USMLE Resource FOMO: What It Is And How It’s Sabotaging Your Studying

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • We’ve all been there, it’s midnight at the library and you are halfway through your notes for the upcoming exam when you get a message “Just found this PDF, it is awesome. It basically is our notes, only better.”

    You open up the document entitled Micro Magic Juice’, and shit, it IS better. It is so much more organized and it just seems like it has more answers than what you have been studying from all along. You are a week away from the exam and you decide to jump ship with your micro notes and text that you have been studying from and you start studying from Micro Magic Juice’. Three days later, and now four days out from the exam, you are group studying and a friend looks over your shoulder at your computer and says, “oh is that Micro Magic Juice? Have you seen Micro Jugo Magico’? It’s like Magic Juice, only way better it incorporates the lab images too.” You panic: “can you send it to me?” And after looking through it, it’s true, whoever put this together took the time to add stuff from lab, and from First Aid and from notes from class. It seems more complete. Yeah, it is twice as long, but it is definitely more complete. “Is it all accurate,” you ask yourself. You decide, once again, to abandon Micro Magic Juice and use the last 4 days to study from Micro Jugo Magico

    You have now become a classic victim of Resource FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

    If you aren’t careful, around every corner will be another opportunity to enter a state of mental or emotional strain caused by the fear of missing out on a resource that may be the key to you acing the next exam. You may ask, “But Leila, isn’t it better to have the BEST resource possible?” That is a reasonable question but the premise is flawed: the key to you excelling is not WHICH resource you use, but HOW you use it! In order to make the most out of a study resource, you have to be invested in it, annotate it in your words, understand and memorize every detail in that resource.

    So why is Resource FOMO so dangerous?

    One word: Procrastination.

    Sitting around and worrying about which resource you should be using is just another way of procrastinating and getting out of actually LEARNING the material. Furthermore, if you keep jumping from resource to resource, you will likely become overwhelmed, distracted and your thoughts will be all over the place. You certainly wont be able to develop a cohesive set of notes to study before the test! One of the biggest strategies in acing medical school is REPETITION. How many times have you been sitting in an exam trying to picture that one page in your notes with the answer on it? If you spend a significant amount of time focusing on one reputable study resource, you will get there much more easily than if you keep trying to upgrade to the next best chart. Worse yet, if you switch too late, you will FREAK out when you can’t finish reviewing this new resource. You will panic and think “OMG what content have I not even seen yet?” This wouldn’t have happened if you chose one resource from the beginning. You would know that one backward and forward by now.

    “But my friend TOLD me this was the best resource”

    First of all, unless this friend is the professor or a person who has taken the exam and knows the intricacies, how does this person know this is the BEST resource? Second of all, most people will never admit “wow, I regret that I am currently studying from Micro Magic Juice”. Why? Because everyone wants to feel validated in their study choices. That’s one of the biggest reasons why they recommend things in the first place! It always feels better when other people are doing the same thing you are doing. Strength in numbers. Thirdly, maybe this resource IS better’ (however vague and unreliable statement that is), but unless you are just starting to study the topic, it is not in your best interest to switch in the middle of studying. Your best bet is to learn EVERYTHING in the document you are currently studying, and when that day comes (which it never will), you can then add another resource to supplement!

    That said, not all resources are created equal.

    Disclaimer: By no means should you take this article to mean “If I study ANY notes EVER, I will do great.” That’s false.

    Rules to live by:

    For coursework, always start with the class notes, and the resources that are often reputable are ones that reorganize the lecture slides into cohesive outlines that are often better organized. Don’t stray too far from the lecture notes when studying core content!

    For Step 1, if you aren’t Using First Aid and UWorld, you are doing something WRONG! But some people may do better supplementing pathology with Pathoma, others may do better supplementing with Kaplan Notes, or BRS Pathology. This is where the FOMO theory applies but always keep it simple with Step 1. No, First Aid doesn’t have EVERYTHING in it. But between First Aid and UWorld, you will have everything you need to ace the exam.

    For Shelf Exams, you can pretty much use any of the popular book series (Blueprints, Case Files, First Aid, Recall). For specific subject exams you can even choose to use a more general book like Master the Boards or First Aid for Step 2 and focus on the respective chapters. ALWAYS use USMLE World in conjunction with a resource and you will do just fine! Find one that works for you. For internal Medicine, the best choices you have are Step Up to Medicine, Master the Boards, First Aid for Step 2. Once again, as long as you are using one book thoroughly with UWorld, you will do great.

    For Step 2CK, HA! Well, you got me. This is a widely debated topic. What is the lesson? Use UWorld as your major resource and whichever other resource you choose to use to supplement, STICK TO IT!

    In Summation

    Medical school is full of challenges. We are commitment-phobes by nature when it comes to study resources, but you have to try your best to fight it because Resource FOMO will only sabotage your study efforts. Pick a reputable resource, stick to it, learn it well, and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing: WORRY ABOUT YOURSELF.

    Now get off this blog and hit the books!