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What Is “Study Burnout” and How to Prevent It

We asked our most successful users how Cram Fighter helped them avoid burnout and stay effective throughout their study time

According to Kate Wentworth, a medical student at University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Maine, here’s what burnout means: “At some point, you just stop. You’re not taking anything in, you’re stressed the whole time. It’s not conducive to actually learning anymore. You’re reading but you’re not gaining anything.” So, how do you ensure that you have enough time to cover all the material and don’t burn out along the way? Below you will find some tips from Cram Fighter’s most successful users.

Acclimate to your study schedule

There are pros and cons with starting to prepare for board exams early. On the one hand, starting early allows for a less intensive study plan, with more time to cover the material and to familiarize yourself with the process. On the other hand, starting too early could result in burning out, which is the last thing you want while prepping for your board exams. There is a lot of material to be covered, so familiarize yourself with the amount of time you need to allocate and the different resources available. Many of our users start preparing at a slower pace while they are still in classes and intensify their studying after their classes. Medical student Ethan Young, from University of South Dakota – Sanford School of Medicine, warns that “this is not an exam you can just cram for a couple weeks in advance.” He scored above 240, and attributes his score to developing a plan and starting early. Ethan began slowly by doing 10 questions per day, six months prior to the exam. “This doesn’t seem like much, but it really helped me become acquainted with the format of board questions as well as boosted my knowledge” he says. During his dedicated study time, Ethan intensified his schedule considerably. “This schedule required a lot of dedication as it was very time consuming. Ten hours or more each day was not unusual but it was well worth all of the effort,” says Ethan.

Ethan Young Ten hours or more each day was not unusual but it was well worth all of the effort.

Ethan Young, University of South Dakota, Score: 250

Have some (scheduled!) free time

To Adam Manly, a medical student at Ross University, the best way to prevent burnout is to allow yourself some free time. Being realistic about your study plan is essential and a good way to set yourself up for success. Adam claims that taking care of yourself is just as important as marking off tasks from your list. He was witness to many students burning out and compromising their scores. Achieving your goals, watching lectures, and doing Qbanks are key, but so is your state of mind. So, when choosing your resources, planning your tasks, and how many hours you will study per day, be sure to plan time for yourself. Scheduled free time will make you more productive when you go back to your study plan. “I always say that 6 hours of good studying is much better than 10 hours of mediocre studying,” says Javier Piraino, a medical student at University of North Texas Health Science Center. So allow yourself to take breaks and create a balanced study plan that has a long lasting effect.

Javier Piraino I always say that 6 hours of good studying is much better than 10 hours of mediocre studying.

Javier Piraino, University of North Texas Health Science Center

Falling behind is natural – it’s all about what you do about it

Everyone falls behind on their schedule, and (probably) you will too. The best strategy is to have a plan on how to catch up. “My biggest advice is to have built-in days off/catch-up days that allow for you to cover material that you did not get to on a prior day,” says Alex, a University of Minnesota medical student. Some of our users have scheduled catch-up days often. As one medical student who scored a 254 on Step 1 told us, “the best way to fight burnout was to schedule at least a “half day of totally free time per week” to use as buffer time. “You WILL burn out if you don’t take time, and your productivity will suffer as a result. I tried to do two straight weeks at one point and halfway through the second week I was essentially useless.” Catch-up days are also a way to keep you motivated, because if you are already caught up, you earn a well-deserved day off.