What is med school really like?

I’m looking for some info or direction toward resources talking about what the day to day life in med school (particularly the first 2 yrs) is really like. By this I mean

  • hours of class a day

  • hours spent studying

  • types of assignments

    -typical schedule

    I want to know more about what I may be getting myself into…



Also, see my presentation from 2011.

pretzelface –

Well, our school had a “policy” of not more than 26 hours of lecture/week. But lab is apparently not counted in here. I can’t attach a copy of one of my second year schedules, but here’s a summary of a week in last September: Monday : Lecture (respiratory system) 8-12, 1-3. Respiratory system independent study 3-5. Tuesday: OMT lab 8-10, lecture 1-3 pm (Respiratory Pharm). Wednesday: OPP lecture 8-9, Resp/internal med lecture 9-12, 1-4. Thursday: Respiratory Lecture 8-12; Clinical Skills lab 1-5 pm; Friday lecture 8-12 - Resp/ medical ethics/ geriatrics/family practice. 1-4 independendent study (off essentially).

So it was 8-4 or 5 every day with 1 1/2 afternoons off and 2 hours one morning off. Of course, that might be taken up with prep for lab. Considering it takes me at least 2 hours to “review” and study/do objectives and reading for 1 hour of lecture (some more, some less. Closer to 3 hours at first but I got faster), that means that if there were “only” 4 hours of lecture a day, I am probably getting 2 of them reviewed. So I might have 12-16 hours of lecture still to review on the weekend (ie 24-30 hours of studying). Of course, I don’t generally get that much done, so some lectures are imperfectly reviewed (if at all) and that is where I’d take a bit of a hit on exams. That’s it - crunch, repeat. I tended to work a solid 24 hours the weekend before a test, and sometimes pull an “almost-all” nighter. I recommend NOT doing that - 6 hours of sleep should be a minimum. The more you get done during the breaks and “independent study” times, the better.

Some schools have significantly less lecture time. You can stay home and listen to the audio of the lecture, on 1.5 speed, and save some time. First year there is more anatomy lab time and somewhat less lecture time while anatomy is going on. But, you are probably a bit slower with reading and reviewing. I’m not quite in the “gunner” category but studied more than a lot. I do know one kid who studied till 1-2 am every night during the week and slept 4-5 hours, that’s all. That would be the gunner extreme of the range. I know another who has kids who stayed at school from 8-6, studying anytime he wasn’t in class. Went home and had supper with kids. Came back and studied 7:30 to 9 - went home to put kids to bed. Some nights he came back and studied, some he didn’t. Led the boyscout troop on the weekends. That sounds like he did well balancing it. However he did fail 2nd year and is repeating this year.

Third year - my rotations have generally been 7 or 8-4 or 5, although last one varied by doctor. was either 7-3:30 or 7a to 7p, depending on the week. But 5 days/week with 1-2 weekends /month also worked if it is a rotation where you take call.

Keeping up is crucial. You will inherently be

“behind” by the weekend,but if you have worked on studying several hours each day, you will probably not have more than 12 hours of studying you really MUST do on the weekend. After a test, you generally have an afternoon and evening where there is no new material to study. So woohoo!!


Two quotes come to mind…

“The days are long and the weeks are short.”

In other words, the days go on forever. Some days last for a week at a time. But, when it’s all over, the weeks fly by.

“I study ALL THE TIME.”

Literally, the only time I am not studying is when I am sleeping or I have given myself a break to be human being. Notice I didn’t say eating? I study while I eat. I study in the shower (self-quizing). I do board questions when I work out. And… I still don’t know everything yet.

That being said, it is STILL WORTH IT!!

I waited 20 years to get to do this and it is worth it.

I’m at a DO school in the SE. We have a block schedule - 4 blocks per year - that are systems based. As a 2nd year, we are now on block 7, so I am ALMOST DONE - Joy! Typical week includes (and this is an ave over the past 2 years) 4 - 8 hours a day of lecture/lab/student directed learning. At least 3 days a week were 8 hour days of committed time. Study time averages about 32 - 40 more hours depending on exams and the subject area. Literally, we study “all the time”.

Here is a test for you - Go to a big book store and find a “First Aid for USMLE Step 1” book. If they don’t have one, have one ordered for the store. You don’t have to buy it just because you asked them to get a copy in. When you find it, skim it over. In two years time, you must know every fact within that resource. And that is why you are studying all the time.

I absolutely love what I am doing and am so grateful to have the chance. It is WORTH EVERY MINUTE of study time to me.

Good luck!!