Applied Cognition in the Medical Sciences Program

The Applied Cognition in the Medical Sciences Program (ACMSP) focuses on the use of cognitive science to enhance student abilities throughout medical school. ACMSP teaches advanced techniques for retaining medical knowledge, and methods of transferring complex information into problem solving skills for medical exams or clinical settings.

ACMSP provides workshops and walk-in support for preparing for USMLE Step 1 & 2 exams; developing data driven study habits; improving memory by understanding neural networks; and understanding the science of comprehending high volumes of information.


Medical school presents a new set of learning challenges. Ask yourself:

  • Do my grades reflect all the studying I’m doing?
  • Do I run out of time each week before covering all the material?
  • Am I studying so fast I don’t know what I’m actually remembering?
  • Do I know how to use practice test questions to study?
  • Does taking exams make me nervous?

Our Learning Specialists can help you work through the rough spots.

They provide individualized coaching on:

  • Study habits
  • Learning strategies
  • Assessment concerns
  • Test-taking strategies
  • Testing anxiety
  • Time management and organization
  • School-life balance
  • Clinical skills performance improvement
  • Communication skills performance improvement

For more information, send an email to Tom Markle or Alyssa Gammon or call 505-272-1419.

Peer-tutoring Program

Peer tutoring is available for medical and PA students through the first year curriculum, and on a limited basis in the second year.  Both tutors and tutees benefit from the tutoring knowledge exchange. It solidifies new information for first year students and helps integrate learned information for second year tutors.


Individual or small group.


Any medical or PA student currently in the curriculum.


No fee is charged, although peer tutors are paid by the Applied Cognition in the Medical Sciences Program (ACP) for their work.


Usually two 2-3 hour sessions per week.

Securing a Tutor

Send an email to Tom Markle or Alyssa Gammon to initiate the process. You can also call 505-272-1419.

An introductory email is sent to both students. The student being tutored contacts the tutor to arrange a meeting time and indicates what content needs to be covered.  Students are free to request a different tutor if circumstances dictate.

Becoming a Tutor

In order to become a tutor, you must meet these requirements:

  • be a student in good standing at UNM School of Medicine
  • have earned 80% or above in any block you wish to tutor
  • have some teaching or tutoring experience
  • attend all trainings and orientations

Tutors are paid and must apply and be interviewed. Reach out to Tom Markle or Alyssa Gammon or call 505-272-1419 for more details.

Assistance with USMLE

The best preparation for Step 1 is mastering the Phase 1 content; this means that you fully understand and can apply the main concepts. The intensity, organization, and persistence of your step study will also significantly affect your exam performance. Start planning during fall semester of second year, and begin concentrated study early in January. You will have eight (8) weeks dedicated time for Step 1 study.

Components of the Step 1 Study Plan:

  • Detailed schedule. What, when, where, how you will review specific topics.
  • Practice questions. Online Q Banks give best explanations and tracking of performance.
  • Learning Issues—identified from practice questions, study and regular concept review.
  • NBME practice exams. Important additional feedback re: probable Step 1 score range. Identify and track changes in gap areas.
  • Review books, flashcards, videos, on-line materials and high yield personal course notes. Content information, explanations, graphs, charts, distilled knowledge. Use these materials to resolve learning issues you've identified with practice questions.

Make a detailed monthly, weekly, and daily schedule:

  • Start with a thorough content review—4 weeks (use a Q bank subject block daily to guide and pace your study)
  • Take an NBME and assess strengths & weaknesses
  • Concentrate on bringing up your weaker areas—2 weeks (use 1 subject block & 1 mixed block daily)
  • Take another NBME and assess overall strengths
  • Concentrate on 4 blocks of mixed practice questions (around 200/day)—2 weeks
  • Ready for the test

Check with your Learning Specialist for more specifics on a daily schedule.  Stay in touch with your Learning Specialist during study time.

Call 505-272-1419 or send an email to Tom Markle or Alyssa Gammon for more information.

Book Collection

A library of course textbooks and board review books is available for check out in the Applied Cognition in the Medical Sciences Program (ACMSP) office, Fitz Hall room B80. The check out period is two weeks.

Tips for Strategic Learning

  • Manage your time carefully.
  • Use course learning objectives to outline & guide your study.
  • Preview and review lectures, write out questions over material you don’t understand.
  • Construct concept maps, charts, drawings to illustrate concepts and to remember easier.
  • Study as if you were teaching the lecture, focus on the most critical points to communicate.
  • Use practice questions to identify learning issues and guide study.