Office of Academic Achievement


The Office of Academic Achievement in the College of Human Medicine collaborates with medical students and stakeholders to enhance students' academic and clinical learning experiences by offering a variety of learner-centered programs, services, and resources. These varied activities allow students to learn and implement evidence-based learning strategies and techniques to realize their learning potential.

Philosophy for Educating Future Physicians

Academic Achievement staff aspires to the virtues outlined in CHM's Virtuous Professional document when interacting with students and stakeholders. More specifically, they strive to create learning environments and programming that promotes dialogue, reflection, and practice as integral processes for growth in medical education. Our programming supports students' academic progress as they take responsibility for learning, reflect on the adequacy of their knowledge and skills, identify limitations and barriers to learning and growth, and develop ISMART goals to enhance knowledge and skills, overcome challenges, and obtain mastery.

Academic Achievement Advisory Team

The Office of Academic Achievement is guided by an advisory team comprised of students from each cohort, who represent various campuses and communities. The charge to the Academic Achievement Advisory Team members is to (1) serve as representatives of their SDC student peers, sharing student learning and study needs as well as interests; (2) provide recommendations for the development, implementation, and evaluation of a comprehensive model of academic support activities relevant to the SDC, and (3) provide feedback regarding Academic Achievement workshops, services, online resources, and policies. Please contact members of this advisory team to inquire about Academic Achievement programs and/or to offer suggestions at any time. The list of current members can be found on the Academic Achievement D2L website.


Academic Achievement programs include orientations, workshops, webinars, question review sessions, intersessions, class meeting mini-lectures, and more. Programming activities are offered throughout the academic year and include learning and study strategies relevant to curricular activities and board preparation. Students are regularly notified of upcoming activities through the ECE, MCE, or LCE student email listservs.

Toolkit for Success in the ECE Series

The Toolkit for Success in the ECE series is offered during the Fall semester of the ECE year to enhance students' transition to the SDC curriculum and medical education. These sessions vary year-to-year but typically include strategies for developing an effective study schedule, retaining content knowledge, selecting and utilizing appropriate resources, and effectively using the Chief Complaints and Concerns (C3) documents as study tools.

Eighty-eight percent of students who attended the Toolkit for Success series were able to implement one or more learning strategies (2020).

Approach to the Question Sessions (AQS) and the MCE Question Slam Sessions

The Approach to the Question Sessions and the MCE Question Slam sessions are examples of our most popular programs. Offered regularly throughout the ECE and MCE, these sessions help students enhance clinical reasoning by utilizing questions aligned with Weekend Learning Module (WLM) content, incorporating Chief Complaints and Concerns (C3) topics. In these sessions, peer leaders use questions as learning tools and lead students through various approaches to reading, analyzing, and answering NBME- or board-style questions. In addition, leaders introduce specific study strategies to reinforce the content reviewed. These approaches facilitate a comprehensive review of C3 topics, including history and presentation, mechanism of action, course and complication, and treatment and management decisions to deepen content knowledge and promote long-term retention of concepts.

Eighty-two percent of students would recommend the AQS or MCE Slam sessions to a peer (2020). Additionally, the majority of students who participate in AQS reported that their academic performance increased after implementing AQS recommended strategies (2018, 2019, 2020).


We offer various services to any student interested in enhancing their academic performance throughout the ECE, MCE, or LCE. Utilizing a model based on the scientific research of gaining expertise, we offer one-on-one and small group coaching and peer tutoring sessions.

Academic Achievement Coaching

Academic Achievement Coaches collaborate with students to optimize their academic and clinical learning experiences. Coaches are available to all students face-to-face in East Lansing and Grand Rapids. They are also available via technology (e.g., Zoom) at a time that works best for students considering their course and rotation schedules. Example coaching topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Creating a study plan and daily schedule
  • Developing effective strategies to manage the volume of course content
  • Developing study aids and tools (e.g., graphic organizers, flashcards, diagrams, tables)
  • Enhancing team processes and performance
  • Enhancing test-taking strategies (including how to read and answer NBME-style questions and how to improve performance on standardized tests)
  • Implementing evidence-based learning and study strategies
  • Employing strategies for effective use of question banks
  • Improving strategies for review and self-testing
  • Managing time effectively and efficiently
  • Organizing and synthesizing information
  • Referrals to other College of Human Medicine or MSU resources
  • Transitioning to Medical School
  • Developing effective study plans for the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 Clinical Knowledge exams

Typically, coaching sessions are scheduled with students for 30 – 60 minutes to learn more about academic or professional goals, prior knowledge, approaches to learning, utilization of resources, and current academic progress. Then, depending upon the student's goals, action steps are identified, including recommendations for the implementation of specific learning and study strategies, the identification of resources, and/or referrals to various faculty specialty experts, peer tutors, and/or other CHM or MSU resources.

Ninety-three percent of students reported their overall satisfaction with Academic Achievement coaching as "very good" or "good," and over 75% of students increased their academic performance because of implementing strategies recommended by a coach (2020).

