residencies, MedStudy should be at the top of your list. I wish it had existed for me (but alas, I am too old) but am so happy that it does for you!

    Student Core

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