Admitting you cannot always do it on your own and you are not always right

I am going to forgo one of the usual blog posts about a particular medical topic or a direct strategy to tackle questions on your exams and talk about what can hold you back. The answer to this question is being a lone wolf. You need to learn that most people cannot excel on your own, at least not completely. From my own experience this almost hurt my USMLE Step 1 score.

I will begin by saying that even when I was in university I was told I was smart because I could pick up on concepts quickly. This label ultimately hurt me as I was so desperate to keep this label I rarely sought help or worked with others. I felt that asking someone for aide was admitting I was not as clever as people thought I was. I majored in biochemistry and minored in math, so sometimes I would spend hours working through a problem that I could have understood faster if I would have sought a colleague or friend out. Does this sound like a smart person to you?

What I learned is a wise person learns from their mistakes, does not care about labels, and also knows what they do not know. Even though I am saying this the struggle of learning a new concept is crucial to success. This makes asking for help a balancing act. It is generally best to work through tough areas for a specific amount of time and then ask for help. How much time? That depends on how much studying time you have, but generally do not spend more than 15 to 20 minutes on a single concept. After that point you need to seek someone out or come back to it later.

I know some of you may be on your own and that is where my service can help you the most. At MCCEE tutoring services we will help you learn difficult concepts, how to apply them, and teach you study techniques so you do not repeat the same mistakes I made in university and early medical school. As a final thought, this post was primarily about studying, but it does apply to residency and beyond. Never be afraid to admit when you need even a little help.

That is all for this post, so if you want a free and non-obligatory consult on how to study for the USMLE, NBME exams, or MCCEE or any other medical exam check out and send me an email! If you liked this article or have experiences of your own you want to share just say so in the comments below!


Is it possible to study for the MCCEE?

The Medical Council of Canada Evaluating Exam (MCCEE) is a must for any foreign trained medical student who desires a residency in Canada. In 2018 the format is changing, but currently, it consists of 180 multiple choice questions (MCQ) with 30, or about 1 out of 6 questions, being experimental. There are 30 questions from each of the major subject areas: pediatrics, psychiatry, surgery, population health and ethics, medicine, and OB/GYN. The questions are all in a case, or vignette, format like the USMLE exams, but they are much shorter. Sometimes the questions are only a couple of sentences. This would mean it is easier right?

Doing a quick Google search refutes this claim. You will see many people complaining about the exam being random and impossible to study for. The main complaint I hear is that the questions are too vague and you do not have enough information to solve them. Does this remind you of a certain profession? It should. Being a doctor in the real world means you have to use probability to push you in the right direction and wait for any test results to come in. This means that doctors go with the demographics and symptoms presented and ask what is the most likely diagnosis and differential?

Just like a doctor in the real life and unlike the USMLE, the MCCEE does not give you enough information to solve the case outright. Instead it relies on you to know what the most likely cause is and how to manage the patient. This means it is not random, but instead makes you think from an epidemiologic perspective. This is what I call the science of generalizing. Being much shorter the MCCEE is also not the marathon the USMLE Step 2 CK is and gives you more time to think your answer through. If you think in the same way that a student would taking the USMLE exams you will find the exam frustrating and random. Please do not misinterpret this though. You still need to have all of the medical knowledge for the USMLE Step 1 and 2 CK, you just need to apply it in a different way. There will also be a few, “…out there” questions to quote one of my students. Just pray those are the experimental ones. There will also be health maintenance questions that are very straightforward.

That brings us to the initial question which was can you study for the MCCEE? Yes you can, but you need take the above information into consideration and study appropriately.

If you want a free and non-obligatory consult on how to study for the MCCEE or any other medical exam check out and send me an email! If you liked this article just say so in the comments below!

Stuff you might like to know about the USMLE Step 1 — The Life of All Sorts

This summer I spent my vacation studying full-time for a humongous test called USMLE Step 1. I’ve already been contacted by a few of people with questions about this, so I thought I’d post something about it here for those who are interested. What is the USMLE? It stands for United States Medical Licensing Exam. This is a […]

via Stuff you might like to know about the USMLE Step 1 — The Life of All Sorts

MCC, NBME, and USMLE Study Guide

This post will cover exam studying strategies. There are many exam taking strategies out there, but I want to add some much needed clarity.

1) Get the most out of your rotations

As long as your rotation is not just a pure observership and you are allowed to take part in diagnostic process you can quickly assimilate information necessary for your exams. I put this higher on the list than even question banks because of how powerful putting a face to a disease/condition is. Follow up by checking peer reviewed sources, such as UpToDate, so you can double check what you saw and get a good differential. This serves the double purpose of fact checking your diagnosis.

2) Use question banks… correctly

Question banks are great and you need to start them AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. Do not wait to start them as they are a learning tool not an assessment tool. They primarily act as an interactive textbook and studies have shown they increase your retention of material; however, Qbanks like UWorld are PACKED with information meaning you must make notes AND study from them. Many students of mine forget the second part at first. Time consuming, but worth it. Be sure to use the timed mode and go through all unused questions first, before doing the question bank again.

3) Do not get discouraged

Remember that making mistakes and getting questions wrong is not just a part of the learning process, it is the primary component. You will always learn more from making mistakes. Anytime you feel like giving up or not studying just remember this post.

4) Get a tutor early if you need help

 A good tutor will help you in more ways than one. To keep this article short, I will mention the important part. Exams test you on content and your ability to deal with questions you could not have studied for (ie. interpretation questions). A good tutor will help you in both of those areas. You can send me a message if you would like to know more on how MCCEE Tutoring Services achieves this goal.

5) Remember to have fun!

Medicine may be what you love and will take a lot of work, but remember to find healthy ways to reduce stress. Exercise, go out with friends, or go for hikes in places with more green than concrete and tell people if you are beginning to feel depressed/overwhelmed. The key is to prevent burn out.

Have any other suggestions? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to check out for other tools to help you on your exams!