When I first started this med school process, during one of the first weeks of my post bacc at UVA, avoiding study comparisons came up. I don’t ever recall it being an issue in high school or undergrad, but anxiety about how others are studying happens a lot in medical education.
As if we don’t have enough stress on our plates, medical students play the “what if” game constantly:
- “What if I should be studying the way my friend is?”
- “What if I used that book instead of this one?
- “What if I didn’t go to class and instead just reviewed on my own?”
- “What if I tried flashcards?”
- “What if I used Khan Academy videos?”
The biggest thing that has been reinforced is to just trust the way you naturally study. If you have a method that has worked for you in the past — apparently well enough to get you into medical school — don’t try to change it just to be like someone else. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever try new things, especially if you feel like what you are doing isn’t working, but bouncing around from one method to the next will leave you a confused, scrambled mess.
The comparison trap has taken on a whole new life now that Step One of our boards exams is approaching. By approaching, I mean 6 months from now. But that is scary close considering the massive quantity of material we’ll have to have mastered.
There are some “gold standard” review sources that nearly everyone uses, namely UWorld, First Aid, and Sketchy. But the study resources are endless after that. There are so many question banks, review programs, flashcard sets and timelines. Not to mention the varying advice you get when talking to older students that have already taken Step One. How soon to start studying, what to study, how many hours per day, etc etc…it’s overwhelming!
And because my brain is so wonderful, when I get overwhelmed by options I tend to just freeze. Instead of doing something, I do nothing. And then I get even more stressed out.
I know I need to be slowing chipping away at my review, but how to do that is the question. How much time do I put in at this point? What type of studying – review books or flashcards or question banks? And asking your friends just leads to the comparison trap disaster. Everyone has their own methods that work for them, everyone has different goals, and everyone has a different baseline knowledge to work from.
Luckily, SLU Med just got a new education specialist that is there to help us with this exact thing. I have a meeting with her soon that will hopefully help me set up a personalized, concrete plan. Once I have a plan it won’t seem so daunting.
So take this as just another reminder to not get caught in the comparison trap. Whether you’re a med student or not, constantly stressing about what other people are doing does nothing to help YOU grow. Do your thing, be confident in your abilities, and work your hardest! The grass is greener where you water it.
- Where does comparison come up in you life?