exam time - need reassurance

hi all - over the last year, this group has become an important part of my medical career. you supported me through the post-bacc year - thus assisting in my acceptance to medical school…
so here i am, a first year student with my first round of exams coming up at the end of this week. and i am scared beyond words. we have gross, histo, and embryology (a combined test of all three). the exam is worth 15% of our grade. i have taken a few practice exams and have not passed any of the exams as of yet. clearly, i have my work cut out for me in this coming week.
i was hoping those of you with experience might lend some reassurance - if i fail these first tests, i will be able to dig myself out of this hole. is it rare to find someome failing these first tests? i just feel like i don't belong in medical school. my background is pretty weak and i'm not good at memorizing. i think i'll shine in my third and fourth year but i feel like i might not make it there.
the second question i have is this: can you guys share pointers/lessons learned as you progresed through the first (and second years) on how to be an effective studier/learner/student. clearly, everyone learns differently but my strategy right now is clearly not working and i'd love some advice.
thanks all - hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend…

Hey Kelly,
It is not uncommon for first year medical students to fail an exam right off the bat. What you don’t want to do, at this point, is own failure. The first set of exams will tell you whether you are on the right track. You may need to take your studying to a higher plane or you may need to cut back a bit because you are overlearning. Just remember that it will be the first exams for everyone in the class. Everyone is doing the same adjustments that you are going through.
Don’t let the talk of others psyche you into not performing well. You may hear your classmates boast about their great performances. It is just some folks’ way of “letting off steam” to mask their insecurities. You have to take care of you own needs at this point and have tunnelvision. Let mastery of the information be your guide. Divide up what you have left to cover, divide up the number of days and set a reasonable study schedule to cover it. Go into every exam with the idea that you are going to do well. Let the practice exams tell you where you need to put your emphasis.
Medical school is very different from undergraduate. If you don’t learn something, your patient may die from your lack of knowledege. All of those little details will become important in some way when you begin to practice and get into the clinical years so don’t neglect anything. I never felt totally confident going into any exam in medical school. I failed a couple but I did pretty well on most so use your fear of failure to push you even more.
The other common freshman mistake is shooting for “just passing” and ending up “just failing”. A test failed is information that you will have to work on remedially during the summer or before USMLE Step I or Comlex I. It is far better to work your tail off learning the material in the first place than trying to learn it for a board exam. You review for USMLE and you study for your class exams.
Give each subject the full attention that it needs. Like I said above, figure out what you have to cover and make arrangements to get it done. You would not be sitting in that seat if you didn’t have the tools to ace each exam on the first time out. Your grades on your first set of exams will not determine whether you will be an excellent physician. What happens after you get your grades and what kind of work ethic you have for getting on track if you don’t do well at first will say lots about your ability to do patient care.
If you fail, do your post-mortem, hit the next set with even more vigor, and be prepared to get the failed material mastered for boards and clinical practice at a later day. A good case scenario is that you pass but have some room to “ratchet up” your efficiency. Just because you have lots to do in the next week, don’t let being tired push you into giving up on this set. Shake off your failures on your practice exams and jump in with vigor. If you are just falling asleep every time you sit down, get a little rest and then change your study venue so you don’t sleep there. Do what ever it takes to master this material because(believe me on this one rolleyes.gif ) you are going to be doing whatever it takes to save one of your patients one day soon.
I have solid confidence in you getting everything done. You have worked hard to get to this point and you are going to make the adjustment that will bring you successfully through medical school. This whole medical school experience is a wonderful jouney that will test your mettle mentally and physically. The end reward is a wonderful career where you can really make a difference in the lives of your patients. Get your sword out and "Let’s roll."