Board Study Schedule

January 14, 2018

I've had SO MANY people asking me about my board study schedule, I figured it was time to write it all down in a blog post. Just like everything else - this is what worked for ME. I would never expect it to work for everyone.... so take it all with a grain of salt. Use it as an example.

My best advice:
1. Decide what your plan will be to study for board exams. And stick to it. Don't worry about what other people are doing!
2. Know yourself as a learner. You know yourself best and you need to be honest with yourself about what's going to work well for you.

P.S. You can also check out my post about the resources I used to study for my board exams, my review of DIT, and for entertainment sake, you can find 41 photos of studying for board exams. :)

ALL of my studying was designed around my desire to keep everything important in just one place. My brain needs my study information to be organized, color coded, and easy for me to find. So everything I did was designed around getting information into First Aid. You'll see what I mean...


  • I purchased USMLE RX and used those questions alongside my classroom work during second year. I didn't force myself to do any number of questions - I just worked on them when I had time. I loved that each answer explanation was linked back to a page in First Aid, so I could easily follow along and understand the concepts being tested. 
  • I started using DIT practice questions that were emailed to me three times a week. I liked those practice sets because the questions were free response and really challenged me to come up with answers on my own. All of these answer explanations were also linked to First Aid - so I started going back to that too. 
    • COLOR CODING: I'm super type A and color coding things helped me. I started to use a certain color (lime green- also, that detail is not important) to help me identify the important concepts DIT emphasized with practice questions. 
  • I purchased and started using Cramfighter. It's an amazing tool to help you create a study schedule. It's all online and the program helps you create a personalized study schedule based on the resources you want to use. I loved how easy it was to create a plan for the semester! 
    • I used the scheduling program to help me create a schedule to re-watch all of sketchy micro twice throughout the semester for review. 
  • I continued to use Pathoma & Sketchy Pharm throughout the school year along with my normal coursework. 
  • I created my final study schedule for May/June. I used cramfighter to help me figure out how I wanted to break up my study time. I finalized which resources I wanted to use and once I created my study plan, I stuck with it. Ignore what other people are doing & be confident in your plan! 

  • I bought UWORLD and began using it during psychiatry, my last block of the school year. I used all of my psych questions to study for my normal school exams and considered that block to be my intensive review of pscyh for board exams. 
  • Classes ended the last week of April. 
  • I took a few days off, but then I got right back to studying. Several classmates took more time off than I did, but I wanted to give myself enough time to get through what I had planned. 
  • I used Cramfighter to schedule everything during my board studies!! I cannot recommend it enough. 
    • Things I put onto my cramfighter: 
      • All of Pathoma for the first week of May & some UWORLD questions
      • Last three weeks of May, all of DIT & some UWORLD questions 
      • From the first week of May until my board exams, I rewatched Sketchy Micro again twice in its entirety and Sketchy Pharm once in its entirety.
  • I spent the first week of May re-watching all of Pathoma in its entirety. I rewatched the lectures because I preferred the videos over the textbook. I added any new information Pathoma had on a certain topic into First Aid if it wasn't already in there. 
    • COLOR CODING: I added all Pathoma information in a new color (orange, for no particular reason). 
  • I spent three weeks to finish all of DIT. I did everything DIT asked me to do: the quizzes before and after the lectures, the video lectures, and I added any additional information to First Aid that I needed to remember.
    • COLOR CODING: I used another color (purple) for DIT during board studies. It ofen overlapped with the first time I highlighted information from DIT in my First Aid book with the practice questions from January. This was helpful for me to know which concepts were heavily emphasized in January and then again in my serious board studies. 
  • I did UWORLD questions with any extra time I found throughout the day. 
    • In summary, my normal days in May: sketchy micro & pharm, pathoma or DIT, and UWORLD questions to fill the rest of the day. 
  • I finished UWORLD. People ask me all the time how many times I got through UWORLD and my answer is just once. If you have time to get through it twice or more, hats off to you. But I only got through it once and I did well on my exams. 
    • I also kept a UWORLD journal throughout my board studies. If you google it, you will find all kinds of suggestions and ways to have it help you! 
  • I took 4 practice NBME exams. I would highly recommend these. The exams will tell you which questions you got wrong, so take them with friends so you can compare anwers and learn from your mistakes. Everyone will have different opinions about the exams (don't fall too far down the student doctor rabbit hole), but for me:
    • comprehensive basic science (form 18) was the most difficult. It certainly won't build your self confidence! 
    • comprehensive basic science (form 17) was the most predictive of my actual board score. 
  • I did not take any NBOME practice exams, although I'm sure they would be helpful! 
  • I am happy I had three weeks to really focus on weak areas and use practice questions/exams. 
  • I took my USMLE on June 23 and my COMLEX on June 28. In between the exams, I was happy to have some time to sleep, take time off, and study OPP material for COMLEX. 
    • I used the Savarese OMM review book & read the first 10 or so chapters. I also did two of the practice exams in the back of the book. 
    • I purchased COMBANK and used all the OPP, ethics, and statistic questions in the q bank. Probably not a necessary purchase - but I did very well on COMLEX and I think all the time I spent studying the "extra material" in between USMLE and COMLEX made a big difference. 
Forgive my messy handwriting, but I also wanted to include a few examples of what my annotated First Aid looked like. Annotating First Aid helped keep me awake and physically writing things down helps me remember information. Annotating is not for everyone, but I loved that it helped me keep track of important concepts and it was easy for me to review the high yield information as I was flipping through First Aid. 

