New To Medical Field? And Very Worried Because You Do Not Know How To Choose Books? Then Read This Post
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Thread: New To Medical Field? And Very Worried Because You Do Not Know How To Choose Books? Then Read This Post

  1. #1
    Med Studentz Beginner abdullah-khan's Avatar
    Member Since
    Oct 2012
    Lahore, Pakistan
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    New To Medical Field? And Very Worried Because You Do Not Know How To Choose Books? Then Read This Post

    Few days back a medical student contacted me. He was new to the medical field. He told me that he was really depressed and worried. His main problem was that he was unable to decide how he could choose books for different subjects. This is a common problem that new medical students encounter.

    I gave him a few tips on email so that he could arrive at solutions to his problems. I am going to share that tips here so that other students who are facing similar problems can also go through these tips. I am not going to tell you books for individual subjects. I am just going to give you tips that will help you to choose medical books yourself.

    I am copy pasting the whole email here.

    About Me

    I am Abdullah Khan, currently a 3rd year MBBS student at Allama Iqbal Medical College, Lahore.

    I Can Understand Your Problems

    I can understand your academic problems and worries you mentioned. This is because I can relate these problems to my own ones which I encountered the time I first stepped the threshold of medical college.

    In the Start, I Was Depressed Too Just Like You

    After getting admission to the medical college, I remained extremely worried for the first few months. I was completely confused and undecided how to study. The main reason was my habit of studying only one book for a subject. I developed this habit during matric and F.Sc. In F.Sc, I knew there was a biology book, a chemistry book, etc. I had to read and memorize that one biology book or chemistry book from cover to cover to get good marks in the exams and that’s it.

    So, at the time of my admission to the medical college, I was expecting the same. That is, there would be one book for anatomy, one book for physiology, etc and that’s it. But I soon came to know there are so many books for one subject. A lot of them! Dozens of them! That’s the point from where my anxiety started.

    Some questions arose in my mind. Like, which one book should be studied for a particular subject? And who should be sought for the proper guidance? The very first idea that came to my mind was to seek “seniors” for help. And the idea was basically true and rational. Why? Because seniors were the people who had passed the exam I was going to take in the future.

    So, I asked these question from some of my seniors who had secured good marks in 1st year. Now, what? Instead of solving my problems, they just fueled it. This was not because they didn’t want to help me. Indeed they all were very sincere in telling me which sources they used to prepare for their exams. But the problem was that each one was just telling a different story. Each person was mentioning the name of a different book while I was expecting to hear the name of a single book from all of them.

    Then, I asked some more seniors in an attempt to conclude something reasonable. But to my misery; the more I asked others, the more uncertain and undecided I got. This was again because as I asked more and more seniors, they started mentioning the names of so many other books. So, the overall list of books in my mind kept on increasing instead of shrinking.

    And the depression crept in. Because we can deal even with the worst case scenario but it is not possible to live in an undecided state of uncertainty.

    That is why when you told me about your problems, I thought it would be insufficient to reply to you briefly. I must discuss the topic with you in great detail so that you can get more understanding of your problems and can easily arrive at solutions to these problems.

    General Tips

    I will first discuss a few tips in general. Keep them in mind, so that when I specifically answer your questions, you are able to understand the answers thoroughly.

    1. One Subject-One Book Law Does Not Apply after F.Sc

    You might have had the habit of referring to only one book for one subject before your medical life. That was actually the demand of passing exams like F.Sc. But now, it is the time for you to broaden your views regarding true study at higher levels. In F.Sc, they would give you a book and ask you to learn it. Your world would be limited to that book only. But in medical field, they would give you some topics to learn. And a list of books to choose from. They would usually not mention you one single book to study from. If you find yourself studying just one book for a subject, that would be a case of exception for that subject only.

    So, in general, you have to keep in mind; for each subject there are multiple books rather than a single one.

    2. No Single Book Is Perfect

    Yes. No single book is perfect. A book may be very good for a subject but is never perfect. There are many reasons that can account for this imperfection. For example, you may find that a book is very good in describing all the topics except a few ones. A book usually has multiple authors. Each chapter may be written by different authors. Therefore, you may find that certain chapters are very well written while others are not.

