Melinda Kizziah, OMS-III
West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

Summer is over and if you’re a second-year medical student, you are gearing up for another busy but exciting year of medical school.  With first year under your belt, you’re probably feeling more confident and prepared to move one step further in your journey towards becoming a physician. With that excitement, thoughts and nerves about board preparation are making their way into your brain, too.

My first piece of advice for second year students is to remember that prepping for your board exams is a marathon, not a sprint. Compile what you have learned so far and start solidifying it during your second year. It is absolutely vital to identify any weaknesses early and focus on them throughout the year so you are not scrambling come time for dedicated prep.

Once dedicated board prep finally arrives, it is easy to find yourself glued to your desk, isolated from the world, seemingly unable to think or talk about anything but how you did on your question sets that day. It can be a grueling time, but with a few tips, you can hopefully make the best of these weeks and maintain a sense of wellness from start to finish!

1. Exercise 

Nothing seems to hit the chopping block faster during dedicated than one’s exercise routine. I get it, going to the gym can be a process that often takes longer than we feel like we can sacrifice. That being said, taking just 30 minutes a day to walk outside is not only good for your body, but your mind too. No fancy equipment needed! Make sure to stand up, stretch those legs, and enjoy the fresh air for at least 30 minutes a day. You won’t regret it.

2.  Meal Prep

It is a fact of life that at some point during dedicated, you will find yourself feeling overwhelmed by how little time you have. This can lead to bad habits that are easily avoided by planning ahead. Save yourself time and energy by coming up with a few delicious meals to last each week and make them on Sunday evenings. Some favorites include lasagna, meatloaf, chicken and steamed veggies, and quiche.

3.  Rest Days

There will quickly come a time when you do not think you can afford a rest day, but take them. Take a day, or at least half a day off, and spend time with your family, friends, pets, neighbors, whoever. Go to a concert, get dinner with your friends, attend a sporting event. You need this time to keep yourself energized and hit the reset button. There is an entire world outside of your prep materials, make sure to visit it once in a while.

4.  Sleep

You are a second-year medical student, you probably don’t need someone to remind you that sleep is important, but I’m here to tell you again that sleep is important. You are not doing yourself or your studies any favors by pulling all-nighters. Not only does your brain need rest, but it needs to organize information and commit it to memory while you are sleeping. I know you feel crunched for time, but aim for those 6-8 hours of sleep every single night, especially the night before the test.

5.   Do not be afraid to ask for help

This is the most important. Studying for board exams is a daunting task. You’ve worked hard for two years and it feels like everything comes down to this one test. It can be incredibly nerve-wracking but remember that you are not in this alone. If you are ever worried about your question sets, aren’t scoring as well as you would like on practice tests, or are just feeling overwhelmed, please reach out to someone. Whether it be a family member, fellow classmate, a mentor, or someone at your school, find someone you can talk to and get the reassurance or help you need. There is no shame in asking for help or simply needing a shoulder to cry on when your days are long and difficult. This cannot be stressed enough, don’t go it alone!