Exams are heading in for medical students throughout the country (India), previously I wrote a post about the university exams for MBBS student. While that post is sufficient in itself, which was also evident from the love it received (grateful). This time I thought to be more specific and write about exam preparation when you are 1 month close to the exams. I know that 1 month before the exam, every medical student gets into the “panic mode” to go through the never-ending syllabus. No matter how well you are prepared for the exam, there is some anxiety when you see the exams peeking through the window. At least for me, I get on an emotional roller coaster ride 1 month before the exam. The most crucial thing is to manage your studies and emotions so that none of it becomes a hindrance between your beautiful scores. I know that medical students are not just preparing for the university exams but also for the giant competitive exams. So with this post, I intend to cover both the university exam and the competitive exam separately.
The University Exam –
To know in-depth about the university exam preparation, you should first read – this
If you implement the strategies I talked about in the above post; I believe the last 1 month before the exam will turn out to be relatively easy for you. However, even if you feel you missed out on something, I have got you covered with this one.
Everything starts with a plan. I feel you are directionless if you don’t have a plan set. You know like, driving a car without knowing the directions? Makes sense?
So we have 1 month = 4 weeks.
The first thing I want you to do is to break down all your subjects into these 4 weeks. If you have 4 subjects, it will be 1 week each; if you have more then divide them accordingly. This is just to simplify it for you. It is not necessary to equally divide the days between each subject. You can personalise it to your preferences and difficulty level of each subject.
Also, keep in mind that you should start with the subject that is most difficult for you. This will be challenging to do, your brain will always make excuses to keep it for the last but don’t let that overpower you. Start with the most demanding subject, first. People also suggest to start with your most favourite subject to get into the flow and then move on to the difficult one, but I do not favour that idea. When you like any subject, there is a good chance you will just get lost in the depth of the subject and completely lose track of time. I do not want you to do that. So, be cautious. Also, when it comes to your favourite subject, you already know enough about it, it should not take much of your time.
Studying 1 month before the exam is a comprehensively different ball game. This is the time you really require smart studying. Take note of everything that I mention below, you should not be missing out on any of this.
Active recall is the most important now. You are too close to the exam so, every bit of the information that you come across at this point should be very well imprinted in your memory.
Are you thinking about how to implement active recall?
Well, active recall can be easily implemented whether you are using books, notes or flashcards. Flashcards are self-explanatory. However, if you use your books or notes, try to recall everything you read and note it down in a mind map without looking into the book/notes. I will repeat it in bold – WITHOUT LOOKING INTO THE BOOK OR NOTES. This is what active recall is, and this is how you can retain the information till the exam day. Merely reading through the notes never builds the muscle memory in your brain. And please do not give the excuse that you do not have enough time. If you take one day and finish reading the whole book, that will still not get you better results than active recall.
The second most important thing is writing things down. Yes, we are talking about university exams. There is a lot of writing that you have to do during those 3 hours of the exam. Wouldn’t it be better if you furnish your writing skills early on? With writing skills, I do not mean you have to write the whole answer. Just jot down the points and headings in your notebook. WRITE, WRITE, WRITE.
Coming to something that is commonly seen with all the students. Students feel that they have 1 long month which is enough to finish everything that was hanging in the pending list for the whole semester. To be honest, that is not going to happen, you cannot complete everything. In fact, you are just wasting your time if you are diverging your energy into learning new stuff at this point.
So, what to do if you have a subject that you never took seriously?
In this case, first, get a list of all the high yield topics from the subject and the previous question papers. Go through all these topics and remember to take note of all the keywords. Although it is hard to understand a new topic in such a small window of time, the keywords will help you to answer the questions. I am repeatedly saying not to start a new topic, but there is a small exception to it – if there’s a high yield topic which is frequently asked in multiple exams, it is definitely worth your time.