    The other example is that you may find a book very good in discussing all the topics it has. So, “some part good and some part bad” problem is solved in this case. But the book might be completely missing some of the topics that are included in your syllabus. So, in this case, the problem is not that some topics are badly described in the book. Rather the problem is that some topics are completely absent from the book and you must cover those topics for your exams. Instead the book may have so many extra things covered that are of no value to you as a medical student.

    So, in this point, I have showed you that a book may be very good for a subject but we cannot call any book “perfect”. If a book covers 90% of the required topics, it may be dubbed the “best” book for that subject. But “best” does not mean “perfect”.

    3. Main Book vs Single Book for a Subject

    So far, I have told you that no single book can be regarded as perfect for a particular subject. But you might have a concept in your mind, or your seniors may have told you that; you should choose only one book for a subject as your main book. So that you can easily revise that book at the end of the year.

    If this is your concept, it is correct. I recommend the same to you. You should choose one book as your main book for a subject, so that, it is easy for you to go through the book in the next revision rounds. Your main book may cover 95% of the required topics. It may cover 80% of the topics. Or it may only cover 60-70% of the required topics. Yet, you will call it your “main book”. That is the difference between a “single book” and a “main book”. A single book (perfect book) should cover 100% of the things. Such a book is not possible to produce because there is great variation in the "topics required to be covered" by medical students around the world.

    So, in this point, I showed you that you should have a “main book” for a subject. But that does not mean it will be the only book you would be studying. You would obviously be referring to other sources too. Main book means, it would be the book you would be studying most of the time for that subject.

    4. Books Are Not the Only Source of Medical Knowledge

    Books can be regarded as the main source of knowledge in medical field. But they are not the only source. Sometimes a teacher may tell you something that you don't find in any book. Sometimes you might come to know something from friends. Sometimes you may find some important point on internet. Sometimes you may learn something from your personal experience, and so on.

    So, here again, you have to broaden your view regarding the source of knowledge. It is not necessary that everything must be present in your books. Suppose a friend tells you a point and you find it interesting or important, you can write it down with you. Or you can memorize it right there. That has become your knowledge now. You don’t need to worry about such type of questions. Like, in which book this point is written? Why this point is not mentioned in my book? It means I have chosen the wrong book as my main book, etc.

    So, in this point, I showed you that even if you have wisely chosen your books and other sources, it is still possible that you find something new. That is not because you made some mistake while choosing your sources. That is also not because you are not devoted to learning. That is only because medical knowledge is infinite. And you should not be anxious just because you don't find something in your book that you heard from your friend.

    5. One Subject May Have Many Good Books

    It is also possible that there are many good books available for one subject. So, you have to broaden your view here too. It is possible that three different students have chosen three different books as their main books and all the three books are good books.

    6. Your Personal Preference Matters in Deciding the Books

    As I said that one subject may have many good books. You can choose any one of them. Your personal liking for a book matters in this case. You don't need to blindly follow others in each and every thing. Sometimes, you can choose a thing just because you like that thing. Other people may dislike the same thing. That doesn't matter anyway.

    7. Testing the Books

    In this point, I will tell you how I select my main book for a particular subject. If you find my method of choosing the main book interesting, you can also use this method for you. Otherwise you are free to choose your main book by whatever criteria you feel better.

    I glance all the books of a subject before choosing one of them as my main book. Just glancing at the book pages gives me quite an idea about the quality of the book and quality of the text in the book. Then I casually read some topics from all the books. Suppose the books are book 1, book 2 and book 3. And I casually read topics A, B, C and D in all the three books. This casual reading would be enough for me to decide which book should qualify for the label of "main book" for me.

    In other words, I play the role of a judge and these books which are competitors to one another try to impress me. Each book shows me its qualities and tries to prove me that its text is of good quality, it is easy to remember and memorize, its diagrams are better than those of other books, etc. Then, I select one of these books. The one which impresses me the most. The one I like the most. Or the one which is clearly better than the other ones.

