« Obstacles to Learning | Main | Discrimination in Science and Medicine »

But I Don't Wanna Study!

Kendracampbell572x723Kendra Campbell -- I’m sitting at my desk typing on my laptop in my new apartment in Baltimore, Maryland. I now have a place to live, water, electricity and even an Internet connection. Most of my boxes have been unpacked, and I even have food in the fridge. I have about one month with no classes, and all I really have to do is study for the USMLE Step 1. Today is the beginning of my marathon studying routine.

Okay Kendra, you can study now. But I don’t want to study! Actually, I’ve been so swamped lately with moving, packing and unpacking, and running all the errands involved with moving to another country that I haven't studied in over a month. I don’t even feel like a student anymore. I feel like a professional mover. Over the past month, I kept telling myself that when I finally get everything unpacked, I will buckle down and start studying. But now that that time has finally arrived, I don’t even know where to begin.

I’ve made excuses like, “I can’t study until I have electricity,” or “I can’t study until I have unpacked all of my books,” or “I can’t study until my dogs get all of their vaccinations.” These seemed like reasonable excuses at the time, but when I stop and think about it, I realize that I’ve studied under worse conditions in the past.

In Dominica, I’ve studied without electricity or water. I’ve studied in the middle of a hurricane. I’ve studied right after having surgery. I’ve studied when I could barely keep my eyes open because I was sick and fatigued to the point of wanting to give up. But now I’m saying that I can’t study until my dogs get vaccinated? What on earth is wrong with me?!

I’ve written before about having a study block, but this time it seems a little different. Having a deadline that’s so far away means that I have to put the pressure on myself. I’m also in another country, and it’s been so long since I’ve studied that I wonder if I’ve forgotten how.

I’m wondering how many of you out there have been through a similar experience. Do you have any tips on how to get back into studying after taking so long of a break? I guess I should stop writing about not being able to study and just do it! If only it were that easy.

April 29, 2008 in Kendra Campbell | Permalink


Hi, I haven't started medical school yet. I am researching whether or not this will be an option for me, But , I do have good advice to begin studying when you are overwhelmed with "to much on your plate at once syndrome". First; realize you have a lot to deal with that is new. Realize that since it is new you are a little confused by it all. Next know that everything is going to settle down into a routine, but right now you must be your own best friend/parent and set some routine into place. Finally set up your study routine. Begin by making a place to study, then set all materials in place. Give your materials a quick look through. Then, if you are stressed. Schedule something relaxing for an afternoon or evening, get out and really forget and focus on the activity. Schedule your study times for directly after this activity. Either next morning or in the evening. With all your materials in place and the study times scheduled into your day via calender, you should be able to get back on track. Congratulations and good luck with everything!

Posted by: Zoe | Apr 29, 2008 12:46:32 PM

I feel your pain... I took Step 1 and 2. The thing that worked for me is to wake up early and go to the desk or computer and pretend like I am in school. Just sit there without too much distraction (ie: food, drink, magazines, etc) and open a book and read.
What I did:
wake up at 7 am, took shower, then sit on my desk from 8-10 am to review my notes. I took a half hour break, usually watch 1 half-hour show on TV.
Then I sat again and did Q-bank or other test questions until noon.
I took a noon break/lunch for 1hour, then study again (read or more q-bank) until 3-4 pm, then I went to work out.
I don't study at all in the evening.
I don't deviate from this plan under any circumstances. I don't take phone calls, talk to anybody, nothing. I do all my "fun" stuff in the evening, when I am not "scheduled" to study.
I did this for 1 month before my step 2.
This worked for me... Good luck on you studying!

Posted by: susan | Apr 29, 2008 3:26:18 PM

Dear Kendra,

Here's my advice: you just have to start. Tell yourself, "I am going to open the book and study for half an hour. After that, I can quit for the day." Study for half an hour, and then quit.
Once you've "broken the ice" and done that first half hour, it won't be so hard to get yourself to continue the next day. Do whatever it takes to take that first plunge: sometimes I bribe myself with ice cream, or drink coffee (which makes me more energetic and motivated).

