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3rd Year of Osteopathic Medical School

Ahhh, the freedom of third year of medical school. You are finally out of the classroom and into the hospital. The excitement, the nervousness, the unknown. All very new and exciting.

You have heard time and time again that 3rd year of medical school is awesome and so much better than the first two years.

BUT, there have also been rumors flying around that the resources during third year are not quite as efficient as the ones you have been used to during the first two years… in terms of what and when to study.

I can confirm that both of those things are true.

The years in medical school seem to get better and better as each one goes by. Third year of medical school starts to get awesome because now you can start to use some of that medical knowledge you have been studying so hard to have, but you don’t have a ton of responsibility quite yet.

But you’ll find the resources that are at your disposal during third year are so vast, and they are not quite as condensed and straightforward as the ones you used for Step 1 are.

So the issue becomes how, when, and what do you study to make sure you can destroy your COMLEX Level 2 CE and also your USMLE Step 2 CK?

When I was studying for Level 2 and Step 2, I wanted to continue my success I had on the Step 1 and Level 1.

You see, my history with standardized testing was not the best. I had an extremely average MCAT score, and I ultimately turned it all around an scored in the 97th percentile on both COMLEX 1 and 2, and in the 92nd percentile on USMLE Step 1.

Essentially, I was able to create a great study plan for third year and it allowed me to score pretty well on all my COMATS, COMLEX, and USMLE exams.

This article is all about what I used and how I did it, so that hopefully you can replicate it and have a successful third year of medical school as well.

What is in this article:

  • The typical outline of third year.
  • How to study during third year.
  • My favorite resources in third year.
  • When/how to fit in board prep time during third year.

The typical outline of 3rd year.

For most medical schools the rotation list looks similar to this:

  • One to two months of family medicine
  • Two months of internal medicine
  • Two months of surgery
  • One month of pediatrics
  • One month of OB/GYN
  • One month of psychiatry
  • A bunch of selectives
  • A bunch of electives.

The selective rotations are ones that are typically decided for you. By this I mean that you will get a list of the possible rotations and you get to choose from say 5-6 different specialties or locations.

Electives are exactly that, you elect what you want to do the rotation in.

That is the basic outline for 3rd year medical school.

Now, we will move onto the meat of this post and the real reason you are here, how to study and what to study during 3rd year medical school.



How to study during 3rd year.

This is a tough thing to discuss because there are so many different ways to tackle studying during 3rd year.

It really boils down to doing questions, reading, and watching videos. These are the three best ways to study during third year, so how about we break those down a little further.

There have been a ton of different studies on the most efficient ways to study anything and everything. You can go ahead and google that topic and see for yourself.

The ultimate result of a google search like this will reveal that spaced repetition is huge, and then doing activities that require a recall of information is also important.

What does this mean for you? Questions, Questions, Questions are the center of studying efficiently.

Many people also believe strongly in Anki. I was never a flashcard person myself but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for other people. Try it, see if it works for you.

Lets get back on topic, it is important to discuss the most efficient way to study during 3rd year which is questions.

Doing questions is the absolute best way to both learn new information for the USMLE and COMLEX as well as get practice in for the USMLE and COMLEX.

I always use the reference and I will use it again here.

If you are practicing for basketball, you won’t sit and watch basketball on TV. You will get up, go to the court and you will physically practice.

Why then do people think they can just read material and not do practice questions when getting ready for arguably the most important exams of your medical school career? You need to practice the way you will play. This translates simply to doing questions.

It is important to do practice questions as often and as consistently as you can. I liked to do some each morning before clinic or hospital time throughout all of my rotations. Ultimately though you just need to find a time that fits into your schedule that you can do it each and every day.

Another great way to study during 3rd year medical school is to read.

The absolutely most valuable resource to use during clinic and/or time in the hospital is the AMBOSS app.

After you purchase AMBOSS you can download their app to your phone. This app lets you get a few quick questions done, or search topics in the learning card library.

