Reading and Study Habits of Medical Students on Clerkships and Performance Outcomes: a Multi-institutional Study

Med Sci Educ. 2021 Sep 29;31(6):1957-1966. doi: 10.1007/s40670-021-01409-5. eCollection 2021 Dec.


Purpose: To describe medical students' reading habits and resources used during clinical clerkships, and to assess whether these are associated with performance outcomes.

Method: Authors administered a cross-sectional survey to medical students at 3 schools midway through the clerkship year. Closed and open-ended questions focused on resources used to read and learn during the most recent clerkship, time spent and purpose for using these resources, influencers on study habits, and barriers. A multiple regression model was used to predict performance outcomes.

Results: Overall response rate was 53% (158/293). Students spent most of their time studying for clerkship exams and rated question banks and board review books as most useful for exam preparation. Sixty-seven percent used textbooks (including pocket-size). For patient care, online databases and pocket-sized textbooks were rated most useful. The main barrier to reading was time. Eighty percent of students ranked classmates/senior students as most influential regarding recommended resources. Hours spent reading for exams was the only significant predictor of USMLE Step 2 scores related to study habits. The predominant advice offered to future students was to read.

Conclusions: These findings can help inform students and educational leadership about resources students use, how they use them, and links to performance outcomes, in an effort to guide them on maximizing learning on busy clerkships. With peers being most influential, it is important not only to provide time to help students build strong reading and study habits early, but also to guide them towards reliable resources, so they will recommend useful information to others.

Keywords: Clinical clerkships; Medical students; Reading; Studying.