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Medical School is undoubtedly extremely difficult academically, even under ordinary circumstances. I am a medical student with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), and from personal experience, I know that often times students with ADHD have fears and concerns about being successful in medical school. In this article I will be reviewing the six best online study tools I have personally found helpful.
1. Question Banks – bite-sized questions, exam timers, and progress trackers
The first study tool that students with ADHD should be using are question banks with bite-sized questions. For the days where you struggle with questions which contain large clinical vignettes filled with massive amounts of information, here are a few question banks that typically contain questions with bite-sized questions – these types of questions are a single sentence long and only test a single concept per question. This feature is seen learning platforms like Lecturio and Anatomy Boot camp. These questions contain small amounts of information and are shorter in length, which prevents information overload.
Some question banks, like True Learn, can track how long you spend on each question. Having ADHD, one thing that I struggled with was never being aware of the time. I would frequently spend too long on one subject without even realizing that hours had passed by. This tendency translated to exams as I found myself not finishing tests on time. Having question banks which measure the amount of time which you take on exams is a great tool to help with this.
A variety of studies have shown that spaced repetition is one of the most effective tools for long-term retention. Students with ADHD tend to have a difficult time utilizing spaced repetition on their own because, often, we just forget to review things. The best flashcard tools include Anki, the Lecturio question bank (which uses spaced repetition), and Picmonic’s space repetition-based quiz.
3. Cloud-based note-taking apps
If you are someone who has trouble keeping track of where your notes are, then Google Docs is a great option. All of your notes are always in one centralized location, and saved in the cloud via Google Drive, so it is a lot easier to know where everything is. It comes with 15GB of free storage, which is enough for most medical students. Another popular website is Notion, which is more customizable and is free for students.
4. Spreadsheets or to-do list apps for staying organized
There are a variety of pre-made Excel templates for keeping track of your to-do lists, planners, as well as calendars. One that I recommend is Spreadsheet123 which contains a large variety of templates that could be useful for students who have difficulty with planning things or staying organized.
If you prefer to make your own to do list, or calendar then Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets are good options. They are both spreadsheet apps that allow you to keep track of lists or items with multiple components and are also helpful for planning out your day in blocks of time. I have found these apps helpful as they provide a visual representation of my day will look like.
If you do not enjoy scheduling your time in too much detail, Any.do is a to-do list app that I have found helpful to prioritize important items in my day. This app is usually better than the default to-do app on phones as it allows users to create tasks, reminders, supporting comments/notes, and even subtasks all within the same app.
5. Text-to-speech apps
When I struggle with reading large bodies of texts, I sometimes use a text-to-speech app as an alternative to reading. Some good text-to-speech applications include the following:
Klappz AI: This is a unique software which converts speech into videos with that includes a variety of voices. This is great because it is a way to convert boring pieces of info into more engaging material. Klappz AI currently costs $177.00, which is a hefty price, but luckily is a one-off charge rather than a subscription.
Speechelo: This app is a cheaper alternative, albeit with fewer features, at $47.00.
Murph Ai: This is a software which contains over 120 speech to text voices and allows you to adjust both the intonation and how fast you want the voice to read. A free version is available, with optional upgrades starting from $13.00/month.
Speechify: This is a software which allows users to import PDFs which can then be converted into speech. This is free for the first 3 days and then costs $139.00 annually.
6. Pomodoro Timers
The Pomodoro technique is the process of segmenting your studying into on and off cycles so you benefit from frequent cycles of bursts of energy and breaks. A classic example is when you study for 25 minutes straight, followed by a 5-minute break, before you repeat the cycle again. You can easily do this using the timer app your phone, or by using one of these free online websites: Pomofocus.io, TomatoTimers, Nesto.
By Eric Mubang
About the author
Eric Mubang is a 2nd year Medical Student at the Universtiy of Virginia, United States. In 2014, Eric was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder during his undergraduate studies. Determined to not let this get in the way of his aspirations, he found ways to study and be successful in the classroom despite his condition and eventually was able to gain admission into medical school.
He is the publisher of the website fitmedicwriter.com where he writes review articles on the best study materials for medical students, and other topics, such as ways to stay fit as a medical student, as well as navigating pre-med and medical school with ADHD. In addition to writing on his blog, he is an avid runner and enjoys working out. His current clinical interest is Orthopedic Surgery.