The Best Resources to Excel at Medical School

Introduction

I often get asked what resources Id recommend to do well at medical school – well here’s the comprehensive list that helped me rank first place.

As we all know, medical school is tough. It’s impossible to remember everything. You can have a huge library of resources you use, but what’s more important is how you build powerful study habits to aid your memory and resist burnout.

I describe how I used these resources in my Blog – How I ranked First at Medical School: an overview

The caveats

The list below outlines my top recommendations. Do consider that this list put me in good stead at Barts medical school in the UK in years 2016-2020 – if you’re from a different institution or country, there may well be some other excellent resources out there that are aligned with your institution, so do your research.

However, I didn’t study solely based on the requirements of my university. Instead, I focused on having a breadth of understanding, so this list should be helpful regardless.

Lets get down to my top recommendations…

My top recommendations for excelling in medical school

1. Lecture notes

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To start, it is more than likely that question-fodder is hidden in plain sight in your lectures. This is especially the case in pre-clinical years where you resist death-by-powerpoint on a daily basis. No matter what year you’re in, you need to pay attention to your lectures.

As time goes on through medical school, it’s more than likely that your lectures will transform into vague introductory concepts on pathology and management. At this point you’ll need to read around the subject more widely.

One golden piece of advice is to pay attention to who is delivering the lectures. Are they a random honorary lecturer who is just delivering their quota for time in front of medical students? Or are they the heads of your modules who will be writing the questions?

You should be familiar with the objectives of the lectures and make sure you can answer them. At my medical school, we had access to a large list of objectives in a directory called COMPAS – In all honesty, I found the objectives to be vague and never ending, so didn’t focus on learning this way. Instead I trusted that as long as I covered the material in the lectures and read widely, I’d most likely hit them.

My top tips:

  • Don’t overlook your lectures, easy marks can be found in the content.
  • Check out my blog on making the most of lectures here: [insert link]
  • Look out for the slides and concepts that are easily examinable – more on that here: [insert link]
  • Pay attention to who is delivering your lectures

2. Websites

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Clinical knowledge and concepts:

Here are the webpages I found most valuable.

  1. NICE guidelines ⭐⭐ ⭐⭐⭐ Throughout my time at medical school the majority of guideline recommendations came from NICE. Questions in finals for any year can be highly focused and tailored towards these guidelines. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that we are taught to regurgitate guidelines and you’ll be much worse off if you don’t know them for most of the presentations in the modules you are studying. This is why questions banks tailored to guidelines (e.g Passmed) as so fantastic. Know the clinical knowledge summaries well!
  2. Other specific guidelines – For some pathologies, you’ll be relying on guidelines outside of NICE. You should focus the resources you use depending on what your medical school teaches you. Common guidelines include those from the British Thoracic Society for asthma management, and the British Resuscitation Council for cardiac emergencies.
  3. Teachmeseries ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐- The teachmeseries have an excellent range of concise notes across anatomy, gynaecology, paediatrics, surgery and more. Their concise nature makes it easy to revisit content over a short period of time.
  4. BMJ best practice ⭐⭐⭐⭐- The BMJ website has highly detialed notes on practically every condition. The plus side is that the content is tailored to UK practice. A downside is that you need an institutional login to get full access, but its worth arranging if your university provides it. The notes are extremely comprehensive but a bit too deep for skimming through. They serve as invaluable content to make notes on. Id recommend using this website to spot the risk factors for specific conditions and the gold standard investigations associated with specific additions. Dont get too bogged down by the details though! They have an app, but I found it didn’t play ball with my university email often.
  5. Uptodate ⭐⭐⭐- Another evidence-based website requiring institutional login, e.g. through an OpenAthens account. As the name suggests, uptodate summarises the latest consensus in disease management. Its useful for understanding pathophysiology and the ideal investigations for working up specific diseases. The webpages are generally skimable and like the BMJ, serve as a useful resource for making notes. Its worth mentioning that although highly up-to-date, it takes time to change exam questions. Questions are generally submitted over 6 months in advance for quality control purposes and are unlikely to take into account recent consensus.
  6. Medscape ⭐⭐⭐- You can log into medscape with your own account for free access. The content is often tailored to the US healthcare system, but provides detailed notes in a standardised format. If you want to knock your socks off with detailed pathophysiology and evidence-based rationale, then this is your place.
  7. Bonus controversial recommendationWikipedia 👀 ⭐⭐ – An oldie but a goodie. Wiki can be useful for a quick glimpse into pathophysiology for nearly every disease. There’s nearly always some information plugged by a domain expert which can help you out. I wouldn’t put too much weight on it though – I don’t quite believe that the etymology of bradycardia came from cyclist Martin Brady, as wiki once told me, but a resting heart rate of 27 bpm is pretty impressive.
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Practice – OSCEs/OSLERs/PACES

