Hi everyone! With a new wave of students about to start their Med School journeys, we thought of all the things we wished we knew as freshers, and how much these tips would have helped our pre-clinical experiences.
So, between the three of us, here are our 8 top tips to ensure that you make the most of your first years of med school, with the best mix of fun and focus!
1. Don’t be afraid to talk to seniors
It can feel daunting, but rest assured, your seniors will likely be very happy to help you, because they know what it’s like to be in your position, and can often give more personalised advice compared to what you’d find elsewhere (i.e. The Student Room). They will also have great recommendations on which lectures to focus on and help you identify what is or is not high yield. Furthermore, you will likely end up making some senior friends, which is an additional bonus for your social life!
2. Work smart - quality over quantity
Only take the absolute key points from your teaching material, and learn those. You’re not expected to learn everything from a lecture, and while you may be scared that you’re leaving out crucial info, there’s so much to learn in med school that it’s impossible to remember it all. The Pomodoro method is one that many students find useful but do not worry if it doesn’t quite work for you. Understand the major difference between working hard and stressing out. You don’t want to be working so hard that you are burnt out by the time it comes to exam season.
3. Get Involved, Join societies - both medical and non-medical
Your pre clinical years are going to be when you have the most free time, so make the most of them! Join any society that you have even the slightest interest in, this will be a great way to find out which ones you’d like to stick with in the future, and you’ll probably end up finding most of your friends there too! Some medical societies also offer tutorials on the content you are learning at the time, but in a condensed, high-yield fashion so it can prove to be a useful refresher. If there isn’t a society for something you are interested in, then you can always start one yourself. Keep up with your hobbies too! They will be a great way to relax, socialise and will help you maintain a balanced lifestyle.
4. Don’t compare yourself to others
Work collaboratively, try not to be competitive. Adopting a non-competitive approach will serve you well in the 5/6 years of medical school and will do wonders for your mental wellbeing. FOMO (Fear of missing out) is a real thing, but remember that everyone is in the same boat. Try and stick to analysing your own progress - this will help you to develop over time! Remember that it is not fair to compare yourself with other students - only you have gone through your personal journey as a student, so many things in their journey will not be applicable to you, and vice versa.
5. Make use of others’ notes
Making your own notes can be tedious and ineffective for some, and most of the time someone else has made their notes available to the cohort. Using these is a real time saver, and ensures you’re spending most of your time actually studying the content. ‘Sharing is caring’ in med school, so try to make the most out of exchanging and sharing notes with your fellow med students. That being said, making your own notes can be a really useful way for you to retain information, so see what works best for you!
6. Med School can be challenging at times, but don’t forget to take care of your physical and mental well being.
You’re not just a medical student, you are a human being too! Exercise, eat relatively well and don’t compromise on sleep. Try to keep an organised and a balanced schedule. Talk to someone - friends, family, BIMA’s welfare officers, student support, a counsellor, your personal tutor - anyone who you feel comfortable talking to!
7. Active recall
Active recall and spaced repetition are proven to be the best ways to learn something and there are many apps and websites out there that can help facilitate this, Anki being one of them (this wouldn’t be a med school advice list without mentioning it)! If you’re someone who hates cramming, it is a great way to space out your workload over the year - you’d be surprised how much you’ll know by exam season. That being said, mind maps, drawing diagrams, videos etc. are all great methods of learning too, as long as the process is active and the content is reviewed regularly. Try things out and see what works for you - it will likely be a combination of methods!
PRO TIP: if you are making your own flashcards, take screenshots of the relevant learning material and add them to your cards - this will act as a great memory aid!
8. The more practice questions you do, the better you’ll perform.
Don’t put off doing questions just because you don’t feel sufficiently ready. Getting questions wrong early on during studying is a positive thing, as long as you’re consistent in your studying. They are not only an important way to test how well you know topics, but are also vital in learning, retaining, and mastering the course material. After all, your exam is going to be a collection of questions, so practicing in the same way you will be assessed is sure to improve your in-exam performance.
You’ve Got This! Remember that you’ve done one of the most difficult parts - you’ve made it to Medical School! The journey ahead might feel like a rollercoaster of a lot of things, but remember what you’re here for and don’t give up!
Look out for BIMA’s upcoming tutorials and other future events to help you along this journey!
All the Very Best From BIMA