Top 10 medical student survival tips

Whether you’re a new medical student at the start of your journey or you’re well accustomed to the student life, surviving medical school requires plenty of ongoing learning. Having experienced a few years as a medical student, I’ve compiled ten top medical school survival tips to help you through the learning curve.

1.Apply learning to clinical cases

As you start to complete lectures or compile notes on a topic, apply this knowledge to clinical cases. This will not only be helpful in your future career; it will likely make revision easier. You may want to look up examples of clinical cases online or revisit cases outlined in plenaries.

2. Engage with others if you’re stuck

If you’re finding a concept confusing, consider group revision with friends or those in your seminar group. You may find talking through the issue alone is enough to clear it up. If you’re still struggling, don’t be nervous about getting in touch with your lecturers. Knowing when to ask for help is essential!

3. Use formative assessments to your advantage

Formative assessments are one of your best opportunities to identify learning needs and areas of weakness. Aim to revise for your formative exams similarly to how you would revise for summative exams, so you won’t be surprised when it comes to summative exams.

4. Don’t neglect your interests

Your hobbies and interests shouldn’t be ignored just because you’re a medical student. Many students find that they can quickly feel overwhelmed if their work-life balance isn’t maintained. Medic-run societies are generally very flexible, which may help you to balance your academic commitments and personal interests.

5. Boost your CV

There are countless opportunities at university available to boost your CV and help out your local community. Explore programs such as the Nottingham Advantage Award or Lincoln Award or consider volunteering with schemes such as peer mentoring.

6. Diversify your friendship group

As great as medical students can be, interacting with others outside of your cohort could improve your wellbeing and offer a welcome distraction from the world of medicine. Societies, inter-professional education events, and sports are a fantastic way to diversify your friendship group. 

7. Find your favourite way to study

Explore different methods of studying and try and find the one that works for you. This applies not only at the start of university, but also when there are key changes in content. Whether it’s the Pomodoro method, cue cards, notes on your notes, or answering revision questions, find the style that suits you!

8. Prioritise whole-picture learning

Passing medical school exams requires a good understanding of many concepts. You should primarily aim to understand the important concepts to try and gain the bulk of the marks in exams before honing down on details.

9. Engage with the support available

Systems like peer mentoring and medic families are there to support you through times of change or challenges. If you have questions, concerns, or just fancy a chat with someone in a similar position to yourself, consider engaging with this support. If you need more formal support, you can get in touch with your tutors or other university services such as the Student Wellbeing Centre.

10. Be flexible

Medical school is likely quite different from your previous experiences with education, and you’ll continuously be required to learn new things and adapt. Don’t be too rigid in your approach: medicine is a process of lifelong learning, so embrace these changes!

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