Time Habits of a Medical Student, MS1 Spring Term

Chris Hornung, MD
4 min readApr 30, 2021

“Track” again with some med school time tracking for the spring semester of my first year. Background here. Legend is in the figure below.

Figure 1: Legend of categories
Figure 2: Total time by category and date.

Spring term was 17 weeks and during that time I logged 802 hours towards medical school activities, averaging out to 47 hours per week. At the end of midterm exams, I was averaging around 50 hours per week so my weekly average dropped a little bit towards the end of the term. I attribute this in part due to my spring break occurring post-midterm exams and being included in the averages.

Figures 3 and 4: Comparing time by category before and after midterm exams.

Compared to before midterm exams, I spent less time in Class and Self-Study and more time in research. I try to front-load my semesters and work ahead as much as possible so I am not too surprised that Self-Study and Class dropped. During the post-midterm portion of the term, I also began employment in a research lab.

Figures 5 and 6: Comparing time by category between fall and spring terms.

Compared to the fall term, I spent considerably less time in Class. Like I mentioned in my spring midterm write-up, I had fewer required in-person lectures during the spring. Throughout the spring term, I also learned more about my learning habits and discovered I learn best through applications of knowledge rather than watching lectures. I adapted my study habits accordingly.

Figures 7 & 8: Comparing total hours per week by spring and fall term.
Figure 9: Time by term, accounting for breaks.

Anki continues to capture a consistent portion of my time per day (~1.63 hours). Though I am reviewing fewer cards per day compared to the fall semester. I again attribute this to primarily using pre-made Anki cards instead of self-made in addition to pre-made cards.

Figure 10: Breakdown of time using Anki. The highlighted section denotes the spring term.

The distribution of my time throughout the week changed in the spring compared to the fall. During the spring, my weeks became ‘busier’ as the week progressed and then decreased on Fridays. In general, I spent less time studying on the weekends during the spring term than the fall term.

Figures 11 and 12: Average time by day of the week.

Reiterating figures 5 and 6, the pie charts below help better elucidate how I distributed my time across categories for the spring and fall term.

Figures 13 & 14: Distribution of categories by term.

Similar to my spring midterm write-up, below is a numerical difference in weekly time between spring and fall. Self-Study continues to be the majority category but the second-largest category is now Anki.

Table 1: Average time per week by term (hours).

Finally, despite spending less total time in Class, Anki, and Self-study during the spring term, my average grades were within 1% of each other. I take this as evidence that I have become more efficient at managing tested material as I have progressed through medical school.

Table 2: Academic performance between fall and spring terms.

I now have a week off and will then begin my summer term and round out my first year of medical school. It is amazing how fast the last 8 months have flown by. I predict that my time dedicated towards Research, Other, and Lab will increase during the summer term and certainly during my summer break. I am interested in seeing if my time dedicated to studying (Anki, Class, Self-study will continue on its downward trend.

Code for Analysis

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Chris Hornung, MD

A twin in the Twin Cities. EVMS Otolaryngology Resident. Former MCAT Instructor. I really like tracking things.