i failed my exams - advice?

ok - so here i am - facing the fact that i failed two out of my three written exams and one out of two of my practical exams. granted the exams aren’t worth that much (between 15 and 20% of final grade) and i didn’t fail histology or gross anatomy by a wide margin but i am still concerned about my performance. i thought my post-bacc year would have taught me the study skills i needed but i feel like i’m floundering here in a sea of ignorance. i’m tired of feeling like i don’t belong - i felt this way last year in the post-bacc and i feel this way again in medical school. i’m holding tight to the notion that people don’t often fail out of medical school but what if i am the one in my class who does…
i guess i’m writing this email - begging people to share with me their study techniques and lessons learned. i know there are those of you who will simply say - figure out what works best for you but at this point, i feel like i don’t have time to do what works best (which for me has been reading two or three different textbooks, taking detailed notes, making flash-cards, etc…) i feel as though i’m being a pain as i often write to oldpremeds in distress but i fear i am beginning to drive my support systems crazy - they all tell me to relax (which i should) but i can’t help but look at the results of this exam and wonder.
any and all help would be greatly appreciated.
kelly sad.gif

Since I'm not in med school, I guess the only advice I can offer is to start seeking help immediately. Go to your profs, or your advisor or somebody at your school that might be able to help. I know at undergrad institutions they often have a tutoring service available which often includes study skills/habits/etc. I don't know if such a thing exists at your med school, but I'd be surprised if it does not.

Oh, something else I just thought of - did you feel that you studied adequately for the exams and just came up short? Or, was there something that happened (personal issues, illness, etc.) that didn't allow you to study sufficiently? If something happened that didn't allow you to study enough, then I wouldn't sweat it - you'll pass the next ones and should pass the courses. On the other hand, if you did everything possible and still failed, well then that's another story. In that case, you may need to alter your study techniques.
Good luck,

During my first year of medical school, my dad was terminally ill with metastatic cancer. My concentration was so shot - I remember feeling in anatomy class as though someone had tossed a phone book into my lap and said, “here, memorize this”. My performance was so poor. I failed my first two test by a slim margin, and was left needing to make a 96% on my third test just to pass the course. Of course, we don’t make it into med school without some pretty remarkable test-taking skills, and I made - you guessed it - a 96% on my final.
Well, I took a year long leave of absence, took care of my dad until he died, and then returned to my second year of school a new woman. My scores were suddenly dramatically improved, putting me in the top of the class on many tests. The difference was so striking that the administration was looking into whether I had perfected the art of cheating during my absence. Nothing that easy though…I was just working my tush off.
Long and short of it…they asked me to start tutoring ‘at risk’ students, which I did. And I’m happy to report that the study techniques that saved my own hiney also worked to graduate every person that I worked with.
Here’s what we did. You’re right, you don’t have time for detailed notes or flashcards. I presume that your school provides some sort of hand out or realistic length reading assignment?
* Every single weekday morning, I (and my student) would get up and ARRIVE at school at 5 am. Classes started at 8am, so that gave me 3 hours. I would read, cover to cover, the hand out for the lectures for that day. Then I would read, cover to cover, the handout for the previous day’s lectures.
*Every evening after classes, I would again read, cover to cover, the handout from that days lecture, and would take the time to look up points I didn’t understand, or expand on issues with textbook readings when appropriate.
Then, systematically select a prior day’s lectures and read, cover to cover, the handouts from that day. Keep a log book with highlights or checkmarks so you can keep track of where you are in your review.
Now, it’s maybe 6 to maybe 8 pm, you are DONE. Rest, watch TV, hang out with your boyfriend, walk your dog, eat dinner, go work out, get to bed early.
Here’s the important thing: you have COMPLETELY reviewed each day’s lectures FOUR times by doing this - just in the normal course of the day, without any cramming or additional study. You will be amazed at how much the repetition sinks things into your subconcious. When test time approaches, you are reviewing stuff that, really, you already know.
It’s the consistency that does it. It was me, dragging my students out of bed, looking at their checklists, busting their buns EVERY DAY that did it. But they went from failing to, just like me, doing very, very well.
Just do it, girl. I know you can.

QUOTE (GED2MD @ Oct 9 2002, 11:13 PM)
Here's the important thing: you have COMPLETELY reviewed each day's lectures FOUR times by doing this - just in the normal course of the day, without any cramming or additional study.

GED is so right, I bombed the first Histo exam Kelly. I know where you are at, but I did mandatory repetition on the practical and got a high B. I can drop one exam and the lecture exam is it. From here on out I am under the gun.
Just do exactly what GED says. It will work.
Joe rolleyes.gif

One technique that has worked for me is to have a steady study partner. We study together just about every day for several hours. Reviewing the day’s material. Preparing for the coming exams. Never saving anything for the “night before”. We both have our strengths and weaknesses in different areas. This helps us both immensely because it really helps for me to solidify my knowledge when I try to teach someone else. We each make review sheets from the lecture notes that we share to see how complete they are. We do the same with flashcards. We constantly quiz each other on different topics. It also helps to have a partner in areas that are a bit more complicated (such as immunology). At times, I’ll think I understand some pathway but in reality be missing some hidden concept that my study partner will point out. It’s been working great for both of us.
Keep you head up…You will get through!
I forgot to add, we also have a common hobby…ping-pong. We’ll usually play for about 45 minutes to an hour each day. Often discussing material as we play. It’s sort of like studying, relieving stress, and having fun at the same time.

I'm not in med school, but have you considered getting Dr. Pelley's SuccessTypes book? It's about concept mapping. I've used it, and I've found it useful even now while I'm pre-med, and the book was written for med students.

Hey Kelly,
About half of my class failed all of their first set of exams during freshman year. The key point is that you do a quick post-mortem of where you made your mistakes and learn from them. MPP also had a great idea in that you should try to find a steady study partner and work with each other. Groups of three are OK but more than that get to be social sessions. Set a study schedule and stick with it. Learn from each other and discuss concepts with each other. It is very common for students to not do well on the first set of exams. Put the “failure” word behind you and look to the next set with an idea of getting to work efficiently as early as possible.
Don’t underestimate the value of any tutorial sessions that may be offered at your school. Go to the sessions and soak up any tips. Did you run out of time on your exams? Were you having difficulty with concentration? I know that you will settle into a successful study mode and get your info mastered. Also, don’t forget that many of your fellow students are in the same situation that you find yourself in. Ask for help from upperclassmen.
Just don’t let one set of exams spook you too much. You just need to make some adjustments and get through everything. Take a deep breath and get into the tasks at hand. Good luck and know that you are in good company! biggrin.gif

I’m a first year, too, and have struggled as well, particularly in Biochem. One thing that may help is if your instructors give hand outs with objectives, I’ve found that by focusing on those first, and then as time and concentration allow, adding to those has helped. Also, I would agree that repetition helps immensely. If I don’t go over stuff within a day or two of having it in lecture, when I look at it if I didn’t know I was there, I would think it was for a lecture I hadn’t heard.
Also… I find that many mini-breaks help (within reason). I get up and have a soda, or do a little chore (take out the garbage), or something for five minutes every hour or so. It helps.
Also, study groups are a BIG help, if you have them organized. One group I’ve studied with takes turns “presenting” each lecture, by quizzing the others in the group over a lecture, and “explaining” anything that needs explaining–others jump in to help if needed, but the person presenting keeps control (to avoid it becoming a free for all). This is a really nice way to review for the exam, but works best if everyone is fairly well prepared.
Everyone I know in my class is feeling at least somewhat overwhelmed, so remember you’re not alone. You can do it, I know it. We’ll make it through.