Study Tips for Medical School

Last updated: 18/08/2021

Getting into medical school is not easy and having done so, it is highly probable that you found secondary education relatively straightforward. At high school level, the syllabus is clear and there are a set number of resources and past papers for you to practice. Furthermore, memorising marking schemes can often make up for lack of understanding in certain topics.

However, this will change once you start university and while this is true for any degree, is particularly true for a course as demanding as medicine. With an infinite amount of available resources at variable levels of depth, it can be daunting and difficult to differentiate between what’s expected and what’s taking it too far. For this reason, we’ve compiled a few helpful resources you will be grateful to have on your journey as a medical student.

Your lecture/lab/PBL (problem-based learning)/CBL (case-based learning) notes

As obvious as it might seem, it’s easy to get carried away and read far beyond the level of depth covered in your teaching sessions. At least for the first couple of years, your exams will be largely based on the notes, flashcards or slides you will have collected throughout the year. Keep it simple; pay attention as the year goes and you should be fine.

A book laid open, next to a pen and a piece of paper with notes

Your peers

This goes without saying but while you might have gotten away relying on no one but yourself until now, attempting this at medical school won’t just be difficult; it can get very lonely. Your mental health is much more important than a grade and working with a group of friends can make the long nights in the library feel much more bearable. Not to mention, finding a group of people you trust puts you in the position to share notes, hold study sessions, discuss complex concepts and ultimately, will make you a better student. There’s also the added benefit here of developing friendships and rapport with your future colleagues.

The peers in the years above can give you advice on what to expect, which lectures are more important than others, and offer to help with preparing for case presentations or OSCEs. If you ask nicely, they might even share their notes and question banks passed down over the years by past medical students.

Two people shaking their hands

RACGP Clinical Guidelines

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’s Clinical Guidelines is an online bank of information that offers guidance on diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, aetiology and prevention of diseases for primary care doctors. It’s a simple, clinically focused, free, up-to-date and extremely reliable source. The guidelines can either be searched for individually or organised by topic, so it’s also easy to use!

The RACGP also publishes a useful source of information called Red Book. It contains risk factors and at-risk populations for common diseases, relevant statistics, and guidance on evidence-based treatment. Red Book can be a great place to start when looking into the practical management of disease in Australia.

A medical journal

Anatomy TV

Learning anatomy is infinitely easier when you can visualise the musculature, corresponding blood supply and other structures which is why dissections and prosections are offered at most medical schools. However, online resources are also available for when you’re out of the anatomy building; AnatomyTV is one of them.

Anatomy TV provides virtual prosections along with brief outlines of corresponding function, musculature, blood supply and more. It’s a very useful atlas that provides a solid foundation for your anatomical knowledge.  

Again, it’s something you need to pay for but there’s a good chance you can access the tool for free if your institution has a subscription to it. Alternatively, your university might have access to another similar resource that will probably give you the same depth of information.

A question mark floating on top of a hand

Geeky Medics

Geeky Medics is a collaborative blog for medical students with posts covering anatomy, medicine, surgery and more. Started by Lewis Potter 9 years ago as a medical student himself, it has since grown and is now contributed to by a huge community of students and qualified health professionals alike. The best part about Geeky Medics are their OSCE guides which cover the steps of almost every physical examination, including the physical signs to look for and what seeing them might mean.

GeekyMedics also has an app as well as an online bank with over 5000 MCQs and flashcards you can access for free.

A notebook next to a pen

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)

The AIHW is a government organisation that releases huge amounts of data in a way that is easy to understand. It is arguably the most reliable source of information about Australian health statistics, and using their publications will help you on the way to becoming a well-informed health professional.

A good starting point is the AIHW’s document Australia’s Health 2020, which provides an important overview of the state of health and welfare in Australia. However, the AIHW has data and reports that cover many specific areas of health so try searching their website if you need more particular information.

Youtube

There are several Youtube channels which offer consolidated and graphic explanations of complex concepts including Armando Hasudungan, Osmosis, and Khan Academy Medicine. These are quick (often under 15 minutes long), very easy to understand and time-saving in the long run - watching a video is much faster than having to look up the same concepts in textbooks that will take 10 pages to tell you the same thing!

Medicine is a very long and arduous journey so if you ever feel like you need some motivation along the way, student vloggers such as Ali Abdaal, ThatMedic and KharmaMedic upload videos on their lives as medical students and offer further advice on getting through medical school.

A video being displayed on a monitor

A Final Note

It’s worthwhile considering that medical school will get more content-heavy as you progress through the years. This means that your first year can be a good time to experiment with study methods and figure out what works for you, so that you have reliable techniques for the later years of your degree. You may find it helpful to spend some time learning about evidence-based study and revision techniques; YouTuber Ali Abdaal has a great video on this.

Using the tools you’ve learnt about in this article will make your time at medical school easier and more enjoyable. However, it’s important to realise that we’re all individuals and we all learn slightly differently, so a tool or resource that one person swears by may not work at all for another person. As such, it’s important to not be afraid of doing things slightly differently to your peers! For example, others in your cohort may spend many hours each week writing pages upon pages of beautiful notes, but don’t feel like you need to create notes if you’ve found that flashcards work better for you.

Are you interested in attending a medical school in the UK instead of Australia or New Zealand? Check out Medify’s UK Medical School Admissions Guide.

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