How to study: A first year’s perspective
Entering medical school, I knew that studying for the dense material presented would be quite different than what I had encountered in undergrad. But I never thought about how exactly I would tackle the courses… at least not yet. I do remember that one of our professors mentioned that medical school is learning how to learn, and that my friends couldn’t be more true. I am writing this post not because I ace all of my exams or because I have figured out the golden ticket to managing it all. I am writing this post to share a different perspective. My perspective. Trust me, I have failed my share of exams or assignments. But what I have done that I am proud of is learning from those mistakes to do better on future tests. Here’s how I studied the first semester of medical school:
Find your learning style:
I know that we’re all attached to our computers but for me hand writing notes makes a HUGE difference. The first few classes I was so dependent on taking notes on my computer AND studying from them. But once I started printing my notes out and adding additional hand written notes, it made all the difference. How did I come to that conclusion? Have you heard of the VARK assessment? Visual, auditory, reading/writing/kinesthetic are the various ways that people learn. For example, not only am I a visual learner but also auditory and kinesthetic (hence why I need to actively write my notes). Check out http://vark-learn.com/the-vark-questionnaire/ to see how you can incorporate different methods of studying into your routine.
Create a study environment:
I can’t emphasize how important creating a space for yourself to study can be towards achieving your goals. Cafes, libraries, and study rooms are distracting to my wandering brain so I decided to get a spacious desk, a whiteboard, and double computer screens for my room. I am not only comfortable but also concentrated when I study. If you prefer the library or studying on campus, pack your lunch, grab a coffee and head out! If you are comfortable where you are, you are more likely to absorb the material you are studying.
Make a schedule and follow it:
Medical school is often like eating 20 pancakes every day. I would hear that from older students and I didn’t believe in it until I was the one doing the pancake eating. But jokes aside think about it, if you have 20 pancakes for one day and you don’t eat them all… you’ll have more the next and the next and so on. So how do I alleviate the stress of all this material? I make a schedule. Seriously, I buy a calendar (could be a desk planner, notebook, etc.) Target has some really cute ones by the way! I write what I need to accomplish that week, divide the asks up accordingly, and FOLLOW IT. Now I know that life can happen and we all fall behind at some point. Guess what? That is OKAY, you are HUMAN, and you will get through it. Just prevent yourself from making it a habit of falling behind!
Study actively not passively:
My last piece of advice is to be ACTIVE when you are studying. I try to listen to lectures and take notes. I then spend time learning the material and a day later I quiz myself. I will write out my answers on my whiteboard, rinse, and repeat. REPETITION IS KEY. If you review for 15-20 minutes every day you won’t be stuck with a huge cram session the day before your exam.
I really hope you enjoyed reading these tips and tricks that I have figured out during my first half of year one. If you have any additions, please feel free to leave them down below because I love hearing about new ways to improve my studying habits. Remember we are all in this journey together!