Hi guys! I’m currently studying for my midterm on all of musculoskeletal and neurology block and I thought I’d take a moment to be a bad student and procrastinate a little bit by writing a blog post about how I study and the methods that have been proven to work for me. This is specifically about preparing for exams – whether it’s a quiz, a midterm, or finals – so if you are looking for general study tips, head on over to my blog post where I talk about all of that. That said, this post will be a lot shorter than my general study tips because preparing for your exams is mostly dependent on how you study throughout the semester. So much of “cramming” and using those last couple of days before an exam come down to rote memorization, solidifying things in your short term memory, and “dumping” them on exam day. But the bulk of your learning – the actual understanding of concepts – will be done beforehand.
For the week before:
Take all of your notes that you have been taking all semester and condense them. By this point, you will likely feel strong in certain areas and weak in others. Determine what needs to be learned again and what you already have locked down – and delete it. * weeks of lecture notes, for me personally, typically equates to 200 Microsoft word pages. But by the time I condense them all, I’m left with roughly 40-50. This is what I use as my study guide. The week before is when you should take inventory of concepts that you are still shaky about and sit down to learn them. You should not be learning new concepts the day before an exam – now is the time to do that. Working on and refining your study guide at this point serves as a great study tool because your brain is recognizing what is important (high yield) and what is not.
For the day before:
Get a good night’s sleep. It’s important to feel rested so you can focus and perform at your best on the day. Trust me, it’s not worth it to try and learn a concept that you completely forgot to learn the night before – your studying technique is likely to be ravaged by your nerves and you are losing on precious hours of sleep. Also, keep things in perspective –It’s easy to let your inner critic come out during times of stress. Avoid negative self-talk. Replace “I’m going to fail!” with more encouraging mantras such as “I have revised well and I will do my best”.
For the day of:
I have conflicting ideas about cramming right before a test. For pesky little details that just seem to escape your brain, I actually would suggest cramming right before a test. Shove those random drugs, details, and microbes in your brain and let your short term memory work with you on your test. However, now is not the time to really study. In fact, by this point, you should have no notes in front of you except for a couple of tables or a small list of things that has been extremely difficult for you to memorize.
During the exam:
Focus on the exam. Once you are in your exam room, pay attention only to what is in front of you and not on the fact that you aren’t recognizing half of your cohort because everybody has been in their little study cave. Don;t send time worrying about what others are doing or what else you should have studies. Remember to breathe. Take 30 seconds if you feel stress coming on. If you’re faced with a question (or several question, back to back to back) that are throwing you off your game – just pause and move on for the time being.
After the exam:
Don’t talk with your buddies about it. Seriously. Don’t do that thing where you congregate outside of the exam hall and talk about question 42 and how one person got “N. meningitidis” and another got “S. aureus”. It will just send you into a panic. Don’t do that to yourself. Get the hell out of that exam room and run home – where Netflix is waiting for you.