How to Study First Aid Part Two


Alright, so last week I bashed what currently exists with respect to tackling First Aid, as well as hinted at my methodology of choice. However, I didn’t really get into the nuts and bolts of it. For those of you who missed the last piece, I suppose I could provide a brief recap. Basically, First Aid is at the core of any Step preparation given its all-encompassing and not to detailed approach. Despite being “not to detailed,” it is still a behemoth. This is why you cannot simply memorize it via passive means or understand what underpins every single fact in a crystal clear fashion (unless you are smart enough to be one of the authors yourself, in which case I envy you) as proposed by leading medical YouTubers. Instead, the best long-term retention strategy (perhaps in my mind) is flashcards, particularly via Anki. If you live under a rock and are unfamiliar with Anki, then this will explain it. Basically, it incorporates a fancy algorithm (despite being free!) that maximizes your studying, turning you into a lean, mean, efficiency machine. Now, I know everyone has their own learning style and has fallen in love with their own resources regarding supplementing M2 coursework in preparation for boards, but don’t stop reading just yet if you dread or even hate flashcards. I promise I will have some caveats for you at the end. In short though, whatever strategies you employ, including text to video to audio, it is hard to retain said information long term. For instance, if you read First Aid or watch Pathoma videos, without revisiting that material at intervals in the future, it is more than likely gone. You can certainly remember frameworks and understand key architectural concepts, but let’s face it, medicine has an absurdly annoying amount of memorization. Even if you are reviewing it at intervals moving forward, how exactly do you create this schedule? Honestly, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Ultimately, this is why I have decided to utilize Anki for truly long-term Step Prep. It creates a long-term (and by long-term I mean months) study schedule finetuned to my ever evolving strengths and weaknesses.


I have come to love the bro deck in particular. This can be found here if you decide to venture down this path as well. Basically, some legend turned First Aid into a series of incredibly high-yield Anki cards. It has since been crowdsourced and improved upon in subsequent years by his following, making it that much better. Again, First Aid is basically the Step Prep bible that outlines all of the tidbits you need crammed into your head on test day. So, this is why I decided to devote my time its long-term memorization via Anki. I’m not going to sugar coat it though, it is a lot of work. Through first year, and thus far into second year, I have been able to keep up with it, but I am now to the point where I do a few hundred Anki cards daily that are specifically from the Bro deck. This amounts to about two hours of my day. If you think about it though, I am sure you know lots of people who commit the same amount of time to whatever Step resources they have decided to utilize. Overall, I am super pleased with the decision though, as I feel it has allowed me to slowly master the content of First Aid in a digestible, somewhat painless fashion. As for how I specifically utilize the deck, check out this video. Even if you don’t want to keep up with the ever growing reviews, simply reviewing certain sections via Anki for pre-determined amounts of time of much more efficient and effect than more passive methods, like reading and highlighting.


I proposed even the flashcard haters some value, so here it is. Stay in your own lane. From a blog standpoint, this is probably not ideal, but if you simply cannot study via Anki and flashcards, then ignore what I am saying. Especially by second year, everyone has fallen in line with what works for them. This will no doubt lead you in the right direction when choosing board prep resources. Don’t get overwhelmed and stretched too thin by the sheer volume of options though. Going through fewer things well is far better than going through multiple resources poorly. So, as people continue hounding you about what you need to try and why X, Y, and Z are the best, again, stay in your own lane. Be happy that they love X, Y, and Z so much, but stick to your guns, that is unless you are not strapped yet. If you haven’t really settled on things that click with you, then sure, give them a try. Honestly, there is so much pressure and stress placed on doing the “right” things throughout M2 year to put yourself in the best position for dedicated. I really wonder how much it matters though, as I know people who blew off second year to “study” for boards, while others simply learned the material well throughout second year and then just kicked it into high-gear when dedicated rolled around. In short, don’t stress too much!


If you have settled on some resources, I feel like it is important to assess them though. This is a bit tricky and subjective, but there are two questions you can ask yourself. First, are they giving you another layer of understanding or at least reinforcing your classroom content. I don’t like placing an emphasis on scores (stay tuned for a blog piece on this ;), but they are at least an objective way to assess your study methods. So, how are your classes going? Second, and without a doubt the most important thing, is to assess your study tactics via a boards question bank. Our school forces us to pay for Kaplan, but I am happy with the product, so I am not chagrinned. The reason this is important is that these questions will get you in the board mindset, which at least at my school, seems like another beast all together. By this, I mean the questions are so secondary, tertiary, or even quaternary, whereas class tests do not require nearly as many leaps in logic. When I first started them, I would be reading through the vignette and be like, dang, I know what this is. However, when I got to the question, it was much more complex and required a whole different set of knowledge. For instance, I had one about G6PD deficiency that asked about what other disease presented with the same inheritability (ie X-linked recessive). That threw me for a loop.

In conclusion, Anki, specifically the Bro deck, is a top notch resource to slowly commit First Aid to memory. However, stick with what you know and like if this is not for you. Regardless of your choice, be critical of yourself, assessing your performance in class as well as in your chosen question bank. Ultimately, if you are to do one thing, hammer out questions, as they teach you how to recognize presentations and think critically better than any other board resource out there. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so don’t be afraid to weigh in below (even if it is just to tell me I am full of @hit ;).

About Me

Hey everyone! My name is Bryan. I am a rising M2 at Medical College of Wisconsin. I am excited and eager to share my insights from my journey through medicine with you! 

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