Practical and customizable study strategies for clerkship year success


  • Hannah Johnston University of Chicago Medical Center
  • Caroline Zhao Feinberg School of Medicine Northwestern University
  • Yenya Hu Wake Forest School of Medicine



The transition from a pre-clerkship curriculum to the clerkship year presents a need to re-examine and modify study strategies for clinical subject examinations and ultimately the United States Medical License Examination STEP 2 Clinical Knowledge. Efficient and effective learning are keys in balancing the significantly increased responsibility of patient care and decreased time for examination preparation.

We describe several customizable study approaches, advice on selecting resources, and methods for applying the educational framework of deliberate practice and corrective feedback to learning during a medical student’s clerkship years. These strategies focus on intentional and outcome-driven self-assessments to identify and patch knowledge gaps tailored to the clerkship year that will empower learners.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Hannah Johnston, University of Chicago Medical Center

Dr. Johnston graduated from Wake Forest School of Medicine in 2021. Currently, she is an internal medicine resident at the University of Chicago Medical Center. 

Caroline Zhao, Feinberg School of Medicine Northwestern University

Miss Zhao is currently a 3rd-year medical student at Feinberg School of Medicine Northwestern University. 

Yenya Hu, Wake Forest School of Medicine

Dr. Hu is an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine. 


O’Brien B, Cooke M, Irby DM. Perceptions and attributions of third year learner struggles in clerkships: do learners and clerkship directors agree? Acad Med. 2007; 82(10):970-8. https://doi.org10.1097/ACM.0b013e31814a4fd5 DOI:

Prince K, Boshuizen H, van der Vleuten C, Scherpbier A. Students’ opinions about their preparation for clinical practice. Med Educ. 2005; 39(7): 704-12. https://doi.org10.1111/u.1365-2929.2005.02207. DOI:

Surmon L, Bialocerkowski A, Hu W. Perceptions of preparedness for the first medical clerkship: a systematic review and synthesis. BMC Med Educ. 2016; 16:89. https://doi.org10.1186/s12909-016-0615-3. DOI:

Volk AS, Rhudy AK, Marturano MN, et al. Best study strategy for the NBME clinical science surgery exam. J Surg Educ. 2019; 76(6): 1539-45. https://doi.org10.1016/j.surg.2019.05.012. DOI:

Eder T, Richter J, Scheiter K, et al. How to support dental students in reading radiographs: effects of a gaze-based compare-and-contrast intervention. Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2021; 26(1): 159-81. https://doi.org10.1007/s10459-020-009974-w. DOI:

Simonian MJ, Brand D. Assessing the efficacy of and preference for positive and corrective feedback. J Appl Behav Anal. 2022 Jun; 55(3): 727-45. https://doi.org10.1002/jaba.911. DOI:

Ericsson KA, Krampe RT, Tesch-Romer C. The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review. 1993; 100(3): 363-406. https://doi.org10.1098/rsos.190327. DOI:

Ericsson KA. Acquisition and maintenance of medical expertise: a perspective from the expert-performance approach with deliberate practice. Acad Med. 2015; 90(11): 1471-86. https://doi.org10.1097/ACM.0000000000000939. DOI:

Davila-Cervantes A, Foulds JL, Gomaa NA, et al. Experiences of faculty members giving corrective feedback to medical trainees in a clinical setting. J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2021; 41(1): 24-30. https://doi.org10./1097/CEH DOI:

Zhao C, Hu Y. Reflections on study strategy modifications using cognitive load theory and dual processing theory in the first year of medical school. Med Sci Educ. 2021; 31: 813-18. https://doi.org10.1007/s40670-020-01198. DOI:

Borsheim B, Ledford C, Zitelny E, et al. Preparation for the United States medical licensing examinations in the face of COVID-19. Med Sci Educ. 2020; 30(3): 1267-1272. https://doi.org10.1007/s40670-020-01011-1. DOI:

Garino A. Ready, willing and able: a model to explain successful use of feedback. Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2020; 25(2): 337-61. DOI:

Le T, Bhushan V, Deol M, et al. First Aid for the USMLE Step 2 CK, Tenth Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Education; 2018.

Agabegi ED, Agabegi SS. Step-Up to Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer; 2016.

Toy EC, Briscoe D, Britton B, et al. Case files: family medicine. 5th ed. New York: McGraw Hill Education; 2020.




How to Cite

Johnston H, Zhao C, Hu Y. Practical and customizable study strategies for clerkship year success. Can. Med. Ed. J [Internet]. 2023 Feb. 20 [cited 2024 May 27];14(4):112-5. Available from:



Black Ice