HealthFebruary 19, 2016

Best practices for marking on Firecracker

So much stuff to mark. So many ways to mark it. Students ask all the time what each of the different mark types (i.e. Urgent, Current, and Past) mean, when they should use each, and when (if ever) they should move a learned topic from one to another. So allow me to quickly clarify exactly how you should approach marking topics.

First, the basics: Marking a topic is how you tell Firecracker that you have already learned that topic. Not that you’re going to learn it. Not that you want to learn it. That you have already learned it in the past, whether that was earlier this morning in class or months ago during last semester.

Why is this distinction important? Well, marking a topic as learned unlocks all of the Firecracker review questions that are related to that topic, allowing them to begin showing up in your daily review tasks. Since it’s inefficient (and wildly frustrating) to spend time reviewing something that you never really learned, it’s important to wait until you have done so (whether in a class lecture, your textbook, a YouTube video, etc.) before marking it in Firecracker.

With that out of the way, what’s the best process for marking something? Generally, a good approach when marking new topics is to immediately read the topic summary and then answer the related review questions. That way the questions get added to your stack with at least an early indication of your comfort, and it ensures you’ve at least read the concepts that are covered in all of the questions. You still might come across questions that you aren’t familiar with; in those instances, you should mark them as a 1 and re-read the topic summary later.

Now that you’re ready to mark a topic, which type of mark should you use? Well, you can think of Urgent, Current, and Past as different buckets, within which you are sorting all of the topics you have learned throughout med school based on how important each individual topic is to you in the short-term foreseeable future. Your daily review tasks will typically be made up of a blend of questions from each of these buckets, with Urgent topics prioritized over Current topics, which are further prioritized over Past topics.

It’s important to understand that these are purposely general terms, designed to allow for a certain degree of flexibility, while still prioritizing topics accurately and ensuring that everything you have learned is seen again at some point in the future so as to stay fresh in long-term memory. As such, most topics that you learn will usually be categorized as each of these different mark types over the course of your studying as their short-term importance changes. A common trajectory for a topic over time might look like this: Current when you first learn it in class, Urgent right before an exam that covers the topic, Past once you’re done with the related course, and Current again once you start dedicated board prep.

So to summarize, here’s a great way to approach marking new topics that you’ve learned:

  1. Find the topic in the Study Something Specific tab.
  2. Read the entire topic summary.
  3. Mark the topic with the relevant mark type (more on this below) based on how important the material is in the short term.
  4. Immediately answer the related review questions.
  5. Rejoice in having taken another small step toward your goal.

Hope that helps, but let us know if you have any questions: [email protected].


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