Hi guys! I’m back! It’s been a while since my last post, but I’ve been navigating through medical school thus far and I’ve already kind of gotten the hang of things! It’s pretty normal to feel completely lost at the start of school, nevertheless, moving to a new country, so I’m making sure to acknowledge that and give myself grace for feeling lost. It also kind of helps that most of my classmates are also feeling lost (nothing better than hearing your peers feel the same things you do!)
Anyways, before I ramble even further, I wanted to write up a blog post about some really effective study tips that I’ve developed through the years as a teenager in high school, undergrad, and now medical student! I got the idea to write this post because of my hectic schedule and huge life change these past couple of weeks. Since starting medical school a little over 2 months ago (Australia’s school system is opposite of America’s, so school also starts in the fall here, but fall is closer to January rather than September like back home), I’ve had to remind myself to go back to the basics when things become too hectic. So one day, I literally sat down and jotted everything I knew and vowed to myself to keep doing the things that helped me in the past – after all, those are the things that got me to medical school! It was actually very therapeutic to write it all down and to have a tangible way of following my own tips, so I thought “well my followers would probably benefit a lot from this too!”
Just a little *disclaimer* – these are study methods that have worked for me in the past and have taken YEARS of trial and error to figure out. They are by no means the only tips you should follow! I encourage you to branch out and try new things. You may find this list super helpful and follow every single bullet point or you may realize that you and I have different learning styles and figure out that none of these work for you! It’s ok! The earlier you figure out what works for you, the better!
Whew, now on with it!
Make sure to follow along on my Instagram!
1. Study actively, not passively – This is probably the best advice I can give and once I figured this out, it was a game changer. I always though that studying for 5 hours in the library with your books laid out and your snacks all next to you was the way to achieve everything. I even though that the amount of hours spent in the library = the grade you’re going to get. That’s just plain ridiculous. Spending 1 hour quizzing yourself and doing practice questions is actually more effective than spending 5 hours reading a textbook. Make sure you’re taking the time to actually understand why you’re reading what you’re reading and leave enough time to ask yourself questions. I always recommend doing practice questions or quizzing yourself with the questions in the back of the textbook. This is one way I succeeded in math in high school and undergrad (I finished AP calculus by my junior year and got a 5 on the AP test using this exact study tip!) I just did problems until my brain hurt – never even bothered opening up the textbook.
2. Create midterm study guides and memorize them – Study guides should just be a *condensed* review of everything you’ve learned and I suggest creating them for midterms (some classes have only 1 midterm, some have 2 or 3, I was on a quarter system in undergrad, so sometimes we even had 4). What this will do is 1. help you ace your midterms and 2. give you one less thing to do for FINALS! If you just compile all of your previously-created midterm study guides, boom – there’s your 1 huge study guide to memorize for finals. Another tip I can’t stress enough is: actually give yourself enough time to memorize the study guides you’ve just created. If you finish your study guide the day before your midterm, you haven’t given yourself enough time to memorize.
3. Listen to white noise – The library is a noisy place sometimes, and even the tiniest noise can distrupt your flow – so listen to rain sounds or beach sounds (waves hitting the shore). One of my favorite sources is this one. (It goes on for like 10 hours – perfect!)
4. Keep study material away from your bedroom –..or any place that you’ve designated as your safe haven. I don’t have my laptop, textbooks, notes or anything in my bedroom and I keep it all out in the living room. It’s just a great way to separate from your day’s work. It can become super stressful if you feel like you constantly have to get work done and there’s no separation between the you that has to study and the you that also has hobbies and wants to relax – and maybe watch a TV show or something 😉
5. Have 1 day/week off – I actually learned this tip when I was taking a Kaplan study prep course for the MCAT. They suggested we take Sundays off every week to do nothing but veg out. I think this is really great in preventing burn out. Take one day off a week to have your perfect day and go explore the city, or maybe stay in and watch Netflix. You’ll see that on that following Monday, you’ll be refreshed, and you’ll work even harder knowing that your rest day is coming!
6. Have 1 day/week to catch up – Even if you’re a stellar student and even if you have the discipline of a 3 year old piano prodigy, you might not get all the things done on your to do list. Leave 1 day a week (I suggest sometime during the weekend) to catch up on the things that weren’t crossed off on your to do list. This way, you won’t constantly need to play catch up – you can nip it in the bud early on.
7. Tackle one thing at a time – Have you seen the movie 300? How did the Spartan army of merely 300 soldiers defeat the Persian army that consisted of thousands? They created a barrier that let in only one soldier at a time during the war. It’s no different in terms of tackling on your day. Let in “one soldier at a time” and focus on defeating only that one. Then, once you’re finished, move on to the next. You would be completely overwhelmed trying to tackle all the things all at once all the time.
8. Google and Youtube everything – Youtube videos and google searches are super helpful when you feel stuck and don’t know the material. There are thousands of talented youtubers who have created videos on exactly what you need help on and it’s all freeee! Want to find old exams/material on your subject? Just google “site:edu [subject] exam”.
9. Obtain your old exams from the quarter/semester and learn from your mistakes – chances are the questions could also be recycled later on!
10. Spend most of your time learning the material that the professor has lectured on –Typically, the more times a particular topic appears, the higher chance it has on appearing on your exam. This might sound intuitive, but think about it! Only read the textbooks to supplement your understanding for the *LECTURES*. The lectures are what you’ll be tested on -not the extra stuff in the textbooks.
11. Teach a heavy topic to someone or yourself for no more than 5 minutes. This will force you to pick the important things to say. Many science courses will go in depth with material, but it’s still important to remember the overview and how everything connects!
12. Study anywhere – This is actually a really great tip that I only learned about in undergrad. I used to wait for the perfect moment to study – I imagined it would be in my study space at home or in the library and I’d have all of these amazing snacks around me and I’d hydrate every 5 minutes! I chuckle at my old thought process. You will *hardly* have the perfect conditions to study at any given time, so make the most of the time you have now. Whip out those flashcards on the bus, plug in those headphones and listen to a lecture when you’re walking in between classes, and listen to podcasts while making dinner. If you wait for the perfect time to study, it will never happen. A little side note on this as well: tackle little chunks if you are crunched for time – don’t wait to have a 4 hour session cleared up so you can learn the entire cardiovascular system. Perhaps in the 20 minutes you have today, focus on just the anatomy of the heart or any valvular disease you’ve been taught.
13. Time management is key – I only have one brief thing to say about this and that is: plan your day out well. Don’t leave campus to go to the gym if you have class later on in the day on campus! This will punch out 1.5 hours of your day doing that – really ineffective. If you want to relax and listen to music, do it on your way to class or to the gym or even on the bus. Bring everything you’ll need for the day so that you don’t have to go back home to get it. I’ve had many days like this and I ended up wasting up to an hour of my day for no reason.Maximize your time efficiently and that’s how you’ll utilize the most of your 24 hour day. 🙂
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