How to Survive Semester 3

Although I promised to pen this post two weeks ago, I’ve hesitated, not just because in 4th semester you have to hit the ground running, but because, having passed 3rd semester by the skin of my teeth, I might not be the best source of advice. There are few concrete things I can point to that caused me to struggle so much with microbiology and, other than studying more diligently and not choking on Mini I, I can’t really think of what I could’ve done to avoid the difficulty I encountered. That said, here are my suggestions for making it through with less difficulty than I did:

1. For Pathology, Answer the Questions before the Mini

Pathology was one of the classes  in which I managed to do relatively well and I think it’s because I finally paid attention to the professors’ directive to use the learning objectives to study and review the material. Some professors made this easy for me by placing questions throughout their lectures that were basically the learning objectives in question form. I’d cut and paste these questions into a separate document, print them out and use the path handouts to answer each one. Don’t just search for and read the answers – write them out. Unfortunately, this won’t work for every prof. but another excellent way to study is to use the Robbins and Coltrane Review of Pathology. The questions are eerily similar to the ones that show up on minis. Buy this book at home and bring it to the island with you.

2. For Behavioral Science, Buy the BRS Anyway

I’ve recently heard that certain Behavioral Science lecturers have discouraged students from purchasing the Behavioral Science BRS following the decision to cease administration of the shelf exams at Ross. Their reasoning was that while the B. Sci BRS is great for studying for the shelf, it’s not very helpful for the minis. Oh my, where to begin? I suppose I can only offer a personal testimony – the A I got in Behavioral Science is largely due to the fact that I had a copy of the BRS and was able to study from it the topics that were shoddily or incompletely covered by lecturers. One of the most annoying things about B. Sci was that questions would frequently show up on the mini asking about things the profs had never mentioned (not once!). Thanks to the BRS, I knew those answers. So I say, forget that nonsense. Buy it (get it at home, pack it in your carryon), read ahead (it’s fascinating), and do the questions. Even if it may not be as useful for answering the questions in the way Ross profs would like you to answer them, it is designed to prepare you for the Step 1.

Disclaimer – you still should look at the lecture handouts they provide. But seriously, get the BRS.

2a. Practice Early and Often for ICM Practical

While ICM is its own course in 4th semester, it’s rolled into B. Sci in 3rd semester. The ICM practical may not seem like that big of a deal (it’s worth only a little more than PBL) but learning the examination skills well is crucial for success in 4th semester. Think of it as laying your foundation. Find a small group (no more than 3 or 4) of people who you don’t mind touching and who you wouldn’t mind touching you (either friends with whom you’re pretty comfortable or…sexy classmates – it’s a perfect excuse! 😉 ) and practice at least once a week, every week. If your ICM instructor isn’t clearly demonstrating each procedure and if you can’t perform each and every task, seek out any ICM instructor with whom you’re familiar and ask if they’d be willing to hold a supplemental session for you – ICM instructors are surprisingly eager to help out. Also, take advantage of other opportunities – the BSA and AMSA ICM “mocticals” are great practice for the exam. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be when you’re performing your task in front of twelve people for a grade.

3. For Pharmacology, Do EVERY Babbini Question You Can Find

If it were up to me, Dr. Babbini would teach the whole of pharmacology by himself. His questions are sometimes tough but they are fair, and his packets are impeccable. Unfortunately, Dr. Babbini only covers the first block of drugs for each semester but on the G: Drive exists a wonderful relic from the time when Babbini was the be-all and end-all of pharm – there are Babbini packets covering every class of drug you will encounter in 3rd and 4th semester (even the drugs you’ll learn for B. Sci), all in one lovely folder. The questions at the end of each packet are highly indicative of the types of questions you’ll see on the minis so do them all.  A caveat – there are certain profs (I won’t name names but you’ll probably hear about them) who ask insane questions so do the questions that follow their presentations as well. But for the most part, Babbini is the way to go.

4. For Microbiology, Make Sure You’re Solid on Immunology

My first formal introduction to immunology was during 2nd semester and it wasn’t very thorough. Although my understanding of it was murky at best, for some reason, I thought I wouldn’t really have to worry about it in Semester 3. Oh, how wrong I was. The first block of micro was almost exclusively immunology (which shouldn’t have been a surprise given the hyphenated course name) and I struggled with it until the end. I didn’t turn to supplemental texts until it was almost too late but I think had I looked at them earlier in the semester, I would’ve been much better off.

High Yield Immuno is a pretty good review of the basics of immunology. There’s also a Lippincott volume devoted entirely to immunology as well. Check those out if you need a refresher (or, a more thorough introduction). The profs are always mentioning the Mims textbook, so if the review books aren’t enough, check this one out as well.

4a. Know Your Bugs

One good thing about micro is that the profs prepare pretty decent handouts on the dozens of microbes we need to know. Make sure to learn them and learn them well – which ones are gram positive, which ones are obligate intracellular pathogens, which ones alkalinize urine – knowing the bugs will not only net you points on the minis but will also help you have a closer relationship with the antibiotics you’ll learn in pharm.

I hope this advice will help at least one person avoid the trouble I encountered during semester 3. Find the right resources, seek guidance as soon as you realize you need it (not a month later), don’t be frugal about study materials and find a reliable group of study buddies. Good luck in Semester 3!

Explore posts in the same categories: 3rd semester, med school

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