Everyone knows the usefulness of keeping a large amount of high yield information in your head just before the actual examination. This can help a lot in boosting your score up in the last few days before the actual examination. Although I am never an advocate for last minute cramming for an examination like the USMLE, the benefits of having a large number of high yield facts in your immediate memory is something no one can ignore. The reason is that unless the information is in your immediate memory, chances are it will take some time for you to recall that information and in the context of timed examination like the USMLE, that can make or break you.
Most reviewers acknowledge these facts. First Aid for Step 1 has its Rapid Review section. Levinson and Jawetz has its “Brief summaries of Medically Important Organisms. and Trevor and Katzung’s Pharmacology Review has it’s “Key Words for Key Drugs”. All to be reviewed just a few days before going into the examination.
Remember, these are not substitute for intensive focused review of the materials. They are intended to help you keep very high yield stuff in immediate memory to help you score higher just before the exam day itself. Otherwise each of the above reviewers would not have bothered with other parts of their books, right? 😉
Although, they’ve provided these tables and list, question still remains how to efficiently memorize this list and put them in your head. Some would read through them repeatedly. Some would use their hands to cover one side and try to remember what’s on the other side. The more industrious ones will write flashcards with them. The group review people will take turns with one person reciting out loud one side, while the rest try to recall what’s written on the other side.
Actually the best way to memorize and practice recall of large amounts of unrelated information is through the use of flashcards. It associates certain words with certain concepts or so-called “word-associations”. The problem with most available flashcards is that they try to put as many concepts in one card as possible, thus making it hard for word-associations to work. For example when studying microbes using flashcards, each microbe card should only contain one fact, using multiple cards to store multiple facts. For example, microbe-drug of choice, microbe-disease, microbe-pathogenetic mechanism combinations rather than microbe – disease, drug of choice, pathogenetic mechanisms in one card, which although more efficient way to produce flashcards, is a less efficient way to memorize through word-associations.
Now, one of the most effective ways of using flashcards to learn large amounts of unrelated infomration is the Leitner system. You can google it or click on this link to wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flashcard to read up on it.
Flashcards are sorted into 2 to 4 groups. For example, in a 3 group stack, the first group is the hard group, the second the medium group and the third the easy group. Everytime you guess a card right it is sent to the easier group. If you get it wrong you send it to back to the harder group. You should spend more time in the harder group as you know them less. The result is more efficient method of studying taking less time with better results.
You can of course start making flashcards with the Rapid Review section of First Aid and the other books mentioned above and divide them into groups. Or you could take the easy way and enroll in the High Yield Fast Facts Course in my prep site It’s free for 14 days for anyone enrolling by October 19, 2008 PT and only US$ 4.99 for 14 days after that.
It currently contains the equivalent of Rapid Review section of First Aid with over 100 additional high yield items (550 total). It also contains a 150 item Diseases and Syndrome section that lists all diseases and syndromes and their description. The 400 item Buzzwords section, contain descriptions of buzzwords. As you may already realize, the USMLE Step 1 do not use Buzzwords. Instead it uses actual description of for example Reed-Sternberg cells. Therefore, even if you know the buzzwords, you may not know the description. An additional 250 items will be added to the buzzword section in the next couple of days.
Still under construction is the bugs and drugs section which will cover, microbes and drug of choice as well as other concepts in microbiology. Additional sections in pharmacology covering, mechanisms, side effects, etc. will also be included in the near future. A section on medical images will also be set up. So flash cards with say an ECG tracing, an xray or a skin lesion will be listed and you should try to identify the image. This usually uses a 4 group system rather than the 3 group system used in the course.
My main difficulty with medical images is that it takes so long to find them. There are a lot of medical images available in the net, but most of them are copyrighted. About only 1 in 10 is available as public domain, creative commons or GNU license that allows free use of the image with attribution. Therefore, it will actually take a long time for me to finish this unless I get help.
Therefore, I would like to ask my readers to help search for images. Help me help you do better in the USMLE. Every 2 medical images you provide me with that I use for the prepsite, I will give you 1 point. Each point can be exchanged for 2 weeks free access to the High Yield Fast Facts course.
( in the future to other courses) You must provide a link to an image that is not copyrighted, or if copyrighted that you have arranged with the copyright author for free use in the course. Credit is given for the first person to submit the image, and submitting an image previously submitted by others will not be counted.
You can post the image links or any submission in the comments section of this post. And the date and time of submission will act as the basis for deciding first submissions for credit. This will be the basis for all future courses I am offering including the 6 month moderated prep course. You earn credits by contributing time, materials or money and you use credits to avail of services, including acceptance to the prep courses, one-on-one chat sessions, one-on-one tutoring which I will be offering in the near future. I think if you want to take, you should also give. If you want people to help you, you should also try to help others. That is the only way to make things equitable. You either pay it forward or pay it afterwards.