I would use AMBOSS after I saw a patient to come up with a good differential, or even to come up with the treatment plan.

This learning card library was the tool that made me look like a total rockstar during 3rd year.

There are a ton of other resources/books that people use. You can check out my articles on all the COMATS to learn about various books for each one.

My favorite resources in third year.

This section will be pretty short, because it is very simple. I will quickly answer the following question, “what resources did I use and how did I use them?”.

For a question bank I used both AMBOSS and UWorld.

I would start each rotation out with UWorld and do about 20 questions a day for the first 3 weeks of the rotation.

Starting the 2nd to 3rd week of each rotation (depending on my time available) I would start to use AMBOSS question bank and add in about 15 or so questions a day on top of the 20 UWorld questions.

This allowed me to use the best of both resources and really get a wide range of information and types of questions.

For an osteopathic specific question bank I used COMQUEST.

I would start busting through the COMQUEST questions for the individual COMAT bundles the week of my COMAT. I would do around 50 timed questions per day the week leading up to my COMAT, all out of the COMQUEST COMAT question banks.

There is no need to sit and study the COMQUEST questions, use these or the COMBANK ones as more of a practice for the COMAT. The style of both COMQUEST and COMBANK is close enough to the COMAT that it is good practice, but the content is not the best for learning. This is what I used AMBOSS and UWorld for.

Question bank summary: Use AMBOSS, UWorld, and COMQUEST/COMBANK for each rotation. Start with UWorld, then add AMBOSS into the mix starting roughly week 2 of the rotation. Then the last week use solely COMQUEST/BANK to get used to the COMAT style.

My favoroite content resources are AMBOSS (get 10% off at this link) and UpToDate.

Each COMAT has specific books that can be helpful to read, but there is no substitute for a content library like AMBOSS and UpToDate.

The most efficient way to use content libraries like these are to use them after you see a patient. I kind of alluded to how I used them earlier, but basically I would see a patient and then look up the diagnosis on both platforms.

After I did this, I would create a differential and read up on each possible differential in AMBOSS and UpToDate.

This is a very efficient way to get your studying in throughout the day because it allows you to kill two birds with one stone. You are taking care of your duties for the day in regards to patients and reporting to your preceptor, and you are also taking the time to study.

This allows you to possibly not study when you are tired at the end of the day. It is a very efficient way to do things during third year rotations.

As I have mentioned, there are books that you can use for each rotation, I won’t go over them here. You are free to check out the individual COMAT articles to learn more about the books I used for each rotation.

When/How to fit in board prep time during 3rd year.

Hands down the best way to prep for any board exam is to do it frequently and consistently. This is why it is so useful to do questions throughout 3rd year.

Doing questions and being consistent throughout 3rd year will make dedicated Step/Level 2 prep time a whole lot easier.

If you are able to make an entire pass through UWorld during 3rd year, then you can reset it in the month leading up to your Step/Level 2 and you can cruise through it at that point.

This brings up an important point about board prep for Step/Level 2.

Be sure to schedule some easier rotations during your time that you plan on setting aside for boards.

If you can have a light rotation or even a couple weeks vacation then I would recommend it, because prep for Step/Level 2 can be condensed into 3ish weeks if you are diligent and have the time.

The ideal time to take these exams is after you have completed all your core rotations. So, you want to make sure medicine, surgery, psych, ob/gyn, and peds have all been done. Once these have been done, you can schedule a light rotation or even take 3 or so weeks off.

During those three weeks just hammer out questions from UWorld. Most people do around 100 UWorld questions a day and it works out fine, I can attest to that.

Do that for 3 or so weeks consistently and you will be good to go.

Step/Level 2 studying does not have to be as intense as the studying was for Step/Level 1. Just condense it down to mostly doing questions and you will be good to go on test day.

Only things you need to review from books or anything would be your weak points. If you have done a thorough review of all the material throughout 3rd year, then prep time will be a breeze for you.

If you want to learn more about how I destroyed all my COMLEX exams up to 4th year you can download this Guide for the COMLEX.

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