PA school was really challenging for me. The hardest part was learning HOW I liked to study (more of that in this post).
For the most part, I used lectures that were dispensed in classes. I’d type the notes while the instructor was lecturing (I’m a much faster typing). I’d then print out the powerpoint and write the notes next to the appropriate slide. I’d do my best to do this as quickly after the lecture as possible. And then read it over once or twice before going to bed.
A few days before the exam, I’d write it out again (writing is always so much more effective studying for me). The night before, sometimes I’d write out big level concepts on a white board. And the morning before the exam, I’d study with a friend and we’d popcorn style answer each other’s questions. This wasn’t ALL the time, but maybe ~70%.
There were times, of course, that I just couldn’t stomach looking at material any longer. When that was the case, I’d have back-up methods handy that utilized different study modalities. I absolute loved Osmosis videos. They broke down physiology in a way that was much easier to comprehend. I also really enjoyed the Physician Assistant Exam Review Podcast by Brian Wallace. Also helped cement big level concepts and was an introduction to studying for PANCE topics.
For OSCE type studying, I used the first aid USMLE step 2CS book. It’s AMAZING and a nice way to run cases with friends.
Also incredibly important during this time that I consider a highly coveted resource – TAKING A BREAK!! You absolutely cannot run on all cylinders at all times.
Other things I liked:
- Don’t be afraid to switch up your studying technique per class. Some classes I write my notes out on a blank sheet of paper, and others I study right from the PowerPoint. While some other classes I print the PowerPoints and write directly underneath them. Try out different things to see what works best for you!
- A lot of people in my class like copy and pasting the PowerPoints and the photos and putting it in one Word Doc. Then going through that and highlighting / taking notes alongside it.
- Once you’ve gone through all the material, try making a one page study guide of broad topics.
- Other resources I like PAs: Pance Prep Pearls, Cecil’s, and Step-Up to Medicine
- When practicing for OSCEs / for clinicals / SIM lab: First AID for the USMLE Step 2 CS podcast. Gives you little case scenarios of symptoms / history and the best tests to order for the clinical presentation. Dare I say these are even kind of fun (?) to practice with a friend during “down” time.
- You could think about an Osmosis membership. I ended up getting one and really like it. You can upload your PowerPoints into here and take notes along side them. You also gets full access to all the Osmosis teaching videos which are AMAZING!!!! By far my favorite resources for helping me understand a concept. They’ll also give you quiz questions based off the material in your PowerPoint. Pretty cool stuff and a good gift to ask for before starting school.
- Create a giant group quizlet for your class!! Quizlet lets you create flashcards and then you can review them anywhere! I love doing this on the bus on my to / from school or during any down time – waiting for a workout class, if I go on the treadmill and walk and do it – really great!!
- Post your study guides on a giant drop box. Our class each chipped in around ~$2 for a year of a the advanced drop box membership. This is where we posted study guides and recordings of lectures. Plus if there’s just way too much for you to get through you can decide to make one study guide and someone else can do another. It’s all about sharing with your class and helping each other through it!!
- Study with people as much as you can! When you look at material so often you naturally gravitate towards the things you know and skip over the others. I know this because I do this. Having someone else quiz you makes you aware of so much more material!
- Print out PowerPoints in outline mode and just read them whenever you have a few free moments.
- Brian Wallace Physician Assistant Exam Review podcast. This gives you a really good overview of topics you’re learning in class. While it’s meant for the purpose of studying for the PANCE and doesn’t go into as much depth as many of our lectures, it’s a good check in point before an exam and explains concepts of things that I didn’t understand. Really, really love this.