The following is a guest-authored blog post from John, a second-year medical student at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, one of Firecracker's more than twenty official partner institutions:
Trust the technology. A 32-year-old Kenyan named Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon in just two hours and twenty-six seconds. Before he began his record breaking run he was asked how he was going to do it, he responded that he was going to trust the technology. Eliud Kipchoge was talking about a shoe that would make his marathon faster, but I’m writing about a technology that makes medical students more efficient. You just have to trust the technology.
My school decided to integrate firecracker into its curriculum during my first year of medical school. I chose early on to use and keep up with firecracker and couldn’t be happier with the service. The software has benefited me in learning new material, performing well on the school exams, and excelling on national exams.
First seeing the material
Professors work with firecracker to select topics related to material in the current unit. With a couple of clicks I can easily mark every topic that I need to know. Flipping back and forth to the different sections and often not realizing that an important section was missed wastes a lot of time when using traditional resources like First Aid.
Premade flashcards of material are available for each separate hour of lecture. This allows me to quiz how much I know and find out what I missed right after I learned the subject. The topics are also very well written, comprehensively covering the high yield topics with more explanation than I would find in First Aid.
Medical School Exams
Firecracker also gives me an edge when preparing for the school’s written exams through their generous question bank. The topics that the school marked when integrating the material can be used as custom question banks for each week of material. I am able to do dozens of clinical vignettes related to the material, and when I miss a question I not only get rationale, but Firecracker creates a custom deck of review cards so I can correct any misunderstandings right away. This has been particularly powerful, because all other question banks give a short rationale and don’t allow for a more robust review of the relevant material.
When I first started at my school, we got custom made questions written by professors for the class. These questions had typos and were often inconsistent with study material. Since the school partnered with Firecracker, the weekly quizzes have come from their question bank. These questions are more consistent with the material we are learning, and any questions I missed are made into a custom deck of review cards and allows me to fill in any gaps in understanding.
Our school has us take a national NBME at the end of every block. Approaching these early on was daunting, since we had a couple days to review 8-12 weeks of material for every shelf exam. The second semester of my first year I was able to bring my NBME scores up a full standard deviation by trusting Firecracker’s daily algorithm. Each day I wake up and do their daily review during the block. Firecracker picks cards from previous units to review in order to retain the material. The software graphs my progress in mastering different subjects which provides a quantitative perspective for the entire block as I approach the national boards. The time I used to spend cramming in equations and relearning basic facts for the NBME is now used for questions that I have historically struggled with.
Firecracker is a powerful tool for learning material, acing your exams, and beating the curve on national boards. My school chose the technology, I trusted it, and as a result I feel very in control of my performance in medical school.