As the final summer break of my life has finally gotten underway, I have had a lot more free time on my hands. Some of that time has been used trying to figure out which of the thousands of Step 1 resources I am going to start using next year. One fairly new company that has really caught my eye is Picmonic. The concept was created by two medical students who went through Step 1 studying and memorized (and subsequently forgot) the tiny minutia associated with humongous standardized tests. In less than a year, Picmonic has had over 10,000 medical students sign up to study for the board exam in a unique and pretty fun way. I have never fit neatly into a learning-type. I was always a mix of mostly visual and auditory with a bit of kinesthetic style mixed in there. Now that I am in medical school, I like attending lectures, but sometimes I just want to read a book and do it on my own. I use Anki cards for rote memorization, but I often find myself drawing out a complicated concept into my own condensed mini-version. Basically, the way I learn is complicated and multi-faceted.
What is great about Picmonic is that it is simple, but presents a ton of high-yield information in an easy to remember way...while also hitting a ton of different learning styles. Let me explain.
Concepts are broken down into cards. Multiple cards are organized into stacks of larger subjects. Each individual card features a ridiculous picture. For instance, the "Aerobic Respiration" card (of the "Cellular Metabolism" stack) features Richard Simmons, a seagull smoking a cigarette, and a giant crab. What I like best is that somehow there is a cohesive story that ties together everything and explains the science. Here's part of that said card:
I mentioned that I like to study and learn in many different ways. My favorite thing about Picmonic is that they feature it all. You can listen to the audio of the story while looking at the card (and probably have a chuckle or two), break down each individual component of the card, read about the concept scientifically, take (and save) your own notes, and post questions for others to answer. After reviewing the card, you can then rate it on how confidently you know the material. That way you can remember to go back over the hardest cards/concepts.
The sheer craziness of the cards makes concepts and tiny details stick with me. Something outrageous and funny is much easier to remember than reading a book, or remembering a professor's powerpoint lecture slides from way back when. The insanity even makes sense...Richard Simmons as an aerobic's instructor on the card for Aerobic Respiration? Well yeah, who else would be on the card?! Plus that mental image is going to stick with me, and I would guess with you as well.
I have been going over a few of the subjects that were covered during my first year in medical school in order to consolidate that information. I open Picmonic in full-screen on my laptop, sit back, and enjoy relearning/consolidating things. The picture quality is beautiful; I can't even imagine how great this program looks on the iPad with a retina display. The cherry on top of things is that the Step 1 Picmonic cards have references to the First AID USMLE (both the 2012 and 2013 editions). For those that don't know, that book is pretty much the holy Bible of Step 1 studying. This integration makes annotating and marking subjects of difficulty quick and easy.
The majority of my blog's readers are probably pre-meds, and guess what? Picmonic just recently developed cards for the MCAT! You can sample a trial set of 4 cards right now, for free, just click here. If you love it, and it helps you, the subscription price is also really affordable. I would jump at the chance to memorize over 600 high-yield biology facts for the MCAT at only $10 a month. Your BS score on the MCAT is probably the most important subsection, so there is no reason not to sample this for free.
I know that I am going to use it for Step-1 studying and all during my second year of medical school.