Category Archives: MEDICAL EXAMS

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Five Tips for Taking USMLE Step 1

Not looking forward to locking yourself away in a room to study for Step 1? Almost every med student has to undergo the grueling experience of studying for and passing Step 1. Is it simply a rite of passage? An unpleasant experience everyone must survive? Not necessarily. There are a few things you can do to help yourself thrive on Step 1 from the time you arrive at medical school…. Interested? Read on!
1. Identify weak areas as early as possible; that’s where you should start your review. This helps avoid procrastination. Be honest: who wants to study a topic that seems boring? Or an area you feel you aren’t great at (yet)? If you don’t start with your weak areas, it will be easy for them to stay at the bottom of your to-do list. By starting with these areas, you give yourself the necessary time to master topics where you have the most room to improve. Remember: topics where you have the most room to improve = areas where you have the most points to earn. Therefore, increased study in these areas = increased score overall!
2. Identify “time sinks” and change habits surrounding them. Do you get distracted by Facebook, email, texts, friend drama and the like? We all have time-wasting distractions, but you are your own boss during med school, and it is up to you to maximize your time. This is a direct investment in your future. Quickly identify your time sinks and reinvest that “lost” time into more-productive activities. This does not mean you should cut out balance activities! In fact, by reducing distractions and maximizing study efficiency, you should find yourself with more time to schedule things you enjoy. These balance activities can be incredibly motivating and are an important part of a good Step 1 study plan.
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3. Learn the material thoroughly in your courses. You want your Step 1 study time to be review. If you are not learning the material in depth first, your Step 1 studying will likely be much less efficient and much more frustrating. It’s kind of like reading the CliffsNotes of a Shakespeare play and expecting to know, understand and be able to apply the small amount you read to difficult questions. Shortcuts just don’t work if you want to thrive on Step 1. Success begins your first day in med school—if you fully apply yourself in the classroom and during your study time.
4. Your courses are your first priority. Do not allow Step 1 studying to overshadow your primary goal during the first and second years: passing your courses! The last thing you want to do is waste time studying for makeup exams. This will distract from your other coursework and, as the Step 1 study period approaches, take time away from your Step 1 studying.
5. Align your coursework with a first pass through the review materials. As you study for your courses, use some of the Step 1 review materials. Maybe even try a few questions along the way. BEWARE: Step 1 review books do not cover the material in as much depth as your courses, so you must use such books only to supplement your coursework. During the second half of your second year, as Step 1 approaches, you may want to increase the number of practice questions you attempt. Remember not to overdo it. You will have adedicated study period to focus exclusively on Step 1 studying. The structure of this dedicated study time will be important.
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What I have learned from Medical School

When reflecting on 5 years of medical school, it is hard to imagine where all the knowledge is gone. My brain doesn’t feel particularly engorged, nor do I feel I have the confidence in what I know to stare my consultant in the eye and answer all their questions. Even though I haven’t developed a professorial knowledge base after 5 years, I have finished, thankfully, and now is as good a time as any to give those still completing this degree some advice. So within this article I present, Andrew Rawlin’s 5 tips for medical school.

1. Attend everything

I know this sounds fairly self explanatory, if you don’t attend lectures and tutorials, not only will you not make your attendance hurdle requirements and probably fail, the other disadvantage will be you won’t learn anything. But it is so much more than that. Firstly attending classes, especially early in the course, is just as good an opportunity to meet and make friends within the course as are social events. Secondly, it is empowering to not only to be aware of where everybody else is in their studies, even if you just get the titles of the lectures and sleep through the rest, but to have a feeling of the zeitgeist within your cohort, and the entire university. It is this connectedness that keeps you part of the herd, and not feeling left behind.

2. Read a bit of everything, but mostly anything, everyday

My German teacher in year 7, notorious for making a student faint when he scratched his glass eye in class with a pen, was not known only for his crazy antics and eccentric style of teaching. He was also known for his scholarly advice, much of which was lost on 13 year old boys. I don’t remember a lot of German from his class but I do remember the statement, “the only way to learn is to read.” He argued that nothing could be learned unless it is read, which seems strange in our generation of technology, where podcasts, YouTube tutorials and medical software programs are as much a basis of our teaching as any other modality. I know many medical students who were interested in law degrees, but who “didn’t like to read,” so chose medicine. So as a student ambassador for a textbook publisher, I can confidently say that the overwhelming majority of things you need to know is written down by those who went before us. And the only the way to absorb this is to read, and the only way to make this an automatic and easier task, is to do it for an allocated time period every night. Even if there is no impending need or deadline pressuring your choice of material, make it a daily habit.

3. Join a study group, of people you have never met

Study groups are fantastic and their value can be easily argued. However, my experience has been that study fatigue and the company of friends can easily dissolve a functioning study group into a social clique with a good excuse to meet up. Therefore, I advise, that you form a study group made up of people that you have never met. Advertise on the university forums, meet in a convenient area at a planned time, and cover a variety of topics that are both relevant to the current coursework, and topics that members have had difficulty with. Ideally, if you have access to higher and lower year levels, mix the study group with students from each year level and of different abilities. According to the motivational author Stephen Covey, “strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”

4. Think outside the “medicine box”

It is so easy to become completely preoccupied by medicine as you study for exams or worry about upcoming clinical placements. One of the reasons students are successful in their entry interviews into medical school is because of widely diverse backgrounds of various interests and talents. I beseech all people of these passions, not to lose these in preference for their studies, as their presence in your life will make it easier to spend 30 minutes reading about the muscles of the forearm. This, I feel, is also not limited just to interests we had before studying medicine, but to interests developed while studying medicine. Keep an open mind, try new things and importantly include non-medical books in your daily reading regime.

5. Try not to judge yourself on the performance and actions of other medical students

If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” – Max Ehrmann

One of my biggest worries in medical school, was that I couldn’t compare to all these intelligent and talented individuals. It was not until the final year of the degree where I developed the acceptance that I never could compare, but more importantly, I didn’t have to, nor should I. Have confidence in the competence and experience of the interviewers that awarded you a place in medicine, and have a healthy dose of self confidence in your own ability. Everybody has their own path to tread, and everybody will do it at a different pace and with different strides. The most important thing is that you keep moving down the path because the end comes quicker than anticipated.

In summary, all I can say is that medical school is an epic accomplishment, and if experienced in a full manner, provides you with all the skills you need in your future clinical practice. Or, after learning my first 10 weeks of internship will be cover and night shifts, I certainly hope it is the preparation we need. Good luck!

Andrew Rawlin, Elsevier Australia Medical Student Ambassador


medical students Study tips

Study Tip 1 – Keep organized. Medicine is a high-volume course that progresses and builds on complex concepts. However, many areas of study can be broken down and grouped to help you organize and easily recall the steps. Take one general topic, and list all its subtopics underneath it. Keep diagrams concise so that you can review them for quick reference and comparison.

Study Tip 2 – Start with the big picture. Sift through the assigned chapter or unit in the beginning of your studies and get a rough idea of what you will be covering. While you are skimming through, decide which material must be thoroughly understood versus the minor details that can be memorized closer to the exam date. Take your time and think through the steps of the major concepts while you have plenty of time. More than likely, the mundane facts will only reside in your short-term memory and will only frustrate you if you first attempt to memorize words and diseases you don’t understand.

Study Tip 3 – Know the terminology and nomenclature well. Most of the time this can be accomplished by paying attention to the stem of the word. Take hypertrophy for example, which describes an increase in cell size. The stem -trophy often refers to cellular growth and dimensions. If hyper- is added to any term, it usually means an increase, or greater than normal levels. So it is easy to see how the pathologic process of increased cell size is described by its term hypertrophy.

Study Tip 4 – Compare and contrast. Every time you are studying something, ask yourself “How is this different from . . . and how is this similar to . . . ?” Medicine is full of dichotomies and many disease processes overlap each other, thus making it easy to confuse them with each other. Some common examples are Benign vs. Malignant, Transudate vs. Exudate, Reversible Injury vs. Irreversible.

Study Tip 5 – Study every single day — being a good student requires developing good study habits. As cliched as this is, it is really, really important as a med student. There is a huge volume of material being presented, and it is very easy to fall behind. Even if you can’t study every single day, try to read at least a little bit whenever you can.

Study Tip 6 – Study in a group — again, somewhat cliched advice, but the key here is to choose your friends wisely and to strictly limit how much time you study with them. Ideally, you should do all your studying on your own, and use group studying time as a review or to clarify confusing points. The sessions should be rapid fire and limited to no more than an hour or two a week. The ideal study group is one with similar views on studying and work ethic that complements your knowledge base well.

Study Tip 7 – When in doubt, ask — simple advice, but sometimes, we are all averse to asking questions for fear of looking dumb. However, in this age of email, it never hurts to shoot off an email with well-phrased questions than you have already tried to answer. This not only helps academically, but it helps to also develop relationships with people in fields you may be interested in in the future when you have to choose a specialty.

Study Tip 8 – Translate the notes you receive into your own condensed, easy-to-read version This helps you internalize the knowledge in a way you can easily access. If you find yourself having trouble doing this, it is usually a good sign that either the material was not presented well or you are not fully understanding it (or both).

