Some Advice from Professor S.A. Miller

Adapted from the NMS™ The National Medical Series for Independent Study, Wiley Medical

The guide book from which the following points were selected offers advice for medical students facing National Board exams, but this advice is also appropriate for undergraduates facing final exams and MCAT's, GRE's, LSAT's, etc. That is, the following advice is appropriate for all students; not just the ones who plan to study medicine.

  • "Students should begin to think in the present as they expect themselves to think in the future"
  • Study for yourself. Students should study to acquire knowledge, not just to prepare for tests. If you study to learn, the task is less distasteful than studying solely to pass a test.
  • Attempt to understand, not just to memorize, the material. Many students attempt to memorize far too much information.
  • Attempt to anticipate questions that might appear on a test.

"Good differential diagnosis involves the ability to deal with uncertainty, to reduce potential causes to the smallest number, and to use all learned information in arriving at a conclusion." Tests are also a form of diagnosis. "Test performance indicates the student's ability to use information during evaluation procedures and reveals how this ability might be used in the future." An ability to think well diagnosticly is a useful skill beyond obvious medical applications.

The NMS™ Guide also advises students, "Do not expect a feeling of mastery or anything close to what you are accustomed. A nationally administered exam is not a mastery test." Most of your college exams are also intended to examine ability, not mastery. Finally, the NMS™ Guide suggests that "Students perceive tests as punitive and sometimes feel that they are merely opportunities for the instructor to discover what the student has forgotten or has never learned. Students need to view tests as opportunities to display their knowledge and to use them as tools for developing prescriptions for further study and learning." If students begin the practice of what has been called "paper diagnosis" on themselves, they can earn life-long returns.

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This page last modified: June 2016