All Questions Welcome!

Hi Readers,

I opened up this section of the site to answer any questions medical students/pre-meds may have about school, studying, best methods, exams, the residency process, etc. Feel free to ask me anything and I’ll do my best to answer. *Non-medical questions only please.

If you provide an Email you will receive a message, once your Question is Answered.

Hi! My sister is about to start med school and I would love to get her a gift. What do you think are the “essentials” for a med student that would make great/useful gifts? Thanks! Relative in Med School - 6. June 2015

Thanks for writing!

Congrats to your sister! That’s amazing news! Hope you’re ready to listen to a lot of complaining over the next 4 years (kidding…sort of).

Here’s some things I can think off the top of my head:

A stethoscope is always a great idea. Try looking at Littman around the 100-150 price range. At this price you’ll get the “ooh-ahh” factor, anything lower and you’ll get plastic…which I personally don’t mind but A) Aren’t as nice B) Aren’t as impressive (But I’ve had them…they work OK so if it’s more your price range go for it!). Anything over is for specialists and is too much for a beginning student.

Coffee Thermos (probably what she’ll use the most)/ Tea Infuser (My favorite)

Scrubs DVDs (touted as the most “accurate” representation of medicine)
– House gets points here too because they try and make real cases (though exaggeration is an understatement…)

Backpack/Messenger Bags (for the million books she’ll have)

Any book on stress management (not kidding)
– Zen, Buddhism, Eckhart Tolle, Oprah, whatever works!
– Yoga mat/yoga ball (since we’re on stress reduction…once again not kidding))

Bose Headsets (always a great idea for the long hours of studying, there’s a post on it too, here!)

Laptop (I love the Apple products); Bose Speakers

Highlighters, Pens, Pencils/Erasers, Post it notes, Trappers, Colored Pens (Everyone uses these)

Hope this helped. It sounds like you don’t want to get her something that will just end up taking room. All the stuff I listed above was really useful to me. Truth is as a med student, you don’t need much other than your books and the things needed to study them (office supplies). Cheers!

Based on your experience, what is the best way to study for USMLE? How long should one study for it? What is the secret behind getting a decent score? If anyone got low scores on MCAT verbal, do you think its going to reflect on USMLE? Thank you! The Match - 5. June 2015

Thanks for writing!

So a couple fundamental things take you a long way with the USMLE exams.

1. Having a plan.
2. Having the right sources.
3. Having time.
4. Repetition.

If you don’t have those then in a lot of ways you’re at a disadvantage. Let’s focus on them one by one.

1. Having a Plan

In the midst of studying you will want to change course often because you feel like what you are doing isn’t working. Though some adjustment is necessary, having a few (not many), but a few sources and repeating them until you know them well is key. Mark off your calendar…decide which sections will be done when…and stick to your guns.

2. Having the Right Sources

Everyone has their own version of this but no one will disagree with what I’m about to say: Use USMLE World and 1 Review Book until you know it well. The disagreements usually begin about which books to supplement the prior two with or which review book to use. Here is what I did:

– USMLE World Question Bank
– First Aid for Step 1
– Pathoma (or Goljan)

That’s what I used and scored above the US average (my goal). I had friends scoring in the 240s/250s and they used the same sources as me but just knew them better.

– USMLE World Questions Bank
– Master the Boards for Step 2
– Step up to Medicine (If you have time)

Once again MTB and a question bank were key. Step up to medicine helped in the end.

USMLE Step 3: (Haven’t taken it yet but this is what I’m doing)
– USMLE World Question Bank
– Kaplan Lecture Notes

3. Having time

Time spent studying does not automatically mean a higher grade. You have to put in as much material and repetition as you can in a short amount of time so you remember as much as you can.

An example test regiment would be: 6 days a week for for a month and a half. This landed me solid scores and with some tweaking can work well for you too.

Definitely take practice exams to monitor your progress (and before sitting for the real exam); the most accurate ones are usually the USMLE World Practice tests.

4. Repetition

Pick a few sources…go through them several times. You asked for the key to success…that’s it.

Good luck!

*I don’t think the verbal reasoning score on your MCAT should hurt you. Just study hard, use some of the tips I gave, and you’ll do great!

Hi, I appreciate that you are doing this for us. I wanted to know if u think there is any similarities between mcat and usmle? I guess I want to know if USMLE tests the concepts same way as MCAT does. Thanks! The Match - 5. June 2015

Thanks for writing!

Wow the MCAT… it’s been so long!

The USMLE is very much a critical thinking test that wants to make sure the testee is conceptually sound. Of course there are is a good portion of questions that require memorization but from what I recall much less than the MCAT.

That’s as far as I’d take the comparison between these two exams. By the time you take the USMLE you’ll be neck high with the first two years of medical school and won’t have time to even think about what tests you took before then! In some ways it can be understood only by taking it.

If you are a premed or someone studying for the MCAT now I encourage you to keep marching forward towards your goal! It’s worth all the studying in the end! 🙂 🙂

Hi, thanks for doing this. How do you recommend we make our personal statement focused? As in, should we talk about a personal triumph or why we chose medicine? How long do you recommend our PS should be. Thanks for your time. The Match - 5. June 2015

Thanks for writing!

A personal statement should be one page long (single spaced); try not to make it go over. It’s a skill in of itself to write and think succinctly and this should definitely be practiced when writing your personal statement.

As for what the personal statement should be focused on, here are two things you should definitely hit:

Why you are applying in that chosen field
Why you are a good candidate for said field/program

Doing this will usually lead you to  tell them a little bit about yourself by citing examples from your life/clinical experiences and then before you know it you will hit a page.

I approached my personal statement with the mindset that I wanted to convince the reader that I was entering a field that I loved and that I was the right candidate for the job because of my qualities (then I told them about them).

*Look around the internet for examples to get some good ideas.

**Unless you have a great reason for why you chose medicine in the first place, don’t talk about that. After 4 years of school everyone kind of assumes you want to be :/

Hope that helped. Good luck! 🙂 🙂


Hi, I failed my step 1 and then passed. Do you think its necessary to address this in my personal statement when I’m more than my failure so why talk about it? Thank you!! USMLE - 5. June 2015

Sounds like you already have your answer!

Yes, you’re absolutely right. You are much more than a Step 1 exam and your personal statement is the time to talk about that part of you.

Tip 1: Make sure you understand your “personal story” when writing a personal statement. 

We all have one of those, it’s the reason we came to medical school, got through those tough years, and continue to march forward. It’s probably what most of us write about in these essays. It takes more than a couple days to figure that out so make sure you set aside enough time.

It’s also what residency programs use the personal statement for. To figure out who the applicant is outside of an exam setting. Think about this: personal statements allow students to talk about anything they feel like. What you choose to talk about then says quite a bit about you.

So choose something that matters, and if that means talking about exams thats OK. If it means leaving them out that’s OK too. The most important thing is to choose something that’s important to you.

The truth is that if they want to talk about your Step score they will bring it up through conversation. You’ll need an explanation then. So use the precious paragraphs you have in your PS to show people who you are otherwise! (Someone awesome that deserves to be in that program!)

Good luck! Hope this helped 🙂 🙂

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