Second Year of Medical School
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Acing the Second Year of Medical School (Part 1)

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I’m creeping closer to the end of my pre-clinical curriculum. Beginning next year I start my first clinical rotation. Thus I thought this would be a good time to reflect and give tips on succeeding in your second year of medical school.

When I wrote this article it came out to be over 2000 words. To prevent you from falling asleep halfway, I’ve split them into two separate articles. The first one being more academic focused while the second half addresses other elements of second year of medical school.

Here’s the link to the second part.

I first like to point out that my school functions with an accelerated organ system based curriculum. This simply means I’m learning the normal and abnormal that is involved with each organ system at once.

Here are the tips and tools that I recommend and have used during your second year of medical school.

Kaplan Qbank:

I don’t recommend this tool as a method to stress you about step 1. You’ll be stressed out regardless at one time or another, unfortunately.

No, instead Kaplan has been a great tool for me to understand what’s important to know.

When we’re reading our syllabus material or attending a lecture on a new topic, everything seems important.

As you study the material more and more, you’ll be able to pinpoint what truly matters. Still, there may be some important concepts that you may have labeled as detail. This is where a question bank like Kaplan helps.

I’ve gotten many questions right on a test because I missed a related question on Kaplan. Often it’s because of a lack of knowledge on the topic; this helps direct my studying towards the end.

Along with providing you questions on board related questions, Kaplan is a great tool for getting comfortable with clinical vignettes.

I noticed that clinical vignettes were not as frequent during my first year of medical school. Sure there were a few here and there, but usually, the questions had some easy keyword for you to come to an answer.

It wasn’t until my second-year curriculum began where many of the questions began something like, “58-year-old Hispanic male comes in complaining of……. What medication could be causing his symptoms.?” Such question requires you to think of what the patient has, what you would do for them, and what could go wrong.

Kaplan has an overwhelming amount of these clinical vignettes.

How Did I Use Kaplan?

Finally, I’d like to share how I used the Qbank within a class.

Most of my courses were 4 weeks long. Thus I would spend the first 2 weeks learning as much as possible. When there were 2 weeks left before the test I would begin to do 3-4 nights of 20 questions on that particular topic.

I believe that beginning any earlier won’t be as helpful since you haven’t been exposed to the material.

Beginning too late rushes you. You also may not finish all the questions for each section. I’d rather take as many practice questions as I can versus “go over” the syllabus material again. It’s worked out well for me.

You don’t have to use Kaplan as your Qbank of choice. There are many out there which I can discuss in the future.

Kaplan does have the reputation of being more detailed than other board dedicated question banks. This lends itself to being a good studying tool for your course exams, which may focus on specific topics outside of the boards.

Pathoma:

This resource is golden for a second-year curriculum.

Pathoma is lecture videos given by Dr. Sattar who provides brief and high-yield information on the pathology of each organ system. It also comes in an outlined text form if you prefer.

The videos are better in my opinion. They’re short and to the point. Also, Dr. Sattar does a great job of simplifying the mechanisms behind many diseases. Thus once you understand the background of a disease, you’ll tend to always remember it. Gone are the days of having to memorize what seems to be unrelated information every time (just kidding, that’s never going away).

Once you begin pathology at your school, I’d recommend watching a video or two a night. That’s a commitment of anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on the topic.

My one regret for Pathoma would be not starting sooner into each of my courses. Often I would take a quiz and miss a question that I would have known if I had just watched Pathoma. So don’t wait till you know everything to watch it!

In addition, the Kaplan Qbank and Firecracker questions are partially derived from Pathoma. Thus it’s nice to have multiple resources work together. You can easily back and forth between questions and your Pathoma syllabus for questions you may struggle with.

You can read more reviews of Pathoma here. 

Second Year of Medical School

Broencephalon Anki Cards:

If you’re like me and don’t enjoy reading the bullet point format of first aid then Broencephalon cards may be for you.

Some amazing medical students took the liberty to make flashcards for all the information in first aid. What’s more important is that each flashcard is concise, quizzing you on 1-2 topics each.

I highly recommend following your courses with these flashcards if you’re a student that does better with practice questions.

The cards are broken nicely into separate decks for basic anatomy and physiology, pathology, and pharmacology. This makes it easy to follow along with the topics you’re learning in class.

For example, in my curriculum, the first week of each organ system block would be basic anatomy and physiology. I would follow the lectures and syllabus with 50 flashcards per night.

Now you may think that 50 sounds like a lot for an outside resource but the questions and answers are quite short and simple. Here’s an example:

broencephalon

Short and simple!

Plus most of the basic physiology decks are about 250 cards which are manageable to get done in a week. Once you’ve covered everything, you’ve basically learned first aid for the section.

If you come across a card with a topic you haven’t covered, simply use the bury function on Anki to see it the next day. Eventually, you’ll cover the material in class to know the answer.

The pathology and pharmacology decks are longer and more detailed but they also include information from Pathoma along with first aid. If you can get through these cards gradually during your second year of medical school, step 1 prep will be much easier.

If you’re interested in finding this magical deck of flashcards, then just google Broencephalon Anki cards and you’ll find Reddit forums with links. You can also find them on the Anki website through their search tool.


These were my main academic focused tips for second year of medical school. If you can rely on these resources I’m confident that second year will be a manageable experience!

Remember that there is a second part to this post. Click here to read part 2.

If there is something specific you’d like me to address in a future blog post, comment below or email me at [email protected]

As always please like, share, and subscribe. Sign up for my monthly newsletter to receive updates on new blog posts. By signing up you also get access to my free eBook, Top Ten Resources for Medical School and a 3-part email series on how to succeed in medical school! Sign up here!

Top Resources For Medical School

If you’re a first or second-year medical student wanting guidance on how to succeed in medical school, read my book, The Preclinical Guide. I provide all the tips I wish I knew day one of medical school. Check out the book here.

Top Tips for Medical School

Until next time…

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