For over 48 hours we pondered our fates. During this time my emotions were raging from extreme elation from being finished with my first medical school exam to despair because in all honesty, I thought I’d failed.
I had studied so hard to the point where I could move through my notes in my head but when I hit the second question of my exam none of that mattered. The reason I studied so hard was because of a bad experience I had had with the MCAT. I ended up doing very poorly on the CARS section and I had promised myself I would do better in graduate school; Not only mastering my classes but also doing well on step 1. Yet, by the time I hit question 20 on my first medical school exam, most of them unanswered, I began to panic and my hopes for doing well dwindled down to me hoping that I would at the very least pass. It was as if all the knowledge that I had somehow accumulated over that short 5-week period wasn’t even the basic understanding to answer these complex medical questions. With my last bit of resolve, I whispered a soft prayer, determined to put my best foot forward and fight for every question I could, there would be no more skipped questions. Out of 103 questions I was maybe sure about 30 of them and guessed on the rest. This was my first encounter with these second and third order questions of which I’ve come to understand is just the nature of the beast of being in medical school.
In the end, I was so happy with how that block went (I ended up with 96%) and I hoped this would continue into the future. I also began to understand that the work that I put into my studying can exponentially pay off. Yet as a whole, I liked how we were able to incorporate this basic science knowledge into clinical applications throughout the course. I believe this kind of learning gave new meaning to the basic science topics because I knew it would help me care for patients in the future. In my opinion, I believe this kind of learning would also allow information to “stick” better in my brain.
My study habits consistently developed over the pre-clinical years which allowed me to continually do well in class material. Every block presented new challenges and pushed me to discover new ways over covering such a large amount of information. I became confident in my abilities to acquire knowledge for long term retention. In the end, I was overjoyed that I was able to get a 252 on my step 1 board exam.
Coming from a community that is always thought to do poorly on standardized exams, this meant a lot to me that I had done well. I wanted to be able to help other minority students learn how they best study. Around the same time, I had received great feedback from my peers about helping others understand topics during small groups and wondered how I could use this to accomplish my goal. I loved teaching. There was just something about the process of working with others to develop a deeper understanding of a topic. It was such a rewarding feeling to know that you played a small roll in someone’s ‘A-Ha’ moment when a learning objective finally clicks.
Fortunately, I was presented with an opportunity to tutor throughout my 2nd and 3rd years.
I remember sitting in that meeting after we were chosen as tutors. I was the only black girl in the room. It’s amazing how imposter syndrome can find its way into your mind even if you know you exceeded the criteria for being chosen. Sitting there, I contemplated how so few of people who look like me ever get to be at tables likes these. I knew then I had to do more than helping the few I could during our study sessions.
Over the course of a year I began developing a blog, sincerelystarling.com, to help a wider base of students who may be struggling with medical school and to overall help more minorities do well on their boards. It is my belief that seeing someone with similar circumstances to you has overcome a particular hurdle has a enormous impact on helping you overcome that same hurdle. Representation matters. My content mainly focuses on how to excel during the pre-clinical years, study tips and tricks, as well as how I studied for step 1.
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#ontheblog! Test-taking Strategy & Ting | …I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a huge exam looming over my head. Can you? Having good test-taking skills can unfortunately make or break you on this journey…We focus on the struggle to triumph, && rightly so, but for every one of those there are twice as many stories about how someone didn’t get into medical school for the 4th time or their residency of choice… it’s so unfair… but at the end of the day, a test/score will never define who you are or the type of doctor you will be! ▪️ Here’s a few of my favorite tips that’s helped me over the years. Check out the blog for fixes & more in depth explanations. ▪️ Did you see your go to strategy on the list? Comment your favorite numbers below! Didn’t see your fav listed? Let me know what it is in the comments!
It’s been over a year since I started my blog and I’ve had over 10k views. I have received tons of comments and thank you notes from people studying medicine all around the country and world. It’s been a very rewarding process to know that I played a small part in helping my community do better in this area.
As I reflect on all that I have been able to accomplish during medical school I realize that this is only the beginning. Medicine is a never-ending learning process and constantly requires you to be an independent learner. Residency will entail utilizing those same skills and developing them to be even stronger as we will have clinical responsibilities we did not have before. My goal is to continue to teach my peers and those coming after me throughout my career as a physician.