Αξιον Ωφελειν τους Αλγουντας.” --Be Worthy to Serve the Suffering.

Member Profile

James Costakis (2015)
Member Type: Student, Senior Member Campus: Chicago
Specialty: Emergency Medicine Program: University of Washington
Advice
Summary:
*** Always eat breakfast, sleep, and exercise.
*** M1-M2: sleep, start consolidating learning points into a single resource (Anki), focus on Step 1 not exams.
*** Step 1: sleep, utilize that single resource (Anki) when taking practice exams, do lots of practice exams.
*** M3: be nice to everyone, be on time, help residents be efficient, defend against pimping with questions.


M1-M2 courses:
*** The first rule of M1-M2 year is NEVER COMPROMISE SLEEP. Even if you feel unprepared for an exam, sleep the night before, and every other night, no exceptions. You will have much more energy to study and exercise, and you WILL NOT get behind. It is easy to get behind if you are tired. It is better to barely pass an exam and be ready to hit the ground running studying afterwards, than to do reasonably well on an exam after pulling an all-nighter, only to struggle to pass the next 3 exams because you are exhausted.
*** Your grades do not matter, but do not fail any course or you will be asked about it on interviews. Focus on learning the material for Step 1. For example, if pharmacology lectures aren't working for you, just use Kaplan videos and accept the fact that you may miss up to 5 questions per exam because the information is only found in UIC lectures.
*** I chose never to go to class unless required. This allowed me to podcast lectures at 1.5x speed, skipping breaks and useless parts of lecture, and pausing when I needed to Google something for clarification. This also allowed me to move through lectures faster, opening up time for sleep and exercise.
*** During M1 year, pick a way to consolidate ALL of your studying. Every single fact that you learn and want to remember should go into this resource. This could be a large binder full of notes, but I find this method cumbersome, non-portable, and non-amenable to active recall. I used Anki, a flashcard program that uses "spaced repetition" to choose a subset of flash cards for review each day. It syncs automatically with your phone and laptop, so you can review anywhere. I highly suggest this resource. For example, I was able to finish my Microbiology deck on Thursday before a Monday exam, and then could go rock climbing in Kentucky that weekend -- all I had to bring was my phone and I was studying effectively in between climbs.

Step 1:
*** The utility of a good score is getting you interviews in competitive specialties. Being ranked highly depends upon many other factors.
*** Again, SLEEP is the #1 rule.
*** Try to use caffeine as a tool, rather than just sucking it down constantly.
*** I liked using Pathoma to help me get a basic understanding of a disease before trying to remember details about it.
*** Do not give up on exercise and whatever activities you enjoy just because you are studying. Studying is much easier when you feel rested and invigorated by having done something fun.
*** You should be using the flashcard decks you created during M1 and M2 coursework as your primary resource to study. If you do not like flashcards, you should still choose a single resource where you store all your learning points for review.
*** Just like any other activity in which you want to excel, the best way is to practice that activity. That means doing a TON of practice exams. These can be fun. I liked UWorld Qbank supplemented with NBME practice exams. Make sure to get through Qbank once, and try to re-do all your incorrect questions. A second pass is nice but NOT necessary IF you do a good job flashcarding the learning point(s) that caused you to miss each incorrect question.
*** Treat Step 1 like a marathon. You should be tapering before the event to prevent burnout and stress. Do not study AT ALL the day before the test. Exercise and sleep. You must get good sleep for at least 4 consecutive days before the exam. Bring food with low glycemic index to the exam, and caffeine if you must. Bring one small meal that you are excited to eat, so that you can really enjoy one of your breaks.
*** Try to get more than halfway through the exam before taking a long break. This is a huge help mentally.
*** You WILL have blocks that suck. You WILL have blocks that feel really easy. You WILL feel like you did horribly after the exam. Just remember, you prepared for this, you are doing your best, and your guesses are better than you think they are. Go out and party when the test is over -- you worked hard and you did well, even if you are having serious doubts.

M3 Clerkships:
*** Again, sleep is important, especially because studying for shelf exams after working 13 hour shifts can feel very daunting. However, sleep is not the key in M3 year.......
*** ..... the key is BE NICE TO EVERYONE!
*** If you make patient care your first priority, and helping residents be productive your second priority, you will do very well. Answering pimp questions correctly is NOT the key to success. If residents like you, and patients compliment you in front of attendings, you will do very well.
*** Help out other students. This comes through to attendings and residents much more than you think it will, and is often reflected in very kind comments on your MSPE. Plus, when you treat other students well, they are more likely to go to bat for you when you are late, or to whisper the answer to a pimp question that you don't know, or to take a weekend shift that you don't want.
*** Everyone will tell you to "read up on your patients." I kind of disagree with this. I think that is how to learn IN RESIDENCY. You, unfortunately, have a shelf exam to take, and you need a more systematic way to study. That being said, if you are truly confused about something, look it up. If you feel like reading about a complicated patient might make you sound smart on rounds, go for it. Don't do it if you don't want to.
*** When an attending tells you to do something, do it. Never forget to look up something they tell you to look up, or to prepare a presentation on a topic when they tell you to. Unfortunately, they will often forget what they tell you to do, but if YOU forget, it looks really bad.
*** When you don't know the answer to something, coming back with a clarifying question can make you seem CURIOUS rather than uninformed. If you play your cards right, you can come across as really smart no matter how much you actually know.