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Office of Academic Assistance

Medical school is challenging – regardless of your individual talent, background and previous experience, or year in training.

For the first time in your academic career, you may be falling behind and struggling with performance on quizzes or shelf exams.  This can be attributed to various reasons.  Perhaps

  • You have limited or no prior knowledge of the course material;
  • You are a non-science undergraduate major with minimal preparation in the basic sciences;
  • You find it difficult to understand how knowledge is structured in a particular subject area or to identify relationships between major concepts;
  • You tend to become lost in the details – unable “to see the forest for the trees”;
  • You have problems imposing meaningful organization of the material;
  • You find difficulty in “triage” – focusing on high-yield information;
  • You suffer from test anxiety;
  • You have poor test-taking strategies;
  • You have little experience with this examination format;
  • You are unable to meet the enormous time demands, especially during clinical service;
  • You find the study strategies you previously used as an undergraduate are no longer giving you the same positive results.

So what can you do? 

 You can visit the Office of Academic Assistance (OAA), located in the Weill Greenberg Building, 1305 York Avenue, 10th FL (Clinical Skills Center), Room 10.03

 The OAA’s goal is to support student success by providing the resources necessary to improve academic performance. 

 The OAA is directed by an educational specialist (Carol Capello, PhD), who is available to any student who would like to improve in study, test-taking, or time-management strategies.  You might simply be interested in creating a study plan for an exam, to determine your preferred learning style and appropriate study strategies, to discuss test-taking strategies, or to determine how to prioritize tasks to reduce stress. 

All self-referral visits to the OAA are strictly confidential. The Director of OAA has no influence on or role in the formal assessment of student performance or promotion decisions. Our primary goal is to provide support and help you succeed.

How can you make a confidential appointment with the OAA Director?

  • Except for special circumstances, appointments will be made that do not conflict with any course/unit activity (e.g., lectures, labs, small group sessions, etc.
  • In addition, you can also stop by during scheduled office hours:

            Wednesdays 2:00pm-4:00pm
            Fridays           1:00pm-3:00pm

Note: Although these are “open office hours,” you might want to contact Dr. Capello before you come to make sure she is not already meeting with another student at the time you are hoping to “drop in.”

Might I be requested to visit the OAA?

In addition to self-referral, unit/clerkship leadership, members of the Promotion and Graduation (P&G) Committee, the Dean of Academic Affairs, and the Dean of Student Affairs may refer students to the OAA for a variety of reasons:

  • Course average more than 1.5 standard deviation below the class mean in a foundational course;
  • Remediation of a unit in a foundational course;
  • Concern for future performance on upcoming shelf exams;
  • Failure of a USMLE exam; or
  • Marginal grade in a clerkship due to failure of a shelf exam or poor clinical skills.

The OAA Director may also directly reach out to you if she notes that your quiz/test scores reflect academic difficulty.

Once such a formal referral is made, the OAA Director schedules a required initial (and possible follow-up) meeting with you to assess your needs.  She may provide some basic study, test-taking, and time-management strategies, as appropriate.  She may also offer you the tutoring services of a fourth-year WCMC student.

If the Director identifies possible learning disabilities or other special needs, she will refer you to the Office of Student Affairs for further evaluation.

How does peer tutoring work?

The OAA has a pool of available tutors who are standing by to help you succeed. Tutors typically are “more senior” students (e.g., fourth-year) in high academic standing who have a strong interest in teaching and working with other students and who have strong study habits and test-taking and time-management skills.

Tutors can help you with learning content, as well as time management, test-taking strategies (especially helpful for standardized exam preparation), and other study strategies and resources.  Tutors serve as facilitators of the learning process, filling content gaps as needed and assessing/modifying your reasoning and problem-solving skills.

Tutors can help you if you are in “academic difficulty” or in generally good academic standing but just would like some help with specific content areas (e.g., doing problem sets in CTCS in EPOM).  Students experiencing greater difficulty in coursework, however, typically will receive first priority for tutoring.

You may also find a tutor helpful if you are having difficulty with clinical skills (e.g., communicating with patients, writing notes and case logs) and/or be referred to the Clinical Skills Center for additional help.

Tutors are expected not to share any information with anyone other the Director of OAA about whom they tutor or the content of the tutoring sessions.  Tutors may reach out to course leadership for advice on specific content areas on which to focus but without reference to the specific student being tutored.

The peer-tutoring program is intended to provide an additional level of one-on-one academic support outside the classroom.  You are also encouraged to proactively seek assistance from the unit/course director, faculty, Associate Dean for Student Affairs, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, your mentors/advisors as soon as any academic or non-academic concerns arise.

Tutoring services are provided at no charge to you as a WCMC student.

Tutoring sessions or any other contact with the OAA are not recorded on the student’s transcript.

How can I find a tutor? 

Meet with the Director of the OAA to discuss your academic needs.

If the Director determines that a tutor might be of further help to you, she will make every effort to match you with one with expertise in the specific content and/or skill area in which you are requesting help.

The Director will send an introductory email to you and the assigned tutor.

You will be responsible to contact the assigned tutor via email (cc to the OAA Director) to set up the initial tutoring session.

Note:  If you are offered tutoring services, you are under no obligation to use them and may discontinue tutoring services at any time.

What are my responsibilities as a tutee?

  • Identify specific content areas and/or skills on which you would like to focus.  For example, you might struggle with rote memorization, organizing large amounts of information, understanding concepts, managing your study time, or clinically applying your knowledge base (shelf or Board exams, writing notes, presenting to the team).
  • Be committed to the learning process by coming prepared to each tutoring session (e.g., bringing any assignments, questions, or materials agreed upon by you and the tutor).  Remember, your tutor is a student, too, and also has a busy schedule.
  • Never ask a tutor to do your work.
  • Contact the tutor as soon as possible if you anticipate being late for a tutoring session or need to cancel/reschedule.
  • Complete a brief tutee summary after every three tutoring sessions
  • Sign the tutor log after tutoring for a specific course/unit/clerkship is complete.

