Saturday, March 19, 2016

How to study for final year MBBS

"IkaN, can you write a post on guiding a final year MBBS student who has just started and already feels burnt out? What books can I use? How should I organize my notes? How can I balance my posting with learning for theory? How can I maintain the right attitude and avoid feeling overwhelmed? I tend to compare myself with others as in how well they get along and why I can’t do the same? I feel negative already. Please help me. I idolize you a lot and I really need you to give me a path to follow!"

- Asked on Tumblr

Hey, take it easy :)

What books should I read from while in final year MBBS?
So for books, I had a big ebook and a short textbook for every subject. If I like a topic, I read more about it. My aim in final year was not to read everything, it was to read and retain as much as I can.

Harrison for concepts
Matthews for writing short answers
SRB for writing theory answers
Bailey and Love ebook for reading if I was interested (I didn't find it detailed enough)
Nelson pdf if I wanted to read in depth
Obstetrics and Gynaecology:
Dutta for obstetrics
Shaw for gynecology (Do not take Dutta for Gynac as well because you will get bored reading from the same author)

Theory is not very difficult. You just need to revise the important questions before hand and write most of the points down. I made a lot of short term mnemonics in final year and I think they really helped.

How should I organize my notes?
I've written quite a few blogs on that:
How I organize my notes while I study
How to make concise medical notes

How can I balance rotations with reading? Theory with practicals?
Optimize learning. When you go to the wards for posting, make sure you carry a book to read with you. Don't waste time.
If you are taking the history, doing the physical and presenting the case: Be thorough. Be serious and do it properly. If you are not, sit in the ward and read about something.
I liked to parallel my practical reading with theory reading. So if I saw a case of GBS, I would read it once I am back home.
I learnt physical examination through YouTube OSCE videos. It doesn't take much time. Master one system everyday.
I read ebooks (Instead of checking Whatsapp) and listened to audio books (Instead of listening to songs) while travelling too. But that was just my habit and if it is too much for you, don't push it :)

I just started and I already feel burnt out. What should I do?
To avoid a burn out, take scheduled breaks and don't study one subject for too long. I divide my day into "study blocks". It's 45 minutes or 1 hour of no distractions, study time. So I'd do - one block medicine theory, one block of medicine for practicals, one block surgery, etc. Put timers. You can check your phone after you're done with a particular block :)

15 minutes: Make schedule for the day
45 minutes: Study theory of Aortic regurgitation (Block 1)
15 minutes: Exercise
45 minutes: Learn about CVS examination (Block 2)
15 minutes: Reply to Whatsapp messages
45 minutes: Read about pediatrics developmental milestones (Block 3)
15 minutes: Blog on a pending topic
45 minutes: Uterine prolapse from gynacology (Block 4)
15 minutes: Prayer time (Meditation / Music if non religious :D )
45 minutes: TB spine from orthopedics (Block 5)
15 minutes: Call up a friend
45 minutes: Too tired to study, complete journal or something
15 minutes: Eat ice-cream and watch funny videos

So you end up studying for 3-4 hours but you are not too exhausted :)

How can I maintain the right attitude and avoid feeling overwhelmed? I tend to compare myself with others as in how well they get along and why I can’t do the same? I feel negative already.

I wish you could read my diary, I am at a different cross road of my life and I am feeling overwhelmed and negative too.

The right attitude would be to learn for knowledge. For yourself. For your patients.

So here's my advice, one step at a time. One day at a time. Don't think too much about the future. Just study one hour right now. One topic today. One system this week. It's less overwhelming that way.

I think you should begin celebrating your little moments - Wohhoo, I studied for an hour today! I could answer a question today, yippie! I attended a good lecture today. It will fill you with positive vibes :D

I write two journals everyday - Gratitude journal and Self esteem journal.

Gratitude journal: Write one thing everyday that you are thankful about.
Self esteem journal: Write one thing about yourself everyday that you like.

Here are some examples:
18th March: I am grateful for my smile. It's silly and beautiful.
17th March: Thank you for letting me feel good about myself.
16th March: Thank you for good food.
15th March: I have got my study groove back. Thank you.
14th March:  I'm thankful for electricity.
13th March: I am grateful that I have a study partner
12th March: I am grateful I've started exercising. I'll continue it.

18th March: You're confident and gutsy. I love you.
16th March: You extrovert, I love how you make friends in a blink of an eye.
15th March: I love how you encouraged your friend today.
14th March: You're being more and more productive each day. Reach your potential, love.
13th March: I like how you are starting to be okay with life. Everything is going to be okay.
12th March: You know how compliments can make people's day. You deliver them beautifully.

And here's a paragraph from my diary, it's not what I originally wrote. I edited a lot of things out to fit the final year context. I felt like sharing it with you:

"Today I presented a case well. It was a good learning opportunity. I am extremely happy.

Lately, I have been getting down by comparing myself with everyone else. But no more. You see, people get lucky. Some win the lottery.

When you are working on our path, you will meet many people who are winning the lottery. All the time. Some will get good professors and you might have to settle for a professor who isn't enthusiastic about teaching. Others will get an easy case during their exam and you will get the most difficult one. Some will be able to afford expensive coaching classes.

They maybe lucky and they are definitely good students. It doesn't mean that you are unlucky or not good enough. They are not you. You've got your own story to write. You've got to celebrate your little moments. You've got to be happy in your world and sleep peacefully at night.

So this is a reminder to myself from Wear Sunscreen: “Don't waste your time on jealousy (In my case, overwhelming anxiety). Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself”.

Become better and celebrate it. Work with what you've got and work hard. Be okay with life. You'll be fine.

I am trying so hard to stay positive. You try your best too. We can do it!

I hope that helped.



  1. Myself 1 month into final year and i can compare each and every line of the question asked, thank u ikaN 😊

    1. Haha yes, it's overwhelming. You'll do fine. You're most welcome! (:

  2. Thankss Ikan....ill put this method 8n use

  3. Thank you IkaN, you're the best :*

  4. That was awesome! if one can stick to it.

  5. exactly what i needed right now! thanks Ikan :) great work as always!

  6. really awesome Ikan..thank-you for those awesome tips

  7. how do u manage your time ?
    is 3-4 hrs study enough in final year?
    i got my ent spm ophtha exams in a month
    can u guide me regarding time management and how to focus ?
    i tend to wander away with my thoughts while studying
    help me in increasing my concentration ....
    PS: love your posts

    1. Time management? during exams?
      Yes, but you must be consistent.

      I have written a few posts on time management and maintaining focus, check out the contents page :)

      PS: Thanks <3

  8. You mentioned about audio books. Which audio books are those? Can you share the link to those audiobooks?

  9. Can you please mention the clinical books you preferred esp for medicine , slightly confused right now
    It would be a great help 😀

  10. Inspired me a lot! Thanks !!


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