To schedule a coaching session, log into JIT > Contact > Office of Academic Achievement OR access

Peer Tutoring

Peer tutors are available to assist students in developing and accomplishing ISMART academic goals by helping students learn and implement effective study strategies through the exploration of content. This free peer tutor program is available for all students enrolled in CHM. Through this program, students can work individually or in small groups with trained peers who have a sincere interest in helping their colleagues and who have excelled in their coursework or clinical experiences.

To provide a quality experience for both tutors and tutees, prospective tutors are required to complete training and information sessions to help them develop or reinforce their teaching and tutoring skills. Tutees should expect tutors to encourage them to utilize active learning and study strategies, conceptualize their understanding of scientific knowledge using various methods, and practice recall and application using practice questions. Depending on the need, tutoring sessions are typically scheduled weekly and may last only a few weeks or continue throughout a course or semester. Tutoring sessions are limited to a maximum of two hours per week.

Over eighty percent of students reported increasing their academic performance as a result of implementing strategies recommended by their tutor (2020).

Request a Tutor

Students may request a tutor at any time and are encouraged to do so proactively at the earliest indication of difficulty in a course or clerkship.

To schedule a tutoring session, log into JIT > Contact > Office of Academic Achievement OR access

To ensure a customized approach aligned with a student’s academic goals, students may be required to meet with an Academic Achievement Coach before confirming a peer tutor assignment.  The Academic Achievement Coach will assist students with their academic goals, help with any peer tutor assignments, and offer suggestions for additional study strategies a student might try to maximize their time with a tutor. Students and tutors are encouraged to review the MSU CHM Peer Tutor and AQS Leader Program Guide posted on the CHM Academic Achievement D2L website for additional information, the assignment process, expectations, and responsibilities.

Please note that tutoring assistance is not a substitute for consulting with Fellows, and/or faculty, chiefs, clerkship directors, etc., nor is it a substitute for attending scheduled curricular activities. Tutoring hours and/or assignments may be monitored and adjusted during the academic year depending upon the number of tutoring requests and available peer tutors. Students may meet with a tutor for a maximum of two hours a week for a period of time aligned with the student’s goal(s), not to exceed 10 interactions. (Exceptions may be permitted based on approval from the Office of Academic Achievement.)

Academic Achievement Coaching and Peer Tutor Confidentiality Guidelines

Most coaching and peer tutor sessions are voluntary and confidential. However, in some situations, students may be required to meet with the Director, a member of the Office of Academic Achievement, or engage in peer tutoring sessions based on their academic performance progress. In those cases, the Office of Academic Achievement may be required to summarize or share meeting dates, topics discussed, recommendations, and/or academic learning plans with appropriate MSU College of Human Medicine personnel. In addition, the Office of Academic Achievement shares student interaction data at ECE, MCE, and LCE Academic Review meetings, e.g., the number of interactions during a period of time and the type of interaction (coaching or tutoring).

Members of the Office of Academic Achievement may keep notes or records of coaching sessions. These notes may be kept confidential to the maximum extent allowed by the law. They may be subject to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and/or Michigan's Freedom of Information Act.

Board Preparation Programs

USMLE Step 1

The United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) is a three-step examination for medical licensure in the United States. The USMLE Step 1 is designed to assess your understanding and application of important scientific concepts associated with the practice of medicine, with emphasis on principles and mechanisms underlying health, disease, and modes of therapy (FMSB, 2021).

The MSU CHM Shared Discovery Curriculum is designed to prepare medical students for success on the USMLE. Medical students are encouraged to begin studying for the USMLE on their first day at CHM by excelling in their coursework and implementing effective and efficient learning and study strategies. Throughout the curriculum, students are provided intersessions, programs, and resources to assist in their USMLE preparation, including information focused on registration, scheduling, recommended resources, developing an intensive study plan, approaching board-style questions, and utilizing self-assessment resources. Students typically begin intensive study plans in the Spring of their second year.

Students may access Step 1 online resources by visiting the CHM Academic Achievement D2L Website > Content > USMLE Step 1 and 2 Exams.

USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK)

The USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) is a multiple-choice exam that assesses your ability to apply medical knowledge, skills, and understanding of clinical science essential for patient care under supervision and emphasizes health promotion and disease prevention (FSMB & NBME, 2021). Medical students are encouraged to begin studying for the USMLE Step 2 exam as they begin the LCE. Throughout the LCE and in Advance Skills and Knowledge (ASK) sessions, students are provided resources and strategies to assist in their USMLE exam preparations, similar to programming activities offered for the USMLE Step 1 preparation.

Students may access Step 2 online resources by visiting the CHM Academic Achievement D2L Website > Content > USMLE Step 1 and 2 Exams.

Reference: Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). (2021). The United States Medical Licensing Examination. Philadelphia, PA. Retrieved from

Online Resources

Academic Achievement has a variety of learning assessments as well as online resources available to all ­­­students to assist students in reaching their educational goals. The online resources include, but are not limited to: Biomedical Science Review Modules, interviews with students discussing best practices, time management, study plan templates, and recommendations for learning and study strategies. Students can review all online resources by visiting the CHM Academic Achievement D2L Website.