Winston Churchill once said, “Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential,” and the a similar concept can definitely be applied when considering a successful approach to conquering medical school. Oftentimes it is not the “smartest” or “brightest” students in a class who excel during exams. Instead, it usually is just those students who have developed the best study skills who find themselves at the top of their classes. While learning how to best study during medical school tends to be a bit of trial and error, it is still definitely ideal for students to solidify quality study skills prior to enrolling. While everyone may study best in different ways, these ideas are great ways to get on the right track.
Set timers (and stick to them)
Use your smart phone/favorite technology device to set timers for study periods within your afternoons (or evenings, or mornings). Often it’s easy to get distracted while “studying” with checking emails, browsing social media, or texting friends. Instead of letting yourself yield to these distractions while studying, set timers that dictate set periods of time that you will dedicate solely to studying, and set timers that allow you to take breaks to catch up on all your social media needs. Some students find that breaking down hours into 55 minutes of studying and 5 minutes of break time works well for them, while others do better with larger or smaller chunks of study time. Find a pattern that works best for you, and stick to it. You’ll be amazed how much more efficient your study time is when you don’t allow yourself any distractions.
Review within a day
The amount of material covered within a day’s lectures during medical school can seem enormous, leaving many students to feel like they can’t even get through all of a day’s lessons within the day—yet alone go over materials more than once. However, studies have shown that students who spend time studying the same lectures more than once within a 24-hour period typically tend to remember those lectures better than those who do not. Although this seems simple enough, many students don’t allot time for review within their schedules. Make sure that you plan time for reviewing materials on the same day that you cover them for the first time; you’ll remember the concepts much better in the long run using this study method.
Develop memory techniques
Many medical students will be quick to tell you that the concepts presented in medical school are often no harder than the concepts presented during some undergraduate courses. However, the amount of material is simply much denser, leaving students to memorize copious amounts of information. Do yourself a favor and figure out what memory techniques can help you best—from drawing out pathways to visualization and association techniques.
Set realistic goals
Finally, set realistic study goals for yourself. You might want to push yourself to study 10 hours a day for 5 days a week, using a timer to monitor your progress. However, if you’re like most students, doing so much studying for an extended period of time is exhaustingly impossible. Push yourself to study more than you think possible (you’ll be grateful for the built-up study endurance once you’re in medical school), but be realistic in your goals at the same time.