Please visit the resources below, which have been selected based on the research on successful medical students and frequently asked questions from College of Medicine M2 students.

To find learning and study strategies focused on specific topics (e.g., note-making, creating study aids, developing a study plan, test-taking, or time management) and relevant research, visit the content in Learning and Study Strategies.

Learning and study strategies for organ systems and Step 1

Perform exam autopsies to enhance performance

After completing a quiz, exam, or practice test, review and analyze your performance by asking the following questions and/or creating a table to analyze your errors (see example below). Then strategically prioritize your studies to review knowledge gaps, enhance your approach to answering questions, identify and reduce test anxiety, and/or implement strategies to enhance wellness and resilience.

1. What were your main sources of errors?

  • Insufficient knowledge:
    • Information wasn't in your recent notes.
    • Studied it, but couldn't remember.
    • Knew information, but couldn't apply it.
  • Strategy
    • Didn't read carefully.
    • Didn't strategically use EASE or check-point processes/approaches.
    • Experienced challenges with pacing.
    • Practice S1M strategies.
  • Test-taking error
    • Changed answer.
    • Accidentally marked the wrong option.
    • Didn't manage time.
  • Test anxiety
    • Panicked.
    • Froze.
    • Negative thoughts.
  • Physical/mental
    • Tired.
    • Hungry.
    • Tired and couldn't concentrate.
    • Need sleep.

2. Can you reduce this type of error on the next assessment? How? What are your plans?
3. Create an Analysis of Test Errors table or spreadsheet

Example Test Error Worksheet

Preparing for the Comprehensive Basic Science Exam

Comprehensive Basic Science Exam. As an M2, you will have the opportunity to take the CBSE three times during your M2 academic year. While schedules vary, typically students have taken this exam in December, February, and in March. "The CBSE is basically a shorter version of Step 1 that covers material that is typically learned during basic science education (National Board of Medical Examiners, n.d., p. 1). The CBSE is intended to be a useful tool for comparing your performance with a large, nationally representative group taking the licensing exam at the end of the second year of medical school. Visit the NBME website to review the content specifications and to access sample test questions.

    The day before CBSE

    1. If you have time, work two or three qbank blocks of mixed/randomized questions to revisit topics.
    2. Prepare snacks for breaks during the exam.
    3. Practice effective strategies for reading, analyzing and answering questions.
    4. Stay positive and reframe any negative thoughts.
    5. Monitor your pacing.
    6. Practice "skipping" technique (For example, if you don't know an answer, rule options in or out, pick the best, mark the question and move on. Then, let your subconscious work on the answer and if you have time, review marked questions. Only change the answer if you have an epiphany or if you realize you made a mistake.
    7. Eat and sleep well prior to the exam.
    8. Snack and hydrate as needed during the exam.
    9. Walk, stretch, do yoga, jumping jacks, etc. during breaks.

    Use the CBSE results to self-assess your academic progress and to inform your study plans

    1. Identify areas of strength.
    2. Identify areas of weakness.
    3. Do the results make sense?
      - Are you weaker in areas that haven't been covered in the curriculum?
      - Are you weaker in areas that have been challenging for you?
    4. Review your incorrect answers and analyze mistakes.
    5. Look at the questions you missed that correspond with weaker, heavier-weighted areas.
    6. Now, or during Intensive Study Period (ISP), review resources needed for weaker areas. Do you need a supplemental resource/text?
    7. Now, or during ISP, plan to spend more time on weaker areas and/or first-year topics (e.g., work 3 – 5 question per night on a weaker subject area).
    8. Watch for trends in CBSE or practice tests.
      - Be careful that strategies to address weaker areas are effective, if applicable.
      - If you aren't progressing as you'd like, this is often an indication that you need to increase your level of understanding in that area. (Gebremedhin, 2012, P. 115).

    M3 comments, suggestions or advice for medical school colleagues (October 2016)

    • The most important thing is just staying on top of your schoolwork during your M1/M2 years. I focused all my attention on the current organ system, then devoted summer/winter breaks to covering topics that I wanted a second/third/fourth look at.
    • Stay focused, and have some sort of study plan beginning from at least January (maybe even earlier, depending on your learning style) so that you can stay on track.
    • Make sure to take your exams seriously throughout the year. This will give you a great base to study from when you get to your actual exam! People, do not panic if you go up slowly on your tests. You will be stressed. You will panic. You will want to give up. DO NOT! You are not alone. We all struggle and it's difficult. But if it was easy anyone could get a good score. Stay positive and work hard because hard work is rewarded.
    • Do what suits you best and don't stress out about what others are doing to prepare and don't compare yourself to others who perform significantly different than you in class. Comparison to peers who normally score similarly to you on exams can be helpful for assessing the effectiveness of study methods.
    • The most important thing is to focus on classwork. I did well on all of my exams, and that foundation was vital for succeeding in studying for Step 1. Go through UWorld SLOW at first, really understand all the answers. Do NOT panic if your initial NBME scores are low. My CBSE before ISP was a 182, and I went up a solid 60 points on my actual exam.


    Gebremedhin, D. (2012). The Step 1 Method. Gebremedhin.

    National Board of Medical Examiners. (n.d.). Score Interpretation guide for students. Philadelphia, PA.