Medical students are some of the most passionate book collectors I’ve ever met. Look at any medical student’s bookshelf and you’ll see countless review books and textbooks and possibly even some undergrad textbooks they brought “just in case” they need to reference something. This carries over into class and the library where people see their classmates using books they don’t have, which makes them feel like they need it too.
I know I’ve been guilty of it myself, but rarely have I purchased a book that I looked back on a year later and felt was truly worth it. More often it just made me feel better at the time before it sat on my shelf collecting dust.
Book collecting syndrome seems to increase around more stressful exam, so it’s no wonder that some students seem to buy every single step 1 review book they can find. Unfortunately there are still but 24 hours in a day and most of those books will get a brief skimming at best.
Allow me to make a suggestion for all my fellow book collectors: buy fewer books but know them better.
When it comes to boards, this means buy a broad review book like Kaplan’s Med Essentials or First Aid and KNOW IT COLD. This does not mean look at the pages and think you know it, it means really dive in and know it so well you could reproduce the charts from memory and spit back any fact in its pages. Remember: you won’t get exam questions that simply ask you to spit back facts; you’ll need to integrate them and you can only do this if you really know the material well.
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These books cover 80-90% of what you’ll see on Step 1. Don’t be like most students who freak out about that last 10-20% and neglect the most important stuff. These people will spend hours memorizing obscure diseases that will MAYBE get them one point, but neglect to learn vitamins or the adrenal steroid pathway really well and blow 4-5 questions.
Was this a good use of time? Would this have been avoided if only they had more books? Probably not. Pick a major review book and commit to learning it completely. Remember that some of that 10-20% of minutiae will be stuff you’ve learned in MS1 and MS2 so you will pick up a few of those points just from associative memory. When you’re practice NBME tests are consistently around 250-260, maybe then you can start thinking about learning a little more minutiae. Even then, 20 hours of minutiae vs 20 hours of deeper understanding of high yield material…which do you think will translate to more questions right on test day?
If you’re doubting this, go on SDN and read reports from people who took it. Does anyone ever say they think the minutiae are what killed them? Notice how so many of them seem to get tests that are coincidentally heavy in their weakest areas? Inevitably they all say that there were some questions that no amount of study would have prepared them for, so don’t waste your time. These people also say that a lot of what they missed was in their main review book but they just couldn’t rememeber it in the moment because of how the question was asked. Don’t fall into the minutiae trap. Master the stuff you can master.
Obviously I’m a little biased because our product is basically designed to help you memorize and master the most tested high yield material. I wouldn’t be putting out a product I didn’t think could help others do significantly better and I hope you’ll consider giving it a try when the time comes.