    So, if you find this method interesting, you can also become a judge and ask the books to prove their worth and value in front of you. You can test them against a few selective topics. Each of the books may have different sets of strengths and weaknesses. You will have to compromise with the weaknesses of one of these books and choose it as your main book. You should not forget that you are selecting a good book, or a book you would like to study, and you are not selecting the perfect book.

    8. A Word on Medical Videos and Other Sources of Medical Knowledge

    As I mentioned, there can be other sources of medical knowledge besides books. These sources include medical videos, power point presentations, medical flashcards, medical images and medical websites.

    As far as my personal preference is concerned, I always prefer to study from the text books like majority of the other students do. This is because of the clear-cut benefits of choosing books instead of other sources. For example,

    • Books are easily available to every one. Other sources may not be available to all the students.
    • Books are easy to revise because all the things are in one place. However, problems are likely to arise when you would revise other sources. For example, you may forget on which website you studied a particular point, or in which video a particular point was mentioned, etc.
    • In my opinion, it takes less time to study from books. Especially this time-saving benefit of books becomes prominent in the revision sessions.

    Your main source of medical knowledge must be your books. Other sources of medical knowledge are not completely useless. They can be used for a small number of topics or just to get some more knowledge about a particular thing, or just as a dessert. If you are unable to understand something from the book, you can use internet to search that thing. You can then note down some points on the text book, or in a separate register, whichever way you like. Similarly, in histology, images of the slides help to memorize them. And sometimes, it is may even become necessary to see some medical videos or medical images to understand a topic completely.

    So, you see, I am not saying you to completely abstain from everything else besides the books. I am just clearing you that other things can be used in addition to the books and cannot be used as a substitute to the books. There may be very small percentage of students who use medical videos as a substitute to medical books. That is because they personally feel it easy to memorize things from videos. That is their personal preference. Generally, medical students always use books as the main source of knowledge.

    Summary of the General Points

    In a nutshell:

    • There are usually multiple books available for a particular subject. One or more of these books can be good books.
    • A book can be good but it cannot be perfect.
    • Choose one book as your main book, that you will study most of the time.
    • You will also need to refer to some other books or sources besides your main book.
    • Don't worry if a point is not mentioned in your book. Once you have noted that point, it is yours now.
    • Books are the main source of medical knowledge. However, other sources are also present that can be used whenever needed.

    Answers to Your Questions

    Now, I am going to quote your words that you wrote to me in your messages. And I will reply to them one by one.

    The orange text below shows your words, rest are mine.


    jazak Allah kher for replying and for showing willingness to help out, u cnt imagine how much this would really mean to me, i am actually in china, here its very different from how it is in pakistan. and teachers skip and cover syllabus with lightnings speed, i lack guidance and i dont have anyone in my immediate family from medicine so i have no knowledge whtsoever. following are few of my issues, i would really appreciate if u could please address them

    As far as teachers are concerned, the conditions in Pakistan are also somewhat similar. The speed of teachers is very fast. They are aware of this fact themselves. The teachers say to the students that the syllabus is very vast. It is not possible to discuss each and every thing in the lecture. So, they say, their responsibility is only to demonstrate important points of the syllabus to you. Rest, it is your duty to go home and learn the topics completely from the text books. That is why, they say they are not "teachers" rather they are "instructors" or "demonstrators".

    For some subjects you may find very good teachers. For others you may need to compromise. This compromise thing is almost universal. You should not expect that your teachers will discuss each and everything in the class. Whatever they discuss is fine and is a bonus. Rest, you have to learn yourself. Even if they discuss everything, your responsibility of memorizing things after the class is not spared.

    The conclusion is, if you want to learn a topic, the main thing is to study that topic from the book. Attending the class is a good thing but not always necessary. If you miss a class or if something is not discussed in the class, it will not mean that you are not going to grasp that thing or topic properly. Books are your best friends. They never refuse to serve you whenever you want.


