Pathology is a core and extensive subject of medicine. It can be unnerving because it has a tremendous amount of information. It is difficult to memorize all of this information but not impossible. If you are a medical student who is distressed about the upcoming pathology exam, you have come to the right place. In this guide, I will enlist the best ways to study for the pathology exam. I will also mention names of the recommended textbooks and the ones that I personally used to pass the pathology exam.
What is Pathology
Pathology is the study of diseases and their causes, effects and diagnosis. It has a couple of different components:
- Causes of the disease (etiology)
- The effect that the diseases have on your body and its structures (morphology)
- Clinical presentation (signs and symptoms)
It is important to know all of these components for each and every disease. All of this information is essential to be able to make a clear diagnosis and then treat the condition accordingly.
Best way to study for pathology exam
Start preparing early
As I have mentioned above, pathology is extensive so you need to start studying as soon as possible. Time is essential, do not waste it by procrastinating. You will not be able to study thoroughly if you wait until the last minute to open your books.
Attend all of your clinical postings
I believe clinical postings immensely help with understanding the clinical presentation of different diseases along with their diagnosis and treatment. So, along with your lectures, attend all of your clinical postings and pay attention during rounds. Hands-on experience and practice is valuable when it comes to medicine. Clinical postings help with other subjects as well.
Do not waste your time waiting for the weekend to catch up on your studies. Study every day after attending all your lectures. Revise all that you have learnt during the class while the information is still fresh in your mind. Record the lectures if you can and re-watch them while preparing for exams.
You should study for at least 8-10 hours every day during exams. I know that sounds terrifying but medical school is tough so you have to work hard.
Resources to use
There are a lot of resources that can help you ace your exam. Recommended textbook for pathology is Robbins Basic Pathology. It is a great book with all the necessary information which is just enough for a medical student. This book along with the lectures can help you ace your pathology exam.
There is another longer and a more detailed version of this book, Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease. Honestly, at this point, you do not have to read such an extensive book but if you love pathology and are curious, then by all means, go ahead and use it.
Now, I personally started studying pathology using Basic Pathology and it was quite helpful but I was having a hard time memorizing everything. Then I came across another book called Pathoma by Dr. Husain A. Sattar. It was a life saver for me and made me fall in love with pathology!
It is precise, clear and concise. A lot of students use it for quick revision only but if you watch the Pathoma video lectures along with the book, it is more than enough. As a matter of fact, you have to watch the video lectures in order to fully understand what’s written in the book and build your concepts.
This book helped me ace my pathology exam but this does not mean that you also absolutely have to use this book. You should pick the book that you find best and easy to understand.
How to study
I will guide you based on my personal experience. I used Pathoma so I used to watch video lectures first while keeping the book open in front of me. I used sticky notes to make notes and add more information to the text where required. I also used to keep a highlighter with me to highlight all of the key points. All of this makes it easier to revise later on. In my opinion it is one of the best ways to study for a pathology exam.
Important point to keep in mind is that since Pathoma is so concise, if you do not watch the videos, you will not fully understand what’s written in the text. You may be able to memorize all of the text but it would not be beneficial in the long run because your concepts would not be clear.
If you are using Robbins, you can also watch video lectures online or re-watch recorded lectures from your professor. Make notes and highlight the important points as you move forward. Make notes in your own words.
Know your basics
I can not emphasize enough on how important it is to have basic knowledge of pathology. The first three chapters in Basic Pathology are:
- Cell injury, cell death, and adaptations
- Acute and chronic inflammation
- Tissue repair : regeneration, healing, and fibrosis
Take your time with these to polish your basics because the content and information in these topics will recur throughout the other chapters.
Flashcards can really help you memorize and practice for your pathology exam. You can find them online or make your own.
Mnemonics are a fun and easy way to memorize things that are otherwise so tough to remember. For instance you can make mnemonics for symptoms of a specific disease, its etiology or morphology. You can also look these up online. One such example of a mnemonic is: Causes of ANEMIA
Anemia of chronic disease
No folate or vitamin B12
Marrow failure & hemoglobinopathies
Acute & chronic blood loss
Revise and practice
Start revising at least 5 days before your pathology exam. If you have already studied thoroughly, just skim through your notes and the books quickly. After that, start practicing. Solve practice tests and past papers. They provide valuable insight about what to expect during the exam; the exam pattern, question structure, time you take to solve each question etc. This will also help you figure out your weak points so you can go back and study that specific topic properly.
The bottom line
I have enlisted what I think are the best ways to study for the pathology exam. Hopefully, they will be enough for you to ace your exam. To sum it all up, do not waste your time, start preparing early, use all the resources at your disposal and work hard.