  • Geeky medics ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐- A common household name for any medic around exam season. Geeky medics are an invaluable community focused on OSCE and practical procedures. They have an abundance of fantastic resources for getting you into OSCE-mode.
  • Oscestop ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Really underrated content. I came across OSCE stop over my last two years of medicine. It was created by Dr Christopher Mansbridge. He has created some beautifully specific materials across a whole range of OSCE domains. In the latter years, your focus on OSCE performance needs to be tailored to the presentation. The notes here are great.
  • Psychiatry ⭐⭐⭐⭐-  The University of Nottingham Youtube channel have some excellent resources on taking histories from patients with psychological diseases. An often dreaded and challenging part of OSCEs/PACES, their videos can help shed some light on tackling psychiatric histories. Definitely worth checking out.
  • Other comm skills ⭐⭐⭐ – I always found that the NHS website was a useful resource for phrasing pathology to patients. A key part of communication skills in exams is by demystifying both normal and abnormal physiology in a way that your patient will understand. This website can help equip you with the jargon-free language to do so.

My top tips:

  • Know your guidelines
  • Discover which websites have concise content relevant to your curriculum and revise regularly
  • Practice OSCEs early

2. Cornerstone Books

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Generic books:

We’ll keep this simple, these three books are the go-to in my opinion. Sure, you can go super specific with practically any other text book, but in terms of concise, high-yield textbooks, these are my top recommendations:

  • Oxford handbook of clinical medicine – by Ian B. Wilkinson et al.
  • Oxford handbook of clinical specialities – by Andrew Baldwin
  • Oxford Cases in Medicine & Surgery – by Edward Norris-Cervetto et al.

Specialty specific:

  • Obs & Gynae: Obstetrics and Gynaecology – by Tim Child (Punny) and Lawrence Impey
  • Psychiatry: Psychiatry PRN – by Sarah Stringer et al.
  • Emergency management: Oxford handbook for the foundation programme – by Tim Raine et al.

Lets be real – medical books are expensive. Get them for your library if your mates haven’t already snapped them up, but ask around, there are plenty of website that allow you to download books for free 👀 cough b-ok.cc (thank me later 🤙)

My top tips:

  • Repetition, repetition, repetition – The more you go over the chapters of the Oxford handbook, the easier you’ll find summarising the key learning points for each section.
  • As exams approach, make it a habit to cover a specific chapter over a short timeline e.g. one week
  • Check out my blog on developing effective study habits here for a deeper dive: [Insert link]

3. Question banks

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  1. Passmedicine ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐- hands down, the current sole reason for stellar exam performance. A great question library consists of the following:
    • Lots of questions
    • Easily affordable
    • Encourages binge culture
    • Comprehensive notes relevant to the question
    • An active community of students to help you push through those late night study sessions
    • Kendra Wong – if you know, you know.
    • Questions written and amended regularly by specialisits
    • Based on guidelines and updated when changed.
  2. Passtest ⭐⭐⭐- I didn’t actually use this one for long, but this question bank is commonly raved about. You can choose questions specific to your medical school which may be helpful.

My top tips:

  • You’re disadvantaged if you don’t have a subscription to an online question bank
  • Make it an all-year-round habit
  • Cover specific specialities in each revision session rather than a random assortment (unless finals are iminent)

4. Whats more

Here’s a few more useful resources for performing well at medical school

  • Youtube – Geekymedics, Osmosis, ResusCouncilUK (for A-E assessments)
  • Past papers – If your uni gives access to past papers, know them inside and out. It’s common for questions to be reused.

5. Placements

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Some students love a full day in placement, others like to be more selective; I definitely belong to the latter group. However, if you’re looking for something valuable to do after being ghosted through your morning ward round, get speaking to patients.

Patients are the gateway at which you start putting knowledge into practice. Practise makes perfect, right? – for sure, but there’s a balance. The trick is to be intentional with your time.

Ive made a blog about how to make the most of your patients on placements, without needing to be in hospital all day: [insert link]. Also, if being ghosted on ward rounds isn’t your thing, check this one out on how to make the most of ward rounds: [insert link].

Conclusion:

Excelling at medical school relies on two key factors (i) high-quality revision resources and (ii) effective study habits. I can’t say I really used anything other than this list of resources throughout my whole time at medical school, other than the private materials provided through my own institution.

I hope this list has uncovered some resources you haven’t previously considered. To learn how I used these resources to rank first at medical school, check out my blog: [Insert link].

Good luck 💪

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