If you find the tutoring session(s) are not helpful and wish to discontinue tutoring or be matched with another tutor, please contact the OAA Director.

How many tutoring sessions can I have? How long can each session be?

  • Scheduling is arranged between you and your tutor.  A tutoring session should not exceed two hours. 
  • After 3 tutoring sessions (“tutoring block”), both tutee and tutor are required to submit their respective summaries to the OAA Director, who will assess whether additional tutoring is warranted – and by the same or a different tutor.
  • If subsequent tutoring sessions occur, summaries should be completed after every tutoring block (3 sessions).
  • Tutors will be reimbursed once tutor logs have been submitted, signed by both tutor and tutee.

How are tutors selected?

The following students may be invited by the OAA Director to apply to be academic tutors:

  • AOA members
  • Other students in high academic standing
  • MD/PhD students currently in research years recommended by the Director of the Tri-Institutional MD/PhD Program
  • Students currently on research leave in the metropolitan area
  • Students with high performance on USMLE Step I
  • Students recommended by unit/clerkship directors due to their exceptional academic performance in that specific content area (including shelf exams)
  • Students enrolled in the Teaching Elective or Medical Education AOC
  • Self-referral (on an individual basis)

What are the “requirements” for being a peer tutor?

  • Strong interest in education and teaching other students
  • Patience, empathy, and understanding
  • Dependability and punctuality
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills (listening, speaking, observing)
  • Good knowledge of the subject area
    • Tutors for the foundational courses should have successfully passed units in which they are tutoring;
    • Tutors for the clerkships should have received an H or HP in clerkship in which they are tutoring.
    • Before the first tutoring sessions,
      • Completes the tutor application, indicating those courses/clerkships in which they would like to tutor and their monthly availability
      • Meets briefly with the OAA Director for a brief interview and a “basic training” session to reinforce or develop their teaching skills and encourage “active learning” during their tutoring sessions, as well as discussion of tutoring logistics (e.g., defining meeting time and location; what to discuss during the first session, etc.) (An on-line slide presentation will also be made available – TBD.)
      • Contacts the OAA Director with any concerns that may arise regarding the tutored student’s progress/behavior.
      • Maintains confidentiality:  Does not share any information about whom he/she tutors or the content of the tutoring sessions with anyone other the Director of OAA.  A tutor may reach out to course leadership for advice on specific content areas on which to focus but without reference to the specific student being tutored.
      • At the end of a three-session tutoring block, submits (1) a tutor summary report about each of the three sessions; and (2) a tutoring log of contact hours signed by the tutor and tutee.

What is the role of a tutor?

  • Provide one-on-one “in-person” learner-centered sessions with the focus on the tutee.  “Digital” tutoring should be used sparingly.
  • Insist on and plan for learner (tutee) participation in every session.
  • Build confidence and excitement to learn
  • Promote independent, active learning (no lecturing of or doing the work for tutees)
  • Help refine thinking processes and encourage use of new strategies
  • Share tips and strategies for reviewing and understanding content, managing time, and preparing for and taking quizzes and/or standardized exams
  • Be supportive, encouraging, and demanding
  • Provide encouraging and constructive feedback
  • Be professional and respectful at all times (e.g., contact tutee as soon as possible if anticipating arriving late for a tutoring session or needing to cancel/reschedule)

What are the benefits of tutoring?

  • Making a positive impact on the students you tutor, being instrumental in his/her academic skills and strategies
  • Reinforcing your basic science concepts, mechanisms, and principles and/or your critical thinking skills while helping your colleagues achieve those same goals.
  • Building personal confidence and interpersonal communication
  • Receiving compensation for your time

How does tutor reimbursement work?

  • Tutors are reimbursed $25 per each hour of face-to-face tutoring.
  • A small allowance may be paid for tutor preparation time, individually determined.
  • Payment is processed once a tutor log is submitted, signed by both tutor and tutee, and all tutor and tutee summary reports for the tutoring sessions noted on the log have been completed and sent to the OAA Director.
  • Tutors may submit tutoring logs for payment after the first and subsequent tutoring block (3 sessions) or they may wait until no more tutoring is warranted. 
  • Once tutoring for a specific unit/clerkship has ended, all tutoring logs must be turned in, along with the tutor summary and tutee summary.  Failure to turn in tutoring logs within 30 days of the last tutoring session will result in nonpayment for those sessions.

Helpful Hints for Tutors

  • Email your tutee before the tutoring session for a list of topics or strategies he/she would like to cover (or determine this at the end of the previous tutoring session)
  • Do not lecture! Let the tutee lead the session
  • Teach by asking questions – when starting a topic, ask student to explain everything about that topic and then ask questions to guide student to what is relevant to know if they go into too much detail and fill in what they may have left out that is important for them to know.
  • Help your tutees practice integration and application of knowledge by utilizing MCQ (already published or self-created – or from data base provided by OAA). Ask tutee to explain their thinking process as they are going through the question stem and then their reasoning behind their selected answer.  Can also use the other answer options as ways to initiate discussion about other aspects of that topic. 
  • Encourage tutees to conceptualize their understanding of basic science or clinical knowledge on whiteboards

Helpful resources for tutors (in progress)

Helpful study resources (in progress)

Office of Admissions 445 East 69th Street
Room 104
New York, NY 10065 (212) 746-1067

Office of Medical Education 1300 York Avenue, Room C-118 New York, NY 10065 (212) 746-1050