Study Strategies for Med School Competitive Exams


Balance Med School and Competitive Exams Like a Pro with These Study Strategies

Being a med student is anything but easy. While you can take a moment to celebrate your admission into a renowned medical school, you must start working on a study plan for the next four years. Being a highly intensive course, you will be required to put in extra hours to ensure that you are on top of all your school affairs. But, that’s not all! While med school will take up all of your time, you must not lose focus on your long-term goals. Apart from your coursework and exams, you should also make time to work towards your end goal – securing your admission in a residency program at a prestigious hospital. In order to do that, you will also have to give your USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CS exam during your course.

With time, your coursework will only get more demanding and require longer hours. Having to prepare for your USMLE among all of that will only add to your workload and stress you out. This is why you need to ensure you have your study strategies in place in order to excel in school and ensure success in the competitive exams. Here’s what you can do:

1. Create a Comprehensive Study Schedule

While simply memorizing information days/hours before an exam might have worked in the past, as a pre-med student, it is advisable to stick to a strict schedule if you want to stay on top of your coursework. Make notes of all your lectures, extra classes and assignments in order to create a well-balanced schedule. You can start by creating a weekly/monthly schedule accommodating your coursework and extra study time. With time, this will become a habit and you will always have sight of what you intend to complete (in terms of coursework) by the end of the week/month.

2. Allot Time to Pre-Preparation

The benefit of adhering to a schedule is its ability to structure your time according to the demands of your course. Depending on your course and your personal grasping abilities, you could also dedicate a few hours every week to pre-reading your coursework. By reading the material that will be taught in advance, you can familiarize yourself with the topic to make notes of your queries beforehand so you can get them solved in class when the topic is being handled. This way you can solve all your doubts when the topic is being handled in class itself and reduce hinderances when you are actually studying that topic.

3. Review Your Notes

Once you are done studying and making your notes on a particular topic, go over them and create a cleaner outline of it. This outline can contain a concise summary of the topic, important pointers and your personal observations which you can then use during your final revision. This will help you enhance recall while saving you the trouble and time you would otherwise spend going through your textbook and class notes again.

4. Balance Your Day

While you must ensure that you allot enough time to studying and revision, you must also set some time apart to rest and pursue other activities that will help you relax and take your mind off studying. You can choose to pursue a sport, do some light reading or just have some ‘me time’.

5. Stay Focused

You must remember what your end goal is and work towards it. In case of med school graduates, the end goal is a good residency program. In order to secure admission in your desired program, you must build your portfolio and plan your study strategy accordingly. For instance, most students prefer to give their USMLE Step 1 exam after their second year as the concepts that are tested in this exam is a part of the second year med school course and are still fresh in their minds. This increases the chances of achieving a higher score in their exams, thus enhancing their overall portfolio.

Lastly, always remember, planning is key! Being a successful med student requires balance, and only you can find what works for you. The sooner you understand your study pattern and create a schedule, the easier it will be to accommodate the extra hours as the course progresses!

About Eric B

Originally from Philadelphia, Eric Brown is a resident of New York, where he works as a standardized patient (SP) and advises NYCSPREP with their Clinical Skills Course With many years of experience and industry insight into all things SP-related, he helps students ace their CS exams by simulating patients they will work with. He also remains up to date with expectations, trends, and developments in CS exams, to help NYCSPREP keep their course current. In his free time, Eric likes unwinding by watching baseball and can be found at the game when the Phillies (his home team) are playing. If you have any questions about standardized CS exams or courses at NYCSPREP, email Eric at or visit