How to Rock Your Internal Medicine Rotation

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Lauryn Falcone, MD, PhD and Shelby Wood, MD, MPH contributed to this post.

    No matter what specialty you plan to pursue as a doctor, it’s important for just about everyone to do well on the MS3 internal medicine rotation. Aside from surgery, internal medicine is often regarded as the most difficult rotation of third year due to the long hours and breadth of material covered on the shelf exam.

    Top 3 Tips for Succeeding on Your MS3 Internal Medicine Rotation:

    1. Don’t be invisible on your inpatient services.

    Much of your time during the internal medicine rotation can be spent on inpatient services such as wards, GI or ID consults, cardiology, etc.

    These services can be intimidating as this may be your first experience dealing with very sick, hospitalized patients. You also may be one of six to eight people on your medicine team.

    These two factors can make it easy to stay quiet or get lost in the crowd, but in order to do well you must speak up and be an active team member.

    Ask your attending questions about your patients. Offer to help the residents in any way you can. When the team is on rounds, don’t just hang quietly at the back; stay towards the front of the group, observe or ask questions, go into patients’ rooms as much as possible, and try to minimize social conversations with other med students or members of the team.


    2. Prepare well from the NBME exam.

    The NBME medicine exam covers a huge amount of material. The sheer volume of material to review, coupled with the often long hours spent in the hospital on this rotation, can make the NBME exam seem daunting.

    However, by studying early and holding yourself accountable, it is very possible to do well on this exam. A number of good resources are available to prepare for this NBME exam including UWorld, Step Up to Medicine, Case Files, Online Med Ed, NBME practice tests, etc.

    You should choose materials based on how you learn best, but in general, all students should aim to complete the UWorld questions and at least one NBME practice exam.

    Remember not to spread yourself too thin; it is better to just complete the UWorld questions, for example, rather than get a surface level review of every possible resource. With around 1,600 medicine questions, completing them by your final exam may be difficult. In order to do so, you often must begin studying from day 1 and divide out how many questions you must complete each day in order to finish the Qbank before the final exam.

    If you get behind on your daily questions, push yourself to catch up on the weekends. Staying dedicated to your plan will be key to getting a high score on this shelf exam.


    3. Remember to take care of yourself!

    For many students, the MS3 internal medicine rotation is a very busy time. During my rotation, we had dozens of procedures to participate in and log for credit, 12 histories and physicals to perform and write over the course of the rotation, and often worked 6 days straight for 10 to 14 hours per day before going home to study for a few hours.

    It could be easy to find yourself doing nothing but studying and working while sleeping just a few hours each night. However, remember the importance of work-life balance. Try to do something fun every day, whether it’s watching your favorite TV show, jogging a 5k, or spending a Saturday night with friends. Staying healthy and happy is the best way to do well on your internal medicine rotation!


    Overall, the internal medicine rotation is a very important time for an MS3. This rotation is a valuable learning experience if you remember to practice good time management, keep an open mind, and stick to your study plan!

    Looking for more internal medicine tips? Have a look at our Internal Medicine Dos and Don’ts.