January 9th, 2017, (0 Comments)
Pharmacology is a fairly used topic in the step series, you will find no less than 20 questions on specific drugs for any given step and for pharmacology in step 1 at least 10 more, so it becomes important to secure these questions right off.
To help you improve your retention on pharm let me introduce some helpful tips keeping them as few and practical as possible.
Learn the group
This one is pretty straight forward tip, learn the action mechanism for each specific group and learn to identify each drug to its group so you can quickly asses which drug might be involved in a question.
Although almost every question relates to a specific drug, knowing the function , helps to orientate over which might be correct. Also is one of those things that will really help you along your practice.
Know specific drugs
Most questions will deal in specific drugs, knowing each of the important drugs for each topic it’s really important for the exams, including in step 1 uncouplers for the electron transport chain, membrane interactions, specific changes in a group, side effects and overdose reactions as long as they are unique or have a differentiating trait.
Remember that some drugs are there because of the particular reactions, side effects etc. since it’s a way to make them recognizable in a list you should focus on their specific traits over the rest of general or shared characteristics. For example a patient that is aggressive, has general erythema and profuse sweating is related to atropine overdose and you should know what drugs may be related and their antidote.
Learn to recognize the drug.
Along the line of specific drugs, most questions will point out which drug they are referring to by mentioning a specific trait unique to that drug for example a patient with hypertension with a month of dry cough may refer to a specific widely used drug for hypertension, or the drug of choice for a specific condition like absence seizures.
Knowing the specifics of a drug including their unique side effects, important drug interactions (those that may lead to serious complications, side effects etc.), specific treatment for certain diseases (drug of choice), antidotes etc.
Even when it seems to be complicated once you rule out the general side effects and generally used drugs over a type of disease you may find less cases where the importance of learning their unique traits is relevant to memorize, for step 1 mostly drugs of choice, membrane interaction and unique side effects are really important.
Learn the dynamics and kinetics
In step1 you may find many questions referring to both pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, many of these questions come in the form of a study or a chart, so it’s important to recognize the patterns and type of renal elimination.
Learn to recognize the mechanism of action of each group as well as their interactions with receptors and type of receptor, which drugs behave like some substances in renal elimination. Innert substances and renal clearance are important, learn their behavior so you can compare them later. You may find around 10 questions about dynamics and kinetics so it’s important to have them in the bag. Remember how inulin is compared to some drugs.
Take a separate note.
When finding a specific drug over your study material, take a separate note of each drug, make it so that it’s easy to review and explain it with your own words so it makes more sense and becomes easier to memorize. Having these mini side notes for each drug will make them easier to remember and more accessible for reviews.
For special cases like tuberculosis, cancer and HIV drugs make a chart and memorize it using the same criteria, which have unique traits that make them easy to identify like drug of choice, side effects, kinetics, mechanism etc. Although there are not so many questions about these drugs you may find somewhere around 5 questions about them. Some of the most difficult questions are related to cancer specific drugs or immunologic drugs like monoclonal antibodies (all that end in mab ).
Even when it’s not in the topic, to learn the different types of receptors, their function and interactions will give you some really high yield material over the course of the exams, the membrane receptors topic is included in several questions where knowing them will be part of the solution, so it’s important to memorize them, learn their specific characteristics as well as their functionality.
For vitamins it’s also important to know first of all names, I don’t remember finding a question about vitamins where they referred to b1 so learn the names.
Study relevant facts more than any other thing, specific interactions, special cases, overdose and specific diseases for the most relevant vitamins. Remember that collagen formation is relevant to vitamins and make the associations too.
The topic may have few questions about 5 but also they are easy to master and get right, so make sure you get them right.
For drugs of abuse
Since there are some few questions about them, you may find cases of people on the ER with either an overdose, withdrawal syndrome or under the effects, learn to recognize each by their specific traits, things like headache, fever etc. may not be as helpful as knowing a unique trait. You may find around 5 questions about them but also since it’s a fairly short subject it’s important to get them right.
Master each topic.
A general advice but also very important, don’t think you know the topics because you read them, master the commonly used content and high yield material, so you don’t get confused, most questions about pharmacology try to confuse you with something very similar, knowing a topic makes it less probable to get confused over a similar term.
Hopefully the tips help you improve your pharmacology and if you find them useful remember to try our tutoring guides for a more detailed orientation of each topic, as always if you have any comments please leave them below and for more information visit our website www.usmleprepguide.com