Good Morning BBGirls, and happy Sunday!
I can't believe I'm about to be going into my 4th week of medical school. Like whaaat. It literally flew, fr. I'm still getting adjusted, but I am finally starting to find my rhythm here. When starting a new school year, or new courses in general, it can always be a struggle to figure out HOW to study, no matter what it is you're studying. You can spend a lot of time feeling as if you're studying, but not actually retaining any information. The key is to STUDY SMARTER, not harder. You have to be efficient with your time, and make sure that you're actively learning the material.
A key difference I want to point out is PASSIVE vs ACTIVE studying. The major difference between the two is that passive methods are only using sensory input, such as listening or reading, whereas active methods require you to interact with the material, and thus, increase your retention of the material. For example, self-testing is an active task, while re-reading notes or skimming a textbook is a passive one. A professor once told me if there's no point in your studying routine where you have the possibility of finding out you're incorrect, it isn't an active task.
Here are some the study techniques that work for me:
1. The first thing I do when I begin studying is TAKE NOTES. However, it is difficult to make sure you're taking notes in the most beneficial way. For example, if you're reading a textbook or lecture slides, it can be easy to just idly write down exactly what the slide says, and not test your retention of it at all. This would be considered passive studying. In order to make taking notes an active task, what I like to do is read the entire slide or 1-2 paragraphs of a textbook, and then go to my notebook and write down everything important from it without looking. This is a good method to test what you actually retained, and gives you a chance to go back and see what you forgot that fast. It may seem easy, but I promise, you will not remember everything. However, before you move on to the next slide/paragraph, check to make sure that you got it all. Go back and write down everything you forgot, again using the active studying method. PLEASE DON'T JUST COPY THE INFORMATION. It will not stick in your brain, and you will forget it. It's truly a waste of your time.
2. After you finish taking notes, it is important that you review the information at least 3 times after you're finished. What I typically like to do is review the day after, the weekend after, and then again two weeks after (you can write in in your planner/to do list, or set a reminder on your phone so that you won't forget). This way, when you're studying for the actual exam, you would have already tested yourself over the material 4 times, and you will more than likely know it already. Also, this will help you to remember the information long term, rather than cramming, in which you will probably forget it all as soon as the exam is over. Trust me, I've done it wayyy too many times.
Unfortunately, it is also very easy to make reviewing a passive process. I used to believe that just reading over my notes again was helping me to remember things, but again, this is considered passive studying. It is an absolute waste of time.
I have been on a journey of learning how to study best, and here are some of the methods you can use for reviewing your notes:
A) Create a study guide: This is one of my new favorites as of this year. The day after I finish my notes, I go through them again, and I create a Word document with a list of questions. This helps you to determine what is important, because you have to design your own questions. Also, it is important that as you write out the questions, you make sure that you can answer them without looking. It is a great way to test your knowledge and make sure you're retaining everything. Then, on reviews 3 & 4, you can just go back over the study guide you created, and see if you can answer all the questions without referencing your notes. What I have found is that I usually can, but it also allows me to think of more questions that I should ask, and add those to the list as well.
B) Create Flashcards: This method is very similar to creating a study guide, however, its just on flashcards with the answer presented on the back. Again, it is important that you write out the full flashcard question & answer on your own without looking, rather than copying it straight out of your notes. This makes the flashcard creation process active studying, and increases your retention of the material. Then of course, you are able to just study those flashcards again for reviews 3 & 4. I typically use flashcards if I'm dealing with a lot of images, but I use study guides if it is mainly just text.
My favorite flashcard app is AnkiApp-- I posted about it on the Beauty and Brains instagram before, but it is definitely worth reiterating! With this app, you get to have the flashcards right on your phone or iPad, which gives you easy access to practice them in your free time. Repetition is the key to success, so the more you practice- the better you’ll do. They even send you notifications to remind you to study! AnkiApp also gives you a grade with how you’re performing on the flashcards, so you know where you stand before you even take the exam.
Here are some key things I do to make using Anki better for me:
1. I make Flashcard decks for each lecture, so that I can practice lectures individually.
2. I “tag” each deck with which exam it will be on, so then each deck will show up in a group. That way, when I’m studying right before the test, I can just click “review” on the whole group and it’ll test me on all of the lectures! 3. DO IT WITH FRIENDS! I don’t have enough time in the world to make all of the flashcards myself sometimes, so me and my friends divide up the lectures, and then just share the decks with each other. #funtip: You can even try competing with friends to see who can get the highest grade on each lecture... a little competition always get us motivated, right?
C) CONCEPT MAPS: I usually only make these depending on the course, but I do have friends that use mapping as their primary study technique. Sometimes professors overwhelm you with information from different lectures that kind of goes together, but in your mind, you’re really not relating the stuff- if you know what I mean?? Well, when you make concept maps or draw pathways, you get to connect all the points, and it really brings everything together. Your brain remembers so much more when you connect things, versus just random brute memorization. This type of studying is very useful in science courses with different mechanisms to remember, but also for any course where you need to know how each concept relates to each other. Here is an example of a concept map I drew for my biochem class last year at Loyola:
I've spent my entire academic career trying to perfect how I study, and I finally feel like I'm starting to get the hang of it. Again, success comes from studying smarter, not harder. You need to actively test yourself on the material each time you review it, and I can guarantee you will remember so much more, for so much longer!! In summary, these are just a few of my solo study techniques! However, studying with a group is also VERY important, so please do not forget to work with friends, and talk out concepts out loud. I'll write another blog one day about group study techniques, but for now, that is allllll. I hope you guys find these study tips useful! Please let me know if you use them, and how they are working out for you.
I love you all! Thanks again for tuning in to my blog.
Until next time,