Study Tip 9 – Although some people find it a good idea, drinking absurd amounts of coffee/tea/any other caffeine source is not always a good move, especially on the day before an exam. You’ll crash eventually and may end up feeling groggy.

Study Tip 10 – Enjoy what you are doing — if you find yourself getting bored while you study, stop. Take a break, and think of a way to make what you are studying interesting, whether that is by turning it into a game, making it interactive, more visual, or even reading interesting case reports online of a related disease. Sometimes, pegging the knowledge onto a case report or vignette can make the information much more “sticky” in your mind, which is all that matters.


How to decrease anxiety during USMLE Exam

Anxiety is a pretty “usual” feeling for the students who are very close to take their medical exam. Among the wide variety of stress symptoms we can mention some of these which can have an impact on you physically as well: dry mouth, feeling of sickness, palpitation or dizziness. Although students have gone through many types of exams during their year of studying, the thought of attending the medical licensing examination leaves a quite strong daily anxiety. This can have many times a negative impact on taking the USMLE, because the feeling of failing becomes permanent for many students, even before quite a long period before the day of examination.


Unfortunately many students’ feelings are dominated by the anxiety, and they do not even realize this. During their studies there is a wide range of medical exams that they need to take, so that stress and anxiety are ceaseless.  Not paying too much attention on this, it becomes unnoticeably constant, accompanying the students until the finish of the exam, or even further.

It is extremely important for the students not to stop preparing for the final examination, after they have successfully attended their exams. The medical licensing examination is very significant in a medical student’s life, because only after this “test” they can find out whether they can move ahead or in case of failing, they need to wait for the possibility of trying it again until they succeed.

Here are some useful recommendations for you to reduce the anxiety:

First of all, the most vital thing for you before your examination day is to take some real rest. You have to sleep enough in order to be in shape for the USMLE, your body and mind needs to feel relaxed and refreshed. Do not even think about spending a night hanging out with friends, right before your examination day, because there is no way that you can concentrate on what you have learned before. It is advisable for you to begin partying after you have taken your exam, as you can freely have a great time, without the fear of any upcoming exam.

The second thing which is important is that you should never go attending an exam without eating something before. Make sure that before you enter the examination room you don’t have an empty stomach, as for three hours there no chance for you to eat anything. You surely are aware of the fact that food plays a great role in the good functioning of the brain, so you should stick to that!


Always be positive when going to the exam, even if your colleagues are stressed out, because they feel like that due to the fact that they are not well prepared. There is a strong possibility that their anxiety has an impact on you, but only if you let this happen. Keep in mind that you are the one who can take control over anxiety.


Here are some tips on what you should do during the examination:

Pay a great attention to every single piece of information.

In case you come up with a question which you are not hundred percent sure of, don’t panic and resolve the other questions; afterwards you can return to it.

From time to time, you should change your sitting positions, this helps you to increase your chances of relaxing.

In case anxiety bothers you again, do not panic. Never ever start thinking about the outcomes of failing. You just concentrate on how to answer more effectively on the questions and try to resolve them as better as you can.


Another essential fact is that you should never take into consideration that a colleague of yours finishes faster the exam than you. This doesn’t mean that you also have to finish answering the question quickly.

The varieties of conditions are the ones which contribute to attending the USMLE in a successful or unsuccessful way; and once again, we enlighten that you are the only one who can overcome the anxiety and fear of the exam. If you succeed in controlling your level of anxiety step by step, you are guaranteed to benefit of great results in what the USMLE is consisting of.

AMC Clinical exam

Assessing one’s clinical skills with the use of stations can be termed as the clinical component in determining the composition of the AMC Exam. This exam comprises of clinical scenarios, in which one will have to accomplish several tasks mostly generic in nature, followed by history taking and proceeding as the instructions suggests.

On the whole there are 20 stations in the exam, from which only four are rest stations, so as to make your actual assessment on the basis of only 16 stations. For moving your next station, you would have barely 2 minutes to do so before the sound by a bell, followed by reading of printed information on the outside of the door.

After the sound of the bell you will have to complete your task within a period of 8 minutes, with your overall assessment being based on the basis of several levels of difficulty.

Testing of your Emergency Skills and degree of emergent presentation

Your clinical competency or your deepest urge for playing as serious role in pathology will solely depend on the clinical evaluation or assessment.

– So all you ought to do is to make a call or ask for it by communicating your concerns, even though you face a refusal

admitting someone to hospital in for observation is not wrong nor is it unethical, however, you would be deemed to have erred and thus be failed if you have sent someone home who deserved to be admitted to the hospital.