Posted by: Vlada | Apr 29, 2008 3:34:53 PM

Make yourself a study schedule from now until the day you are taking Step 1. Break down what you have to cover each day until the exam. Set a start time, end time, and break times (mid-morning, lunch, mid-afternoon) and stick to it. When I studied, I scheduled 6 full days per week. The 7th day was a catch-up day for whatever I hadn't finished from the 6 preceding days, and then the rest of that day was a day off. I did one 1-hour question block per day during most of my studying, and increased that to 2 blocks per day a couple of weeks prior to the exam. The final week leading up to the exam was dedicated entirely to review and 2-3 question blocks per day.
This way you will have short-term accountability to yourself for how you spend your study time. Good luck.

Posted by: | Apr 29, 2008 7:33:13 PM

If you want to get motivated:

step 1 - make yourself a cup of coffee
step 2 - sit down in your favorite chiar
step 3 - make sure you have a medical dictionary close by
step 4 - put on an episode of ER/House/Greys anatomy/anything medically bias

p.s. this is to get you started, after that you actually want to study!!!!

Posted by: samsam | Apr 29, 2008 11:18:10 PM

I am in the same boat, but here in Mexico. My time is more limited, due to having to do clinical rotations and due to having to then follow with the Cardiology rotation starting in 3 wks when I am done with my clinical rotations, but you are more than welcome to contact me as a "buddy in studying" for this. Step 1 is on my mind for the first week in July, but may have to be rescheduled into August. I need a routine. Let´s create one together. Buddying is always so much easier. Of course, you will do a lot on your own but you won´t feel so alone. I got up tonight at 11:30 pm, feeling guilty because I hadn´t looked at any questions this week. Neither notes. It´s all so overwhelming but this can be done, as others have done it before us. Contact me if you like at my e-mail as well as add me to your yahoo msn. Liz

Posted by: Liz | Apr 30, 2008 12:14:38 AM

oops, that e-mail didn´t post, so here you go. lcdjrn@yahoo.com

Posted by: Liz | Apr 30, 2008 12:16:43 AM

hi, first let me present myself, my name kia, i am from indonesia, in my country medical study is very complex,because not only studied thorax abdominal,eyes,ear,and also all anatomies of human,so actually study is not difficult, but always in my country study in medical faculty is limited by the time but there is many of subjects have to be studied, ithink medical study is focus in one subjects,why in my country does'nt it?????

Posted by: zakia | Apr 30, 2008 1:10:07 AM

well first of all there are lots of people in your situation i.e. cant start the- studying,...So if you'r a person who generally gets along with others easily find a study partner to start the day off or during the time of day you find it hard to sit down. Even a few hrs help put you in the right mind set. try contacting a few people over the internet there are tons of websites where you can post msgs, if you find someone you get along with and your schedules match you'll get going. But be careful dont get sucked into forum world!

Posted by: veena | Apr 30, 2008 7:33:17 AM

i know your problem well! i am so very nearly at the end of 6 long years at medical school in the UK, one more exam tomorrow (surgery osce) and then its all over. yet at this very moment i am procrastinating when i should be going over examinations and how to treat various surgical problems.
all i can say is stick at it, you will get the work done even if at this moment it does'nt seem like it, try taking yourself off to study somewhere other than in front of your computer - e.g. the dining room table - i found that helps as there are less interesting things to do and no access to the dreaded facebook (i swear facebook schemes and plots against me when i have work to do!) - i might just take my own advice and use the last few hours of this day to revise for tomorrow!
H xx

Posted by: harriet | Apr 30, 2008 10:01:24 AM

Kendra! I know what you mean! (me sitting here = exibit A) Today was supposed to be "diabetes day" and... ja, well, that hasn't happened.
But, things that I have found have worked in the past:
1. The Study Buddy tactic: get a friend to study with you (but not WITH you - just in your house/flat). Works well because you have some accountability, and you can schedule study breaks together. Sometimes it just helps to know there's someone else studying in the room next door. The only danger is the temptation to chat.
2. Remind yourself how interesting the work is - at some point it will seem absurd you're not studying it
3. Don't, DON'T take an afternoon nap. My "quick power naps" have turned into three-hour slumbers, with waking up at 9min intervals to press the snooze button
4. Exercise - a 15 min jog around the block works like a bomb
5. Coffee... a really good friend. And if you take your coffee seriously then there's nothing nicer than sitting behind the books with a PROPER cup of coffee to keep you company ;)

Hope these help.

