5 Tips for Studying Medicine Efficiently (and Keeping the Excitement Alive!)
Published on Sep 4, 2020. Updated on Sep 15, 2020.
Struggling to enjoy hobbies or finding the time to take a break from studying? Third-year medical student Josh Simpson shares some tips on how to study more efficiently—and have fun doing it!
Albeit stressful at times, graduate studies can be a great experience. No matter what course or school you attend, one thing is for sure—you’ll be spending a lot of time studying. When it comes to studying, everyone has their individual learning style and what works best for them is just as unique as they are. However, there are a few tips that many students have found success in while maintaining motivation and excitement throughout their studies.
Tip 1: Utilize spaced repetition
Backed by science and proven to be successful, spaced repetition is a technique common among many students. Spaced repetition involves spacing out concepts and facts studied in longer intervals to both avoid forgetting them and minimizing the time dedicated to remembering them. Here are a few tips that aid in implementing spaced repetition:
Learn the concept or understand the context of the fact well before turning it into a form of spaced repetition (usually flashcards). It's a waste of time memorizing something you don't entirely understand or cannot relate back to anything. It will also require more effort.
Only choose the most important and high yield things to remember with spaced repetition. Trying to remember too many things will only lead us to miss our reviews and forget everything. It is also time-consuming to convert everything into flashcards. Choose wisely or, better yet, let Osmosis choose it for you with their collection of high-yield flashcards!
Tip 2: Revise content within 48 hours of learning it
Unfortunately, our brain will remember only about 5% of something we have learned previously if we do not try to understand and revise it within two days of being exposed to it. Without revisiting the content, the average brain is unable to store this new information adequately. Even better, try consolidating concepts within 24 hours of learning them, but no longer than 48 hours for maximal retention.
Tip 3: Be thorough from the start
When it comes to learning, there are facts and there are concepts.
Concepts are how things work. We can usually remember a concept for a long time if we learn it well the first time and truly understand it.
Facts are isolated pieces of information. They are harder to learn and rely more on spaced repetition. They're easily lost if not regularly used.
This tip is especially crucial for concepts. It takes time to learn effectively, but don't cut corners. If a concept is studied thoroughly the first time and revised, it's much faster than putting in half the effort over multiple studying periods. Concepts also make facts easier to understand. Many concepts can act as the context to help link loosely-related facts, enabling you to better remember these facts.
Tip 4: Keep the learning process as active as possible
At times, it is easy to get carried away by mindlessly watching videos or reading a textbook. Though this approach will result in little retention of the material. Try and engage in learning as much as possible to reinforce and consolidate the material. This may include:
Pre-reading and asking questions of the text
Summarizing core ideas in as few words as possible
Using mind maps to link key concepts
Finding how material can connect to clinical practice
Testing yourself on the material
Answering questions to combine problem-solving with memory
Tip 5: Take days off and make time for your hobbies
At times, it is easy to get carried away and devote all of our time to studying, focusing on the goal of getting the best marks possible. Unfortunately, this leads to burnout and takes away the joy of learning. When we dedicate all our time to studying, we switch from viewing studying as another part of life to the only part of our life. Our sole focus becomes completing the exam, and we lose the joy of the present moment and everything that happens to us along the way. Taking days off and making time for hobbies allows us to stay grounded and enjoy each moment.
Josh is a third-year medical student currently studying at Curtin University, Australia. He hopes to pursue a career in endocrinology. While not studying, Josh enjoys spending time at the beach and making the most of Australia’s sunny weather.
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