Green: practice questions from DIT (January/Feb)
Orange: Pathoma (first week of May)
Purple: DIT during board prep (last three weeks of may)

It was easy for me to see when I looked at the skin layers that this concept was emphasized multiple times by different resources! I also loved being able to add notes from various resources to the same place in First Aid. First Aid was my go to source for ALL of the information from ALL of my sources. 

Red stars: DIT ranks concepts based on "high yield". I always wrote those down in First Aid too in order to help me recognize important concepts at a quick glance
Red box/notes: questions I came across on the NBME practice exams that I wanted to keep track of
Green and purple are still the same as I mentioned in the above photo. 

Brown: where I circled PCT cells - was for anything that I came across in a UWORLD question that I wanted to remember
All other colors are the same as mentioned in the above photo captions. 
Annotating First Aid takes LOTS of time and again - it's not for everyone. But I kept absolutely everything in First Aid. Once I took information from a resource and annotated it in First Aid, I NEVER went back to that other resource again. I kept First Aid as my single collective source for everything - and quite honestly, I loved it. It worked very well for me! 

GOOD LUCK! That's how I got through my board studies and board exams. No matter how you do it, trust your own study plan and stick to it. As always, let me know if you have any questions! :) 

Monthly Update : October 2017

November 25, 2017

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October was a very busy month - surprise, surprise. I completed my orthopedic surgery rotation and grew quite accustomed to all the various tools used to fix bones in the OR. My own sweet husband had orthopedic surgery during October as well. He had his ACL and medial meniscus repaired, so October was full of surgery for my patients and husband this month!

We are still figuring out how to handle his life on crutches and getting things done around the house. He's such a trooper and we are both looking forward to his recovery!

I also started my OBGYN rotation in October and will share more about that later.

Monthly Update : September 2017

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September was full of surgery! I started my general surgery rotation and had to learn my way around the OR. I spent a lot of time studying different surgical techniques and practicing my suturing! The month went by quickly.

September also marked a full year of me documenting my life with the one second every day app. You can see the whole year of my life in 366 seconds here.

Meet Ashley : Women in Medicine

November 3, 2017

Social media can influence us in many different ways, but my favorite thing about social media is how easy it is to find inspiration. We can connect with people all around the world, simply by using the device in our white coat pocket. Throughout my journey through medical school, I have really enjoyed connecting with women on Instagram who have paved the way before me. Reading their posts and hearing their advice has given me hope and lifted my spirits, even on the darkest days of this journey.

This past summer, I wanted to learn more about some of the women some of these inspirational women. I wanted to discover more about their journey and seek their advice for handling all the bumps along the way. I believe everyone has a story, and by sharing those stories, we can uplift each other and value each other as mentors and friends. And so, I decided to start a women in medicine series on my blog.

As an aspiring pediatrician, I stumbled upon Ashley's Instagram and her positive captions immediately resonated with my soul. Ashley graciously took the time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for us about her life as a pediatric resident.

You can follow her journey here : @doctor.ashley

Ashley, MD
Where do you call home? The Bay Area, CA

Where did you go to school? I went to UCLA for undergrad where I earned a BS in Neuroscience. I took a gap year and worked in heart transplant clinical research for 1 year before starting medical school. I went to Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, where I received my MD.

What made you decide to pursue a career in pediatrics? I have always loved working with children. I enjoyed babysitting and in college, I sought out volunteer opportunities where I could interact and play with kids of all ages. My mom is a pediatric nurse and has always inspired me, so I think that also helped lead me to Pediatrics. Growing up, I would often visit her in the hospital (especially on holidays!) for a meal or just to say hi, and she would introduce me to some of her patients, which was my first exposure to peds.

