Bed head, sweat shorts, a light hoodie, old sneakers, and an umbrella in hand is how I arrived at school today. I didn’t have much time to give any more of an effort, as the grey clouds outside my bed room window blocked the sun along with it’s usual delightful warmth that wakes me.
It’s a rainy morning in Overland Park, KS. The dark skies drizzle, painting the sidewalks a darker shade of brown. A calm storm, an unexpected indication of the day that was ahead. It’s only suiting, that the dreary weather reports would coincide with the same day as a part of the trimester that I like to call “Calm Before the Storm”.
Responsibility tends to creep up on us students, as the first several weeks of the trimester are all fun and games, catching up with friends, and grilling out. It’s assured from 6 trimesters experience that the exams will start rolling in sooner than anyone would like, but there’s always one day in particular that sh*t hits the fan and it all gets real.
Today is that day.
For some its a feeling of angst and concern, others sorrow, and for few (maybe none) joy. The first instructor begins to discuss when Exam 1 will be given, no big deal. But then you go to the next class, and this instructor finishes unit 1 material as well. As you try to plan out the week, you realize the syllabi of three more classes also intend to have exams in the following week.
I call this the Calm Before The Storm because you know it’s the last day of academic freedom. Soon enough, surroundings become quiet. What were once empty, knitted, and wooden chairs of the school library become occupied as mind sets suddenly become more focused and less wondrous. Communication with friends becomes less about laughs and more about what to study, for how long, and what resources to use. All of this gradually occurs in preparation for the upcoming week and a half that consists of 5 exams within 8 school days.
After the weekly planner is organized to reassure what test is when and how to prioritize the weekend, I download and/or print all of the unit 1 notes and make review guides for ENT Diagnosis, Cardiopulmonary/Endocrine Diagnosis, Clinical Lab Diagnosis, Skeletal Radiology (II), and Neuromusculoskeletal (II) Diagnosis. Study guides together consist of about 65 pages of information (literally just counted)!
The feeling of being chased by your own shadow is dreadful, as any spare time that is not spent studying is accompanied by a sense of guilt for not doing so. After a 2 week break (from school) and 3 weeks of only having to go to class to listen to lectures (or browse on your iPad), schedules are suddenly crowded with assignments, exams, and practicals. This is the storm.
Why am I writing about this?
No, it’s not to intimidate you. It’s not to get sympathy or attention about how busy I am, nor is it about how difficult the D.C program is.
I’m covering this topic because it’s a reoccurring part of every single trimester and although there is a feeling of sorrow that the program is about to get busy again, I’ve learned how to be okay with it and take it as it presents itself.
Round 1 of exams is always intimidating as you may not be familiar with a new instructor and their style of testing. We’ve trained to go 12 rounds though. We have approached this part of the trimester 6 times now, and although it’s never fun, it always gets done. I can vividly remember how stressful this was for my first 5 trimesters in the program, and it was ugly. I didn’t feel guilty because I was ALWAYS studying (not a bad thing), but I did constantly feel stress and an overload of pressure as I shot for a 100% on every exam I took (also not a bad thing). Although these are great habits and pressure makes diamonds, experience has taught me how to be at ease and approach preparation for the storm with peace of mind and confidence.
It’s nothing new… We all know that with experience, comes skill and ability.
Here are a couple of skills I’ve acquired to help me weather the storm:
- Schedule and Organize: Know EXACTLY when every exam is and jot it down in a planner or on your phone. Gather/print/make ALL notes, guides, etc. for ALL of your upcoming exams and have them neat and ready to go (instead of waiting until one test is down to gather material for the next). This not only allows you to study for more than one exam (if you’re able, or don’t mind), but it also provides a peace of mind so that you are fully prepared and ready to execute. You can easily knock one test down and effortlessly start studying for the next (staying in that locked in and focused mode).
- Prioritize: Understand that some classes require more time than others. Every class is important, but learn from your peers which class is the most difficult and most likely to bust your chops. Dedicate extra days for this classes exams and be sure that if there is any test you aren’t fully prepared for, its NOT this one. Worst case scenario is learning all too late that you didn’t save enough time to cover the information, or you spent way too much time studying for the easiest exam of the week and not enough time on the difficult ones.
- Start Early: Don’t get me wrong, I procrastinate… We all do, but that isn’t to say that we don’t know that we shouldn’t. Especially when you have several exams per week, this allows you to finish studying for one subject (well before the test day) and move on to the material for the second exam that will happen the following day (instead of only spending 1 night studying for it). You will need to review the information for the first exam up until the day you take it, but reviewing is easy if you already know the info. If you can get 3 exams ahead, even better!
- Figure out your study method: It is SO important to know what type of studying works best for YOU. You must be brutally honest with yourself and your habits, and become as efficient as possible. When you know exactly how you study best (writing, reading, flash cards, pneumonics), you can get a really good grasp on how much time it will require to cover a certain amount of information. This allows you to plan efficiently and execute flawlessly.
Today marks my 7th Calm Before the Storm. A rainy day along with the scheduling of all of our first exams isn’t the most appealing subject to write about, but it is something that we deal with on a trimester basis.
For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be using the tools I provided above to weather the storm and ultimately learn more information that will improve my ability to take care of future patients!