Because success on the United States Medical Licensing Examinations depends in large part on the recall of specific detail, students must review a tremendous amount of information in order to prepare. This task can be extremely daunting for students, as evidenced by the scads of test review books and preparation courses promising to lighten the burden. In the end, though, there is no short-cut to acquiring the basic knowledge necessary to score well on the USMLE. There is, however, a smart way to go about acquiring this knowledge: it is known as the Leitner system, and it is based on the use of flashcards. Sebastian Leitner was a German scientist who was committed to streamlining the learning process. In his famous book How to Learn to Learn, he outlined the way in which students can use flashcards to dramatically reduce their study time. Of course, most students who have advanced to the USMLE are quite familiar with flashcards! Leitner's insight was to order his set of cards by the degree to which he had learned them. In other words, Leitner would ask students to begin with a set of cards including all the information necessary for an examination. The students would then work through the cards; those cards containing information already known to the students were placed in one group, while the cards containing information that the students did not know would be placed in another.
So, when the students went through the cards a second time, they avoided rehashing material they did not need to study. During each successive session with his flashcards, Leitner found that he could eliminate a few, until finally he had learned all the information in the entire set. In his research of learning, Leitner noted that once information was learned for the first time, it only needed to be reviewed occasionally in order to remain in long-term memory. Fortunately, he found that flashcards were perfect for this purpose as well! So, instead of being overwhelmed by the high volume of information required for the USMLE, students should put the Leitner system to work for them.
USMLE Preparation information provided by Morrison Media LLC.
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