A yellow bell against a blue background with the words "The Click: A Common Med School Test-Taking Mistake"

The Click — A Common Med School Test-Taking Mistake

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What it is and how to handle it

Photo: David LaSalle, Instructor at STATMed Learning

By David LaSalle, STATMed Learning Instructor

Think about the last time you played with Legos, built an Ikea bookshelf, or assembled a jigsaw puzzle. Maybe you reached a point where you were struggling to find a piece that fits, but then —aha! A piece just “clicked” beautifully into place! So satisfying!

This happens ALL THE TIME with board-style questions. As we read, one detail “clicks” into place with a theory or an answer option. I see “pinprick spots” and it clicks into place with Henoch-Schonlein Purpura. (Or for my vets, I see “sheep with extended necks and foamy saliva” and immediately latch onto bacterial causes). There is a feeling — perhaps of excitement or relief — that “I might just get this one right after all!”

So here’s what I think about that “click” sensation: it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong. But it also doesn’t necessarily mean you’re right. What it does mean is that ONE CLUE matches neatly with your theory, and now your theory is going to be super-tempting to you. This should function not as a cause for celebration but rather as a warning bell for testers.

What I want my clients to think at this moment is not “Aha, gotcha!” but “I’m excited about this… I’d better check this answer against the rest of my gathered clues.” Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how well a theory or an answer matches up with any one clue; what matters is whether it matches up with ALL the clues.

Looking for more strategies specifically for bad test-takers in med school or a related discipline? Check out our blog and podcast

If you keep looking for “the click” on test day, STATMed’s Boards Test-Taking Workshop can help you identify what you’ve been doing wrong — and how to fix it.

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