Let me try to explain it with an example from Ophthalmology –
‘Cataract’ is one of the most frequently asked questions in the third year university exams. If you are 1 month close to the exam, and you think you will now learn all the different surgical management along-with the steps, the material used for the lenses and the mechanism of various instruments used; then you are overestimating the capacity of your brain. Instead, try to remember the distinct surgical management with their indications and contraindications, the differentiating steps in the surgery, and the various advantages and disadvantages. This will not just be easier for you to remember, but this is what the examiner also expects from you. They do not expect you to perform a phaco surgery during the exam.
Lastly, what should be done to save time and ensure that you have all the significant points on your tips?
When you are close to the exam, review everything in comparison to other similar topics. For example – Stable Angina, Unstable angina, STEMI, NSTEMI; all 4 should be correlated when you are studying. If you learn everything in this fashion, you just need to remember the differentiating points; and the rest of the details will remain the same. Whether the question asks about angina or MI you are good to go. At the same time, you can increase the length of the answer by the common points for all 4 of them.
The Competitive exam
Since most of the Medical Competitive exams are multiple-choice, I will talk about them in general here. While the above-discussed points are realistic for competitive exams, there is much more focus on the ranking in the competitive exams. As the name suggests, there is a great competition where one needs to stand out of the rest. Therefore, you need to be very well equipped with the exam pattern.
1 month before the exam, your priority should be to take a good number of self-assessments/grand tests; not just to evaluate yourself but to get used to the long hours and the diversity of questions. It is an illustrious form of revision in itself. It is proven that retention power for the tested topics stays higher.
Whenever you are taking any test, make sure that you are reviewing all the answers; even those you got correct. You never know; what details you might have missed out. Question review is the only form of study that you need 1 month before the exam.
Being said that, If you have any dominant subject/topic left out, you should definitely go through it before the exam. But even in that case, I recommend reviewing it with the help of questions rather than reading textbooks or watching endless videos.
Apart from the Grand test, review all the questions that you previously marked in the question bank. You can either create a custom test out of those questions or simply review the explanations.
Make sure you are paying attention to the explanations, the questions might not repeat, but the concepts stay the same.
In brief, your attention should be more towards the question and less towards the textbooks/notes.
Another equally important aspect of competitive exam preparation is flashcards. Review all your flashcards religiously, they will pay off, I swear. Flashcards are the best way to implement active recall in your daily practice. Even when you review questions, make flashcards out of them and review them until your exam day.
Last 1 week before the exam, review all the volatile topics. The classification, tables, terminologies.. etc. give it all a glance. If you use Anki, you can tag the cards as volatile and then create a filtered deck which will contain all the cards you want to review in the last week.
(If you want me to help you in a FREE session to simplify Anki – Message me to be a part of the Anki with S2S session which is launching soon.)
The Common Advice
In any of the exam, you should ensure that you are taking care of yourself. You can not perform well with an exhausted mind and body. I know that it is easier said then done but see the data if you do not trust me. Take good care of yourself.
Take breaks during your study sessions and dedicate it to self-care instead of scrolling through my Instagram page (lol, I do want you to read all my posts but not on the cost of your own well being). Use your breaks to relax, just close your eyes and focus on your breath. Let your mind be free for some time. Stretch your body after the long study session, and hydrate yourself.
Use an ergonomic chair while studying. When you are close to the exam, you are spending a lot of time sitting on your desk, which can cause strain on the back. This can be prevented to a great extent by using an ergonomic chair which ensures the correct posture.
Use CMC drops to avoid straining your eyes with blue light.
While chai and Parle-G sound like the staple food of late-night study sessions, you should pay attention to eating healthy and wholesome meals.
As always, DO NOT PULL ALL NIGHTERS. Give some rest to that tired brain of yours. Staying up for a few extra hours is different from giving up on sleep. Please, know the difference.
The night before the exam, have all your essentials ready. Keep comfortable clothes and shoes ready for the next morning.
On the day of the exam, just keep aside your books and do not study. Stay away from people who are freaking out or asking you questions. Just breathe. This is your time, and you are here to win this, so have faith in yourself. The only important thing right now is to reach the exam hall on time. So, get out of the house and win this world.
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