Medical school will be one of the most challenging periods of your life, especially when it comes to academics. To truly prepare yourself for the avalanche of books, notes and lectures in your future, here are just five studying tips for upcoming med students.
1. Space out your studying
Cramming might prepare you for tomorrow’s test, but it’s a pretty ineffective way of retaining information in the long term. This can be disastrous when you’re in med school because every new lesson references the one before it.
A better strategy is to use a “spaced repetition” technique where you study for smaller amounts over longer periods of time. Not only will it improve your recall with constant practice, but one study even proved that this kind of distributed learning results in better skill acquisition among surgical residents.
2. Use Bloom’s Taxonomy
In 1956, an educational psychologist by the name of Benjamin Bloom created a six-tier pyramid devoted to classifications of learning. The bottom rungs were things like rote memorisation while the top levels showed things like critical analysis and evaluation. You can use “Bloom’s taxonomy” as a guidepost to measure your own study habits, especially when it comes to concepts and procedures that you’ll need to know as a physician.
For example, instead of asking yourself if you can recite all of the side-effects of a certain medication, see if you can explain to an imaginary patient why those side effects occur in the first place.
3. Test yourself regularly
While it’s fine to devote yourself to a higher, more thorough level of learning, your progress will still be measured with tests and exams. You’ll need to get comfortable with your test-taking abilities in order to ace whatever bubble sheets are put in front of you.
Teach yourself to look for trick questions, and time yourself if you feel like you’re taking too long. It doesn’t matter if you’re studying for a pop quiz in high school or the last exam that you need to pass before obtaining your healthcare administration degree: once you master these tricks, you’ll be ready for tests of all lengths, subjects, and formats.
4. Randomise your learning process
Traditional methods of study encourage you to learn things in regimented chunks. You read chapter one before moving onto chapter two, and you master concept A before you build on it with concept B. However, there’s a process called “interleaved practice” that might be better for your long-term retention of facts.
It mixes up your studying routine so that you learn concept B and concept C before going back and tying it all together with concept A. It’s not a method that you can use the night before an exam, but if there’s something in your textbooks that you really want to commit to memory, learning it with interleaved practice will stop your brain from cruise-controlling over the paragraphs.
5. Improve your memory
You’re going to med school. At the end of the day, there are certain things that you’ll just have to memorise. The good news is that you can use a number of memory techniques to improve your recall and help you rattle off statistics when the attending physician calls on you during rounds. One of the most well-known memory aides is the art of creating mnemonics, but if you need to upgrade them for medical school, consider constructing a full-blown memory palace.
These are just a few study habits that are worth building before you enter med school. While they’ll still work for current med schools, it’s always better to learn things before you actually need them. They’ll be nice and ingrained by the time that you actually enter medical school.
Special thanks to Dixie Somers for providing us with this article. Dixie is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband. You can contact Dixie on Facebook.