"Winning" in Medical School

Posted by Keith Frankel on Sep 27, 2017 2:06:16 PM
Find me on:

Over the past 8 years, more than 150,000 medical students have used Firecracker, and on average, they score 16 points higher on their USMLE Step 1 board exams, regardless of incoming MCAT score. We recently asked a group of our most successful past students what advice they’d give new med students regarding how to “win” at medical school. Here are four tips that we've gathered, from their experiences.

The end of our Back to School seasonal sale is this Saturday - 'til then, you can get Firecracker MD and DO - all flash cards, q-bank, and practice exams - for $300 for 2 years (or any other term you need). Here.

Tip #1: Always Optimize for Study Efficiency.

No matter how you slice it, the truth is that the volume of content you’ll be responsible for in med school is sobering, to say the least. In fact, we estimate that for just your preclinical years, you’ll be expected to learn nearly 14,000 individual concepts. Yikes. That’s why study efficiency is so important, and why the highest performing Firecracker students spend only 20-30 seconds on each question. Seem fast? Well that’s because it’s supposed to be. Although it feels correct to spend a good portion of time really scrutinizing each question, this is actually detrimental to both your long-term mastery and study efficiency over time. 

So, too, is spending unnecessary time attempting to create and manage your own study materials, such as flashcards. Don’t believe us? Just listen to your peers:

  1. I started using Firecracker during the micro block at the tail end of MS1. I had previously been making my own flashcards using other apps, but loved that Firecracker resources were not only pre-made (saving me hours each week of flashcard making that I felt were low yield as far as long-term retention),”. ~ MD Candidate UC San Diego
  2. When my classmates were front-loading themselves with work, making their own flashcards, I realized quickly that I could eliminate that entire step [with Firecracker].” ~  Lee, MD Candidate FSU 2019
  3. “Repetition was the key for me. I made Anki cards during the school year for tests, but knew they were not quite comprehensive and were too detailed. Firecracker allowed for rapid review of many topics. I mostly reviewed based on Firecracker’s algorithm, rather than by topic.” ~ Joseph, MD Candidate University of Arizona-Tucson College of Medicine 2019

Firecracker’s team of content experts has already created and categorized nearly 27,000 flashcards and 3,300 board-style questions across 2,200 high yield topic summaries. Combined with a recommendation engine which creates your daily study plans for you, there’s no easier way to optimize study efficiency than with Firecracker.

Tip #2: Answer At Least 2000 Board-Style Questions

In 2014, the AAMC conducted a study that found a correlation between the number of Q-bank questions answered by students and their performance on Step 1. Their findings were interesting: Every 100 board-style questions = 1 point higher on the USMLE Step 1.

For years, med students have been using standalone Q-banks to get practice with test-style questions, and when analyzing the Firecracker student population, a specific number of questions answered correlated with the highest levels of success: 2,000 board-style questions answered inside of Firecracker. This is why every Firecracker MD & DO subscription includes an exhaustive Q-bank with over 2,300 board-style questions distributed across all of the testable topic areas, providing you all of the material you’ll need to ace Step 1, Step 2, and all of your Clerkships. When ready, you can access them via Study Something Specific:

q bank in Firecracker.png

Tip #3: Avoid Purchasing Too Many Resources

U-World, First Aid, Pathoma, Sketchy, Anki, Kaplan Q-bank, Cram Fighter, USMLE-Rx…. Every year, it seems like 5 new resources pop up promising to help med students with their board exams. And while there’s no doubt that some of these are certainly great solutions for improving specific areas of knowledge (we’re tipping our hats to you, Pathoma & Sketchy), most students fall prey to the same common pitfall, i.e. purchasing far too many resources. In today’s world, one of the benefits of every online learning platform should be its ability to successfully and accurately manage your studying for you, not just provide a database of learning content for you to browse through in an undirected, entirely manual way. The reason for this is simple: With a limited number of available hours in the day and a tremendous volume of material to master, students need to optimize the amount of time they spend reviewing and assessing the material, not navigating or managing it.

So regardless of which resource you ultimately choose to commit your time to, there are a few key elements to consider when making your buying decision:

  • Use a resource which is capable of managing the assignment of your daily or weekly study tasks for you, saving you time for the studying itself
  • Use a resource which you can use throughout your medical education, not just for your final board cramming period, ensuring the highest return on your investment
  • Use a resource which contains a broad collection of content types, including videos and/or topic summaries for high-yield review, flashcards for ongoing retention, and objective assessment questions for testing of mastery
  • Use a resource which transparently publishes its efficacy results and the analysis which went into determining them so you know your money is well spent
  • Use a resource which has a large number of students using it, since – in a field as high-stakes as medical education – nobody would use a resource if it didn’t work

Tip #4: Immediately Remediate Problem Areas

Over the course of your entire medical education, you will answer a whole lot of objective assessment questions, from basic multiple choice questions to multi-order board-style clinical vignettes. Some you’ll get right; some you’ll get wrong. And like the vast majority of students, your entire remediation strategy will consist of two steps: 1) Review the correct answer choice, and, if available, 2) read the correct/incorrect answer explanations. Sound familiar?

But in analyzing the behavior of Firecracker’s most successful students, it’s clear that they include two additional steps in their remediation efforts for incorrectly-answered questions: 1) Review the foundational area being tested on each failed question by either reading the relevant topics or working through a collection of related flashcards, and 2) add notes to the relevant foundational material being reviewed in order to highlight exactly which concepts contributed to answering the question incorrectly. But there’s one important element to both of these: the most successful students remediate in this way immediately after completing the exam. They don’t wait until the next day, or even later that evening. They do so immediately when the material is at its freshest in their memory.

This is built in to Firecracker - anytime you take an exam, or even just complete a Daily Patient Case, you'll have the opportunity to review your answer and immediately remediate with flash cards.

We hope that by sharing these tips we’ve made it easier than ever to add some new tricks to your study repertoire.

Topics: Medical Education, How to Use Firecracker

Welcome to Firecracker

Firecracker is an adaptive learning platform that uses amazing content coupled with spaced repetition to help medical students crush their exams. We offer programs for both individual students, and entire medical schools. If you'd like to learn more contact us at chat@firecracker.me.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts