Brendan’s Study Tips

Written By: Brendan Lushbough, Class of 2021

First Year

Generally, this is going to be a very hard year and you’re going to feel mostly inadequate the whole way. That’s a normal feeling, but it does not mean you aren’t learning. I would consider this your first pass through the material and as such some things are going to stick and other things aren’t.

First let’s talk about board prep materials. I don’t think you need to start “prepping” for boards during first year. However, after officially going through all the material there is to offer, I do think it would be extremely beneficial to start going through even Anatomy with these resources to help guide and focus your studying on what is board relevant (even if you still have to know more detailed things for the actual classwork).

“UFAPS” is considered the gold standard for board prep and it consists of 5 resources that are all but essential for medical school. The earlier you get these an integrate them into your studies, the more successful I believe you will be.
  1. UWorld: Considered the best question bank (at least for the USMLE). I would start using this 2nd year.
  2. First Aid for the USMLE Step 1: buy this right away, and as you go through anatomy, just see what’s in the book. Same goes for biochem, micro, etc. Physio especially, it will help you hone done what is super important. It’s a great reference book for everything. Just don’t be scared to open it up day 1.
  3. Anki: This is a flashcard service that uses spaced repetition to help you retain the information maximally. Medical students have already made amazing decks with what is essentially all of First Aid, Pathoma, Sketchy, etc. You can find a deck of pretty much anything or make your own. I would suggest using this (especially for things that are new to you). Download the software and search for shared decks. Some great ones to start using are Zanki, Brosencephalon, Pathoma, and the Sketchy decks by
  4. Pathoma: The pathology guide by Dr. Sattar. Super helpful with your first pass through pathology during 2nd year (which is when I’d suggest to use it)
  5. SketchyMedical: This is absolutely amazing for teaching yourself pharm and micro. I can’t speak for pathology, but if you combine this with Anki flashcards (the decks that reference the sketches) you will thrive. I would start this 2nd year and go through it with your systems.
  6. + Boards and Beyond: The only one not in the acronym, it is still considered an amazing resource. This is and sketchy are the only resources that people substitute something in depending on their learning style. These powerpoints are straight and to the point, but Dr. Ryan hits all the good stuff in these and they have a TON of practice board questions. I would get this for 2 years and just watch the videos as you prepare for different topics. It is essential for board prep 2nd year in my opinion.

First year summary: First Aid, Anki, Boards and Beyond, class work
  • While doing anatomy, crack open first aid and see what’s more board relevant, just to get an idea. Do anki for tricky areas to remember muscle attachments, nerve associations, etc. Watch the summary anatomy videos from B&B
  • with Biochem, check out first aid. Go through B&B. Remember to keep an eye out on the pathologies and where they develop. These are highly tested of course.

Second Year 

Second Year Summary: First Aid, Anki, B&B, Pathoma, Sketchy, stay away from class work until a few days before the exam I’d say.

  • Highly recommend using Cram Fighter to organize a board study schedule over the next 2 semesters. The earlier you start, the less you will cram in and the more time you will have to free study over what you really need to hone in on.
  • First semester: Start doing some questions every day and as you go through the systems, I’d also go through Pathoma and an Anki Pathoma deck if you haven’t started that already. Start going through Sketchy Pharm/Micro if you haven’t already. Pharm can be completed with each system, but I would try to be a little ahead of the game. Micro never really fits in anywhere, so just do a little at a time. You shouldn’t have to focus on class stuff until a few days before the exam to do well. You are already studying for class by board prepping. The class material is helping you with the powerpoint specific information they will test you on.
  • Second semester: continue what you are doing, but do more of it. Up the questions every day, do more videos, do more Anki cards. Focus less on class except right before the exam. You will do well enough and boards are more important. Again, if you haven’t made a schedule, get CramFighter and make one if it helps, or make your own.
  • I didn’t go through Pathoma more than once, I just did B&B again because it is more comprehensive. Your anki flashcards should be enough than going through the material again.
  • Take each practice test seriously. Buy a few extra practice tests (UWorld has some that come with the subscription, COMBANK has an extra one, COMSAE has a few extra). 
If you have any questions about this feel free to contact me ( I didn’t look at advice during first year and this is what I wish someone had told me. It may suck at first, but it will be so helpful.

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