Success in Medical School: Insider Advice for the Preclinical Years is the latest title from the MD2B publishers. The book is laid out across 17 chapters, and explains the basics of how to excel in the first and second year of medical school. Notable chapters specifically include History and Physical Exam techniques, the importance of research, community service, extracurricular activities as they relate to residency applications, professionalism, what to do in the summer between first and second years, and tackling the USMLE Step 1 or COMLEX Level 1 exams. The book is laid out in list format, making it a particularly easy read, as topics are concisely broken into the most important take away points. These lists are generally composed of three types of information: anecdotal evidence, data-driven concepts, and general good advice.
The data-driven points tend to vary. Some can be incredibly insightful for someone new to a particular topic. They can range from subjective surveys of medical students, course directors, and residency program directors, to more objective histories and statistics. These last two categories are useful when referencing chapters on the USMLE Step 1 and COMLEX Level 1 exams, as they address many of the common questions this site receives through our contact form about them. What is average? Why are there two reported scores for Step 1? However, a small minority of the fact-driven points can be underwhelmingly simplistic. One point, for example, quoted the Merriam Webster definition of the word plagiarism as its take home message. These types of low-yield facts almost suggest that there is a fact-quota, and makes the book feel fluffy every so often. For most of the book though, the thorough references are insightful, and incredibly helpful on topics that involve describing different specialties or best practices in medical school.
Anecdotal experience can be a huge benefit for rising medical students. This website is largely built around that very idea. However, a lot of the med student comments in Success in Medical School tend to be unhelpful, and focus on the personal opinions of the cited med student on a particular seemingly-trivial question (e.g. “my favorite course in medical school was…”). While these types of opinion-comments are scattered throughout the book, they are thankfully not a large majority, and don’t detract from the surrounding value.
Lastly, the book offers some general advice which isn’t necessarily reference or backed by data. Often times these can be a good starting point for med school success, but they can be rather vague for someone seeking specific means of improvement. However, there’s no way for any single book to offer specific methods of studying that would work for all students, let alone up to date, so this generalization is somewhat understandable.
Much like MD2B’s other titles, the goals of this book are quite similar to this site: giving rising medical students an edge. However, the target audience is clearly different, as Success in Medical School: Insider Advice for the Preclinical Years is really geared towards students who have absolutely no understanding of the basic med school concepts.
So how should one reconcile this mixed review? Well, the book isn’t for everyone, and can’t be endorsed accordingly. However, there are a few key audience types that would benefit from reading Success in Medical School, and almost all of them are self-selecting:
- pre-medical students who are nervous or unsure about what is expected in medical school (especially those about to matriculate)
- students entering a medical school that does not provide a lot of orientation, support, or guidance on expectations or succeeding
- medical students who find they are consistently not able to excel or who consistently produce lower than average grades and evaluations in the first semester of medical school
- students who want some extra reassurance that their interpretation of academic expectations is accurate before entering situations that are evaluated
- the nervous-gunner types who are doing fine but feel compelled to find any and all resources they perceive may be of help
Based on the content type of the book, we would normally recommending renting/borrowing it. However, as it really does cover all areas of the preclinical years, we instead recommend having it on hand and referencing sections that are relevant to a student’s stage in medical school as they arise. After all, there’s really no reason a pre-med student should be reading about Step 1, but that section could be helpful during the summer after first year. Purchasing the book used would save some money without losing value, but since it is so new, that may be difficult to do.
For those who feel they may benefit from Success in Medical School, check back on the site over the next week, as we will be giving away a free copy of this title.