Using Mnemonics in USMLE
February 22nd, 2016,
It has become a common habit to study and remember facts using mnemonics while preparing for USMLE series, although some information that is more or less sterile for logical conclusions can be remembered easily using mnemonics like nucleotides in genetics, other type of information requires to actually commit to memory to link to either a logical path or additional information.
Remembering a couple mnemonics is easy but as you continue in your preparation you may find yourself trying to remember more than 50 incoherent although clever words that say nothing about the topic at hand, it is then when mnemonics become confusing and detrimental to your performance in the tests, more so if you consider that you are going to need those facts during an 8 hour test and mental fatigue plays its part.
In our experience mnemonics have been overused to remember facts while forgetting their links or importance, to remember clinical signs and symptoms for a given disease in a tune or a word doesn’t let you recognize the disease when reading clinical vignettes so even when you know the clinical presentation you cannot link it to the patient at hand, take conclusions about a study or remember the appropriate treatment for any given pathology.
While we do not recommend using too many mnemonics they are really usefull for information that is more likely to be used for confusing, or that has no links to other information like the case of which nucleotides are purines and which are pyrimidines, but overusing them may become confusing and trying to recall all those words in the middle of a mentally exhausting test may decrease your performance more so if the mnemonics become too extense or complicated like the ones used to remember brachial arch branches which is better to memorize as they are.
Keep in mind for your preparation not to overuse this resource since it is potentially damaging in the long run, it may be easier to remember something but it is also easy to forget it or to confuse it with something else, it has happened to us to be sitting there remembering only incoherent words without being able to either recall their meaning or make connections to other relevant information.
Tell us what you think, are mnemonics good for preparing and remembering that information for life or are they detrimental in the long run.
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