Posted by: | Apr 30, 2008 1:24:44 PM

Maybe this reflects the concept of living in a lesser developed country can provide more creativity and imagination. Maybe you'd be more active after discovering the neighborhood and locking down your fav shops and corners, sort of building your base and get settled down before getting into full swing studying mood.
Best of luck.

Posted by: B Cairo | Apr 30, 2008 2:04:37 PM

honey, study watever u feel like, whenever u feel like. it gets absorped better. no point reading abt immunology when u reli feel like cardiology rite?

Posted by: Jun | May 1, 2008 2:09:10 AM

Hi Kendra,

I hope you have a blast in Baltimore. There are several RUSM students here in Atlanta that came down from there and they really enjoyed the experience.

Hope the studying is going better. When I had a block I took my uncles advice - just start. Even if it is to sit and tell yourself it is for only 10 questions in USMLEWorld.

Good luck - I hope our paths cross again!
RUSM 2010

Posted by: Irene | May 5, 2008 12:00:11 PM

3 words...JUST DO IT

Posted by: Matilda | May 6, 2008 8:26:47 PM

hey there.. i'm a third year medic student in Malaysia and i think the best way to gear yourself into studying is by creating a suitable environment. for me, i study really well in the library because everyone around me is studying so i very well can't be talking or walking around..

also, try stacking up your daily targets in a neat pile and slowly work your way through.. when you see the "DONE" pile overtaking the "TO DO" pile, that will surely motivate you..

Posted by: xandra | May 7, 2008 8:17:17 AM

i m a second year medical student in malaysia..will be sitting for endo and repro system exam next week.unfortunately...i m not ready to face it.i have tried to force myself to study.i lost the motivation to study.even after i studied for 5 hours..the memory circuit in my brain will never be formed...

Posted by: XelA | May 7, 2008 8:40:30 AM

Hi Kendra, you can to study, i am in my last year of medicine, and i now it is hard but is possible, good luck.

Posted by: ana | May 7, 2008 6:39:33 PM


hello im a med third year med student from Dominican Republic and i suggest you to:
1. Remember your goals in life and what you've been working for.
2. Watch some House dvd, he can make anyone feel ignorant enough to want to study.
3. Keep the cup of coffee always near, sleep can be really tricky. And also, coffee helps with concentration.
4. Make colorfull notes (this one i took it from a friend). Its fun! and Makes the review moments much nicer.
5.share knowledge with others
6. As someone said before, JUST DO IT already!:P

best wishes.

Posted by: Magna | May 9, 2008 7:49:13 PM

hi kendra,
just go about ur study as if it were ur job.a 9am-6pm job.u just have to do ur job.fix a time table.stick to it at any cost.u dont stick to ur plan u ruin ur career.ur a professional,once out of college ur no more a student, so no more erratics & other studently antics, just go about ur job in a professional manner & yeh wish u luck.

Posted by: sharat | May 12, 2008 3:18:13 AM

unless you are doing medicine for another purpose, there must be at least one thing that motivates you (gets you excited) to open your book. just find out what it is and help yourself with it. prayer to God almighty in the name of jesus will help.

Posted by: willie | May 13, 2008 5:33:12 AM

Hi Kendra,
tanks for your letter. I am identified with you. I have been in same situastion before. After 5 years Iam back to study. And now I have a cat, child and I work really fare away from my homeplace. I take flyght to work and study. But what is the meaning of a life without opportunity to get to know/learn? So take the opportunity!
Regards fro Isabel.

Posted by: Isabel Keshavji | Jun 18, 2008 5:04:08 AM

Hey Kendra,
I am a third year med student currently in my third rotation, surgery, studying in Australia but back in my home country for this rotation. My schedule is packed and my rotation exams are next week and i'm finding it hard to study as well. I'm so tired at the end of the day that i don't study at all. I think i'm screwed but it's great to see advice from other ppl though.

Posted by: Huda | Jul 15, 2008 1:21:13 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.