    - im unable to decide which book would be 'enough', i hear there is small, medium and big :/ version of books like snells, grays, robbins, guyton. First they say study from medium, then i happen to know ppl who say by the end of year it becomes impossible to revise so stick to small book from start as its condensed and has all the necessary info.

    This is exactly the same problem that once used to eat me inside.

    I thought, if I study small version, I will be able to revise it in the end. But I will miss important things that I must do for exams. On the other hand, if I study big version, I will cover important things but I will not be able to revise it in the end. So, what the fudge should I do!

    First, I will tell you the solution that I myself used for this problem and that worked for me. After discussing my own method or view, I will mention some other possible methods that other students use. You can select any one of the solutions.

    My Recommended Method:

    Study the big book. All your points will be covered. You can revise your book chapters in your class tests that are taken weekly or monthly. You should study daily rather than at the end of the year. This routine of daily study will solve most of the problems for you. Those who relax in the start are likely to suffer from great burden of studies in the days near the exams.

    Now, coming to the solution of revising big book in the end. Yes, it is correct that it is not possible to revise the whole big book from cover to cover in the end. Fortunately, it is not necessary to go through the whole book in the end to get good grades in the exam. Let me explain you this point a little more.

    If you regularly prepare for your routine class tests, your knowledge you memorized from the books will become more and more strong by the time your exams come. So, at the time of exams, most part of the book will be in your memory by default. You will just need to go through the things that you are likely to forget without revision, like formulas, values, etc. The major principles and definitions will already be in your mind. You will not need to go through most of them in the final revision session. Or you can go through them with lightning speed without giving much time to them. Since you would already have studied the same thing again and again before the exams, you would not need to study each and everything again at the end. You would just need to go through selective topics at the end.

    You can also mark important points in the book to help you save your time in the revision. Similarly, you can put a small cross on a paragraph or section, if no important thing is mentioned in it, or if no new thing is mentioned in it, or if the thing mentioned in it is not meant to be memorized by you.

    This is the method that I and most of the other students use.

    Lets suppose you apply this method for physiology. According to this method, you will choose big Guyton as your main book. For a small number of topics, you may need to refer to Ganong or some notes of your teacher, etc or some other small book your friends use. At the end of the year, you will not need to revise the whole Guyton from cover to cover. You will just open up the chapters and start "glancing" at the them and turning the pages over. It will be automatically clear to you in your mind which pages to revise and which pages to skip.

    So, this is the method. In brief, I mean, don't worry if you cannot revise the whole book in the end. It is not F.Sc. It is medicine. Revising everything is not the target. Revising those things is the target that are likely to be slipped from the memory with time and need a final revision.

    If you ponder on this matter a little more, you will come to know that most of such problems are not problems themselves. Rather we become so much obsessive about the "negative thoughts" in our mind that we make them a problem for ourselves. Otherwise, the solutions are there and very simple. I will point out a few of these negative thoughts before proceeding further.

    One of such negative thought is "I cannot pass the exam or I cannot get good grades in the exam if I fail to revise the whole syllabus in the end". This thought is not correct. You can do pass the exam and you can do get good grades by selectively revising only those topics that really need revision and skipping those topics that you have already mastered. So, you must not make this thought your obsession. This is not practically correct.

    Another example of negative thought can be "Perhaps I will forget each and everything in the exam. I will be totally blank in the exam". A day before exam, most students come across such thoughts like "I don't remember a single word of what I studied the whole year". These thoughts are just thoughts. They will come. You cannot stop them. Your job is to ignore them. Don't make them your obsessions. That's it. You must be confident in yourself. You must know if you have put toil throughout the year, you will surely reap its fruit in the end. And such negative thoughts are nothing more than mere thoughts.

    Other Study Methods:

    So far, I told you about the method that I use myself and recommend to others. Now, let me tell you some other methods students use.

    Some students do some chapters from big versions of the book and some from small versions of the book. In this way, they mix big and small books for their study.

