The Study Tools Students Should Actually Be Using

Kolin M. Meehan


February 01, 2018

Moreover, all facts in AMBOSS directly link to primary sources through databases such as PubMed. After sufficient review, students can complete exam questions under a similar format as UWorld with the added feature of learning cards that appear under each answer choice. The cards correspond to the system's library source on the relevant learning objective for real-time feedback and review.

Yearly plans ranging from $45 to $365 offer a more affordable option than its direct competitor does. How can users truly compare? Speed of uptake overseas certainly speaks to the platform's popularity: 96% of German medical students use AMBOSS as their primary study resource after only 5 years on the market.[9] To that end, an AMBOSS representative reports internal data showing that users achieved 10 points higher on the M1 Physikum Examination compared with nonusers.

However, despite testimonials from US medical students on the AMBOSS website boasting the product's superiority, no objective data have measured its impact on shelf exams or Step 2 scores. The jury is still out on AMBOSS's role in American medical education; however, if the German experience holds, early adopters may find themselves ahead of the pack.

What Does It All Mean?

So what's a precocious student to do to land the residency of her dreams? The data both confirm and challenge commonly held suspicions surrounding optimum test preparation. Question banks appear to improve performance; however, students shouldn't expect to place in the 99th percentile of USMLE scores if they sit well below the 50th within their own class.

As it turns out, my wise friend from earlier consistently scores higher than nearly anyone ever on block exams, preclinical shelfs, and Step 1. His experience fits well with the findings of investigators at WVU, the University of Central Florida, and others: Undergraduate medical education performance tends to independently predict standardized exam scores.[10,11] Interestingly (or alarmingly, depending on your take), the previously mentioned studies found no correlation between dedicated study duration and subsequent test scores. Students who slack on reading during the semester or a rotation risk sacrificing a crucial period to learn in real time from professors and attendings; in fact, students ought to focus on consolidating as much information as possible during the preclinical and clinical years so that dedicated study periods become review sessions as opposed to primary learning experiences.

The value in expensive resources like question banks lies in using them to flesh out what is already in your head, not to place the information in there. Truly, your medical education occurs daily. Take control from day 1, and your investment will pay dividends down the road in residency and beyond.


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