I went to medical school with an open mind, and I actually enjoyed all my clinical rotations as a third year, so it was harder to decide on a specialty than I had anticipated. I considered Dermatology, Obgyn and even briefly ENT (I wanted to specialize in Pediatrics of course! I still think cochlear implants are amazing!). Ultimately, I chose Pediatrics because I love the patient population and liked the "bread and butter" of Peds as well as the fascinating congenital pathology/anomalies. I considered lifestyle and the culture in my ultimate decision. In Pediatrics, I also definitely fit in and clicked with the attending pediatricians and residents and I was able to identify doctors that I wanted to emulate.

What is your favorite experience since starting your residency? Least favorite or most challenging aspect? My favorite experiences have been discharging kinds from the hospital or ED because they are feeling better! It's so rewarding to have a child come in crying, appearing miserable, and after you reach the correct diagnosis and treat the child, the child returns to their happy, playful self! My least favorite part is dealing with difficult diagnoses, such as a brain tumor or cancer in a child. 

What was important to you when you were ranking residency programs for the match? How did the couples match play into your decision? The couples match definitely added complexity to the whole situation. We wanted to find good programs for the both of us. We both went on some interviews we didn't really want to go to if the other person really loved their corresponding program. Thankfully, it worked out perfectly for us and we are so happy at our respective programs! Honestly, the couples match was the largest factor in our decision. Essentially, we were picking each other over the program/place. I wanted a larger program (for scheduling and patient volume purposes), in a major city, with a good reputation and good fellowship programs.

What does a typical day look like for you? During residency, your schedule varies month to month, but I will describe a typical day on an inpatient service for a first-year Pediatrics resident:

6:00am: Arrive at the hospital floor and get sign-out from the overnight resident about my patients overnight and hear about any new admission that came overnight.
6:30-7:30am: Round on my patients and start (and hopefully finish!) their progress notes for the day.
7:30-8:00am: Teaching (usually case reports or board review)
8:00-11:00am: Round as a whole team with the attending on all the patients on the floor and decide on a plan for the day for each patient.
11:00-12:00pm: Work on to-do list from rounds. There may already be new admissions to work-up on the floor.
12:00-1:00pm: Noon conference. Protected didactic teaching time for interns. The senior residents will take our phones and manage the floor so we can focus on the presentation. It's also the time of the day where I get to see my co-interns and lunch is provided! 
1:00pm- end of the day: Finish to-do list and work up new admissions. If I am "short call", I will sign out my patients to the "long call" intern whenever my work is complete, usually between 4:00-5:30pm. Then I'll go home to relax/workout or try to make it to a happy hour with my co-interns! If I am long call, I will receive sign out from all the other interns on my team and cover these patients until the night resident arrives at 7:00pm. Then, I will sign out the whole floor and hopefully leave the hospital by 8:00pm.

What are you most excited about as you start your residency? Becoming more confident, deciding on a future career path, more procedure exposure!

Looking back onto medical school, is there anything you know now that you wish you knew in school or any advice for students in medical school? Try not to compare yourself to your classmates too much. I love this quote/joke: "What do you call the medical student that graduated last in his class? Doctor." In medical school, you are surrounded by smart, determined, driven people, who were likely all at the top of their college classes. Remind yourself you belong there often. Also, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF 4TH YEAR VACATION TIME.

How do you like to spend your free time? Exercising has been a great stress reliever and a fun social activity for me since college. I love trying new group fitness classes! When I can, I also love traveling- there are so many places I want to go! On a typical day, most of my free time is spent sleeping, scoping out new restaurants, and catching up on TV shows with my fiancé.

What advice would you like give to women in the medical field? Choose the field that you love and that inspires you. Some specialties have very few women, do not let that deter you!

* * * * * * * * * * 

Regardless of where you are at in your journey, Ashley's Instagram posts will inspire you and leave you with a smile on your face. Her upbeat and cheerful personality will serve her well as she tackles the years of residency ahead of her. With a wedding to plan and kids to treat, there will be no shortage of rewarding and fulfilling days to come. I'm excited to follow along on her journey and see all that she accomplishes! 

Thanks for taking the time to share a piece of your journey, Ashley. I'm cheering for you! :) 

1 year in 366 seconds

October 1, 2017

One whole year of my life with the 1SE app. One whole year in 366 seconds. That's pretty darn cool to me! Documenting my life each day seems kind of ridiculous and silly sometimes, but I'm always so happy I did.

LOOK AT THIS.  My heart.

I made that video during my last two months as a Peace Corps Volunteer - back before I even had this app to make documenting my life super user-friendly.

This is easily my favorite way to document my days! My little modern video diary. It's so much fun to look back on!

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