    On the other hand, some students study from small versions only and rarely refer to big versions. These students are usually the ones who do not want to give much time to studies and are trying to fulfill only the minimum criteria to pass the exam.

    So, these are the alternatives. But these alternatives do not seem that good to me.

    You know there is no short cut to success. You have to do hard work in whatever field you are in order to become successful. Same goes for medical field. You need to study. You need to give as much time to studies as you can. Don't be tempted by the short cuts. And develop interest in your field.

    To summarize:

    • Study from big book.
    • Don't worry about the revision in the end.
    • Revise selective topics in the end.
    • Develop habit of doing study with routine.
    • Don't make negative thoughts your obsessions. Most of the time, we are worrying about something that is not an actual problem in itself, rather we are making that thing a problem in our mind.

    One more thing I would like to advise you is to be confident. Do the things the way you want to do them. Don't think what the people would say about you. If you are studying big version of a book, your friends might mock at you and make discouraging remarks. Don't be discouraged. It is your life, you have the right to choose your path and your methods. You are not dependent on others for choosing your path. You are sane enough and mature enough to decide on your own behalf. Whatever way you adopt, there would always be people who would still laugh at you. What you need to do with such people or friends? Ignore them. Do the same to them as you do with your negative thoughts. Put a deaf ear to all such remarks or all such thoughts. This ignoring technique will make life easy for you not only in the medical field but also outside this field.


    - there are apps, sites, reviewbooks, mcqs books and so many other resources for every course, this again gets me distracted.

    Use your text books as the main source of your knowledge. After you are done with your text books, you can go to other things just for recreation if you want. So, studying books is necessary while seeing all these other things is not necessary.


    - i find watching videos work for me, but then again they take too much time, like dr najeebs are too long and it takes me thrice the actual time of the video because i take notes. Then i wonder which one is more fruitful - najeebs or kaplan's? and are these enough on their own? like if i cover ONLY kaplan videos thoroughly, would this be enough?

    There is no doubt that Dr. Najeeb and Kaplan videos are very useful for medical students. But as I have already discussed this issue in point no. 8 above, these videos should not be used as a substitute to your text books. You should stick to your books for main study. After studying the books, if you like you can watch such videos of some selective topics. In this way, watching videos will be an extra activity rather than a necessary one.

    Everything has its pros and cons. But in this case, there is no parallel, no substitute to medical text books.


    -i don't know why but i cnt memorize things quickly :S , mnemonics are good for anatomy, but how are other subjects tackled like biochem and physiology?

    If you cannot memorize things quickly, the good news for you is that all the medical students cannot memorize things quickly. :-)

    Jokes apart, if you know, medical curriculum is regarded as the toughest study course in the world. It doesn't mean it is impossible to become a doctor. It just means it is not easy. It demands time. It demands energy. It demands hard work. It demands devotion and dedication.

    Don't be tensed by thinking that you are slow in memorizing things. As far as memorizing speed is concerned, there would be only slight variations among different medical students. The actual variation is present in the time a student devotes to his studies. The more time you give, the better grades you are likely to get.

    And you need to spare some time for recreational activities too. Not daily. But sometimes, few and far between.

    Mnemonics work in most of the places. You can create your own mnemonics too if you don't find them already. If you want a thing to be strong in your memory, you need to revise it again and again. There is no other way. Routine class tests are a good opportunity to revise things.


    Trust in Allah and put your maximum efforts in your goals. With these two things, you can tackle any monster whether MBBS or anything else.

    Thanks and Best Regards,
    Abdullah Khan
  2. #2
    Med Studentz Newbie
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    Oct 2015
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    my aggregate is 74.73 in which private medical college I could get admission without donation
    ayesha aashi likes this.
  3. #3
    Med Studentz Beginner Mars's Avatar
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    Sep 2015
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    Thank you.This was quite helpful.
  4. #4
    Med Studentz Pro armourlessknight's Avatar
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    115 times
    This was great! Very helpful.
  5. #5
    Med Studentz Newbie eishaf's Avatar
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    Oct 2015
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    thank you soooooo much. this topic was very helpful
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