Communication assessment for determining your sensitivity index

Irrespective of how well you could possibly communicate or how profound you may be in spoken and written English, the assessment in AMC exam focuses to discover your ability to work amongst the Australian population as an OTD.

That if you have be frank with a patient to tell him or her about contracting one of the most dreaded disease such as cancer, you can carry it of easily with subtle communication, crisp inferences, and all such elements wherein the patient gets to know the exact  facts with no discrepancies whatsoever.

Cultural differences

The assessment through AMC exam would enable you to understand cultural standards as well as Australian norms better and broader minded in depiction of the facts, even if this means speaking about sex to a 16 year old girl. So as to say, the AMC exam will help you tackle the cultural differences, if any, with utmost sense of professionalism instilled in you.

Handling difficult situations

Likewise, you will be better known of the rights of the Australian patients which you can pay adherence to in times of difficulties or while facing difficult situations, especially where you have to refuse treatment to a patient.

Understanding of the Australian Health Care

Knowing Australian Health Care as it is would be garnered from the AMC assessment much better than through anything else.  Also, it enable you reassess your beliefs in several institutions with more clarity so as to help you distinguish between the facilities at a rural hospital from a tertiary centre in the city. Likewise, your beliefs in the need of any expert urgent medical treatment required would be reinstated, to aid you in making a decision for using Royal Flying Doctors for flying unwell patients out of the rural hospital or in any other similar situation.

3 Things Which Should Be Done Before Taking USMLE Step 1 and Step 2

The truth is that no matter how hard you study, you will always feel that there is something left and that you are just not ready to face the exams. More so if the exam happens to be the USMILE Step 1 or Step 2 exams! But don’t worry, as the following has 3 signs which will tell you that you are well prepared and good enough to sit for the tests! So here goes:

1. You have gone and completed at least one question bank and know everything in it quite well. If this is your study status, you are well prepared to face the dreaded exam. A lot of students spend their time doing the same question banks over and over again. While this may be partly fruitful, a better strategy would be to read the questions in the banks very carefully and take notes in the way of preparing the answers. This way, at the end of finishing a question bank, you will have a good notebook of notes to study from.

2. Trying the NBME tests is important to know how well prepared you are to sit for the USMILE exams. This is also a very important way to understand whether or not you are fit to get yourself into a tough specialty. If you see yourself scoring high you will know that you are well and good. But to be sure, take your NBME test again. If both the time you see that you have scored as high as you expected, then you are guaranteed to be ready to sit for your board exams. The NBME tests will give you an idea about the topics you can expect to encounter in your USMILE exam papers and will also endow you with a confidence of sitting in a real exam.

3. Have you got a good study guide book for yourself? Do you find yourself keeping it all the time and trying to know by heart all the high yield information it contains? A study guide book is something you just cannot ignore to invest in when you are preparing for the USMILE exams. Though the study guide should not the only thing you master, it is important. The information that a good study guide book will give you will make you stand out among your counterparts.

It is a good idea to spend some time with a pro before giving any type of exam.

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USMLE Exams – Increasing Your Score in Just 15 Minutes a Day

Studying for your USMLE exam will involve lots and lots of answering questions in question banks and preparing from a good study guide book. But if you want to increase your points with just 15 points a day, you can do so too! Here are tips on how you can do it.


Getting a partner with whom you can do ‘drills’ with is a sure shot way of increasing your score. Just 15 or 20 minutes every day with a partner can help you memorize all the high yield information that you tend to forget. This person should be someone you can meet daily to do ‘drills’ with as a face to face is the best way to go about it. This kind of drill will help you remember all the simple facts that get out of the mind frequently. Subjects like Pharmacology and Microbiology are filled with facts that can totally make or break you. These facts can make the difference between a low and a top score. Though such facts do not reflect what kind of physician you are going to be, they are important in the USMLE exams and you had better learn them by heart. Instead of spending hours and hours studying them, doing drills with a partner is more fruitful.


Find 25 to 50 facts to study every day. Have a separate notebook to note down these facts. You can use them for fact drills with your partner. This is a really useful way to increase your score in less than 15 minutes a day.


Don’t just study the 25 or 50 facts every day. Instead build upon your fact sheet everyday of your preparing for the USMLE exam. Once you have drilled with your partner on the facts for the day, take time out to prepare a new fact sheet. But make sure you go through the previous day’s fact sheet as well. This way, you will keep on studying the fact sheets every day and will memorize them by heart. This is a wonderful way of remembering the hard facts by heart as it gives ample time to study them on a regular basis. And since you will be drilling with your partner, you will be able to understand where your strengths and weaknesses are regarding the facts.

Make sure you incorporate these 3 tips in your study plan to score high!

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