How to Survive Semester 5

I know I said I’d post this ages ago. Here (at long last) is my advice for the current Fifth Semesters (especially those completing AICM in Miami).

1. Save Your Pennies

One thing you don’t learn about fifth semester until nearly the end of it is that it is actually comprised of the 3 months of AICM and the first 3 weeks of your first core (or special) rotation. If you receive any form of student aid, you will not be eligible to receive financial aid for sixth semester until you have completed those first three weeks of rotation, which may be months after you begin AICM. Please keep this in mind and try to budget yourself accordingly, as expenses in Miami can be steep, the fees for the Step (and for Step prep courses) are monstrous and there are other incidentals (travel, shipping, health insurance deductibles, etc.) to consider. You may end up having to secure an additional loan (or, find yourself dependent upon the kindness of your parents, if you are fortunate enough to have generous ones) if you don’t keep an eye on your finances. Most personal finance guides recommend having enough emergency money set aside to last you for six months of rent, bills and expenses. If you don’t have that much money just lying around, at least try to live frugally.

2. Practice Early (and Often!) for the Practical

You may have already heard about the 200-point 45 minute physical exam you will have to perform during fifth semester for 20% of your grade. This exam is tough, but certainly not impossible, especially if you practice often with your partner and take advantage of the practice sessions offered by the junior faculty. Even though the grading rubric is made available and an exam demo will be posted on mediasite, it would seem that there is some subjectivity in the grading and how well you perform is not only a function of how much (and how well) you practice but also, who is grading. Since you won’t know who’ll be evaluating you until right before your exam, it’s best to make sure that for your part, you’re as close to flawless as you can be. The standard is quite high – scoring below 90% is usually a failure and if you do fail, you will have to stay a week after the final and retake the practical before you can pass 5th semester (even if you have As in everything else). Also, for the ladies – you must have a bikini top to wear during the practical (as you will serve as the patient for your partner). If you’re shy about that sort of thing (as I was), you’ll have to get over it…

3. Take Medical Spanish

In Miami, there are 2 ways one can earn 5% extra credit in AICM: one can complete an extra DXR case (they’ll tell you more about that) or, one can participate in a weekly hour-and-a-half-long medical Spanish class. I strongly recommend taking the class, even if you are already conversant (or fluent!) in Spanish. If you are a native (or fluent) Spanish speaker, you can get credit as a TA. If you are proficient or conversant, it’s an excellent chance for you to broaden your knowledge, as you will be provided with a medical Spanish “bible” with a full H&P glossary. If you have never studied Spanish before, I implore you to take the class because it is nearly impossible to avoid having to communicate in Spanish in Miami. Everywhere you are sent to rotate, people (patients, nurses, even surgeons in the OR!) will be speaking in Spanish around you. You’ll get so much more out of your experience if you can understand and communicate with even the simplest phrases. You can still do the extra DXR case if you want, you just won’t get credit for it. It’s easier to get credit for the Spanish class than for the case (which is graded) anyway. Plus, the instructor is delightful and for the final class, she makes tres leches, which is delicious.

I hope this advice is helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Explore posts in the same categories: 5th semester, med school, money, personal finance

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7 Comments on “How to Survive Semester 5”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Hey there! I just stumbled upon your blog and can’t thank you enough for your advice and experiences you’ve shared! Your blog helps some of us more than you can imagine :).

    About 5th semester, is it true that the schedule doesn’t really allow you much time for Step studying, and that most people have to take a couple of months after 5th for Step 1 studying, hence leaving a gap between 5th and clinical? How did you, personally, manage studying time for Step 1?

    • evilangelfish Says:

      Hi Annoymous,

      in my opinion, it is possible to do some light-to-moderate studying for the Step during 5th Semester, especially if you subscribe to a question bank (my favorite is USMLEWorld, but USMLE Consult and Kaplan Q bank are other options) but you’ll probably start your hardcore preparation after 5th ends. If you pass your COMP on the first attempt, you’re cleared to apply for Step 1 by the middle of 5th semester so you can pick a date that give you enough time to prepare but doesn’t leave too long a gap in between 5th and your first core rotation (since I didn’t pass the COMP on my first attempt, my experience was a little different, but I started a USMLE test prep course only a few weeks after 5th ended). Don’t forget to factor in about 4 to 6 weeks after your test date for Ross to receive your score and assign you to your first spot (they’re a little sluggish about that, but you’ll find that out in another post).

      I’m so pleased that reading about my experiences has helped you. Thanks for reading! 😀

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I was wondering if you could share more about what the day to day is like during AICM. I know it varies week to week but do you generally get any days off? How many hours in a day are you in class or clinic? If the COMP is on a Thursday will we get that Friday and weekend off? Will we get Memorial day off? Thanks

    • evilangelfish Says:

      Hi Anonymous,
      thanks for stopping by! Your daily schedule in AICM will vary depending on many factors – what mini rotation you have that week, when your small group is scheduled, whether you participate in the Spanish class or UMBR, etc. Wednesdays will always have lecture for at least 4 hours. Some weeks, my entire weekend was free but when I was at North Shore for two weeks, I had a couple of 10 hour ER shifts. I also attended UMBR so one of my weekend days was taken up by that but if I hadn’t, I think my weekends would have mostly been free. As far as holidays go, if it’s a federal holiday, you will probably have the day off. My AICM semester was in the fall and we had Thanksgiving Day free. I hope this answers some of your questions.

      • Anonymous Says:

        Wonderful, thanks for your great responses! One last question though: I know that the daily schedule varies but on the days where there is a lecture/group meeting/rotation what is the range of hours in the day that may be spent in those activities? is it 2-8 hours? 4-10 hours? 10-16 hours? Im sorry if this question seems odd I am just trying to figure out how much time I will be able to have to devote to USMLE studying during the semester. Thanks again!

      • evilangelfish Says:

        Hi there,
        here’s a really rough idea of the amount of time you’ll be spending on your day to day activities. On Wednesdays when you have large-group lectures, you will generally be spending between 4 and 8 hours attending lecture. Usually, it’s more like 5 or 6 but that may vary. On small-group days, count on being at the 7000 Building for between 2 and 4 hours. On rotation days, it really varies depending on where you are assigned. I can only comment on my experience for that. While I was on a 2 week peds rotation in Hialeah, we were expected to be there for 8 hour days. When I was at North Shore for ER, I was there for three 10-12 hour shifts over the whole 2 weeks. When I was on OR rotation in South Miami, we were there as long as the surgeries lasted – sometimes only a couple of hours, sometimes for 8 hours. And again, everyone’s experience is different.

        I think that if you plan wisely around your schedule and use your time effectively, you will be able to prepare adequately for Step 1. While you may not be able to put in 12-hour days of studying more than a couple times a week (if that’s what you feel you need), you will certainly be able to devote at least a small portion of your day to test prep. Take a practice test from USMLEWorld or NBME when you’re done with AICM to gauge your readiness for Step 1 and if you feel you are not yet ready, you can always push the test back and spend more time studying. I hope this helps!

      • Anonymous Says:

        You are absolutely awesome! Thanks for the detailed reply, good luck in your EM rotation and on step 2 🙂


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