Critical Thinking Skill Essentials for USMLE Success

Who would not want to achieve success with USMLE? Ask any medical student and a chorus of “aye” will be heard. With all the sleepless nights of reading chapters of medical books, surpassing USMLE Step one will be like a reward for all the hard work for the first two years. But what does it really take to get all those concepts you’ve read easier to remember? Do you need to memorize concepts and principles? Committing the medical concepts to memory involves not just memorization but application of your critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is akin to hearing someone say that “An apple’s color is blue.” You need to evaluate, analyze, and connect the information you heard before finally accepting is as valid information.Kambo Practitioner

Critical thinking involves the dynamic reorganization of knowledge in meaning and usable ways. It involves three general skills:

Evaluation. It is the process of making judgments about something by measuring it against a standard. It is not expressing a personal attitude or feeling. It involves recognizing and using criteria in different instances. Recognizing criteria is important when criteria are not stated; otherwise, the learning is required to use a publicly available set of standards. It is also important to determine which criteria are appropriate. When you evaluate a clinical situation, you are again, using a set of critical thinking skills like assessment, determination of set criteria to categorize information according to reliability and usefulness, and then prioritize this information based on relevance and importance.
Analysis. This involves separating whole entity into its meaningful parts and understanding the relationships among these parts. Manipulating part or whole relationships helps medical students understand the underlying organization of ideas. This skill involves recognizing patterns of information, (like symptoms of a disease); then classify these symptoms into categories based on common attributes (such as determining which symptom appeared as a result of the primary symptom); identify assumptions (like making a medical diagnosis) and being able to explain such medical diagnosis based on identification of central medical concepts.
Comprehension through Connection. This involves determination or imposing relationships between the concepts or ideas being analyzed. Connecting compares and contrasts things or ideas, looks for cause and effect relationships and links the elements together. Connecting builds on analysis because it often compares a set of ideas based on data that were analyzed. To be able to see the connection, a medical student uses logical thinking skills, inference and identification. Only through application of these processes will you be able to understand a certain clinical phenomenon.
To be able to commit medical concepts and principles to memory, you must first understand the principles. Before you will be able to understand the principles and concepts, you must first apply the principles and medical concepts you have learned from the first two years of medical school; and it is only through induction and development of critical thinking that you will be able to achieve ease with USMLE questions.

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