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Medical Students Studying Habits In Undegraduate


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Basically I passed high school being in the top five percentile of my graduating class without studying much; I depended on just learning in class and being clever as to what will be on tests and exams.


Unfortunately, University is different. Firstly, the professors don't teach like high school teachers, so you have to learn by yourself, and secondly you can't be clever and pickup what will be on the examinations as it can be anything. So basically University boils down to how good one's studying habits are.


I've been having a problem with studying habits as I don't get what to study, how in-depth I should go, when to study, what are ways to make studying easier, how do I even force myself to study when I'm feeling lazy... etc.


Can students with strong GPAs in undergrad give serious advice and tips as to how they handle their studying matters? (i.e. you should set a period of time in the morning to study everyday so that your mind gets used to it)


Also... any advice as to what's important to study in courses that'll help on the MCAT is appreciated. As in, should we really study meiosis well as there's a high chance of that being on the MCAT... or starting verbal practice in your first year..


Thanks Folks.

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By the way, I am a high school student. I don't use my teachers' notes anymore because the notes spoon feed the students so much. I try to read the text book by myself and identify the key concepts that might be on tests.


That's how I am doing prepare for university. Although I find harder when I try to learn by my own from the book, it actually requires a lot of critical thinking.

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I started to do really well in university when I started taking very detailed notes in lecture. I'm talking multi-coloured, detailed notes, with certain colours having greater levels of importance. You can tell what is more important, just by how the prof says it usually. I became very good at being able to predict what would be on exams by listening to my prof's tone of voice, etc., very carefully. Make sure to sit in the front row and do not sit near people who don't like to pay attention in lecture.


Before an exam, I would rewrite my notes in detail to make sure that I had read over everything covered in lecture carefully, making everything more concise if I could in order to be able to quickly review it over and over again. If I was short on time, I would skip reading the text and only review the detailed notes that I had taken in class, although obviously reading the text too would be ideal.


I also used to find out who the best TA was in the class and go to their tutorial, as well as the one that I was assigned to (I lived on campus, so this was pretty easy for me to do). I tried to answer questions based on memory in the tutorials and found that this really solidified concepts and helped me to memorize stuff. Going to office hours on a regular basis with prepared questions helps too. There's nothing like talking it out...


Finally, I would ALWAYS do practice questions either out of the text or from the text website right before the exam to make sure that I really had everything down. I would do this instead of reading the text if I didn't have enough time.


I'm sure you'll figure out a strategy that works best for you over time... hope this helps.

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I'm sure everyone would like to have the recipe for doing well in undergrad, one that works for everyone and for every course. Unfortunately, I don't think there is one. You have to learn to adapt your method to the class and the prof, as well as to your own learning style. Here's a few things tho, that I think generally can't hurt. Most have been covered in previous posts, but to summarize :


When you study, really study. AVOID going over what you know, and focus on what you don't. It's not the amount of time that matters, it's how much you learn. Try to understand the concepts that you memorize, and try to understand why/how they are important. As a general rule, if nobody can find a usefulness to a concept, it probably won't be the main focus of the exam. Of course, there may be exceptions.


Personally, I actually advise against re-writing notes for most people, at least not in order to make them cleaner or nicer looking. Writing is a good way to learn, but more like scribbling important stuff than re-copying everything. It takes too much time and is not an effective learning method, in my opinion. Instead, I like to quiz myself. For instance, if there is a list of stuff to know (ie the amino acid's or something of the sort), I will read it a few times, then try to write it all down without looking at my notes. I will obviously not get it all in the first try, but then I correct myself and try again until I get it. Writing down in that sens helps me.


For really hard to remember concepts, the ones that for some reason your brain refuses to remember, I like flashcards. I make them as I study an go over them every night for a few nights, and generally after that I know them.


For anatomy and often physiology/chemistry, I think drawing helps. Again, I'm not talking of making a pretty artwork, more like a quick rough sketch where I identify the structures I want to learn. Something that takes 2 minutes. Again, I quiz myself by drawing without looking, or covering the names on actual pictures, until I have it memorized.


When memorizing, for me (and studies have shown that it helps others too), a night of sleep between reviews is key. For instance, instead of spending 2 hours on covering a concept over and over on Monday, and not reviewing it again until the exam, I would go over it quickly on Monday, again on Tuesday and also Wednesday. That helps with long term memorization.


I agree with Celeria that you can usually figure out what's important if you listen carefully to what a prof says. This may take a bit of practice, but you'll get it in the end for most courses.


I don't have great advice on overcoming procrastination. I think it's a problem most students struggle with continuously. One thing that I do find helpful is to make just super small study periods, if I'm not motivated. For instance, I'll tell myself that I can procrastinate, but I should at least do 10 minutes of studying first. I try to keep in mind how much learning this is important to my final goal, and if possible, I avoid taking a break at the start of something really hard (cause I know I won't want to get back to work later) and instead try to finish that section before I stop.


Well, that's what I can think of for now! Take what you like and throw out the rest!


Best of luck!

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I posted this back in the summer but you might find it of interest....


(start of old post)



STEP 1. Review all lectures before actually going to lecture. Don't memorize the stuff, simply read it over and be familiar with the terminology etc. This helps you retain more during the actual lecture.


STEP 2. Go to all lectures regardless of how crappy the the prof. If you don't understand the lecture get help as soon as possible.


STEP 3. Within 6hrs (if possible) of finishing a lecture review the material thoroughly. I religiously made cue cards with questions based on the lecture material. The answers would be on the back of the card. An example would be something like: What does the QRS complex in an ECG represent? Answer on back: Ventricular contraction. For every lecture I would make sure there was one question on every important aspect brought up that day. It was not uncommon to have 500 questions for four months worth of material by exam time.


Most importantly I found reverse engineering the material into a good question really helped the material to stick in my head. It also reduced the chances of something unexpected coming up in an exam.


STEP 4. Review for exams early!!! Not only does this reduce stress it gives you the time needed to ALWAYS master the material. To study I used my cue cards. If anything was confusing or needed clarification I would go back to my raw notes.



This formula hasn't let me down since I started using it four years ago. So I highly recommend it!


(end of old post)



Now that I have a term of medical school under my belt I would say the above works well in undergrad. You have tons of time in undergrad to preread etc. Things change a bit once in med school. At UofT meds things move 4 times faster than undergrad at Western so doing all of the above is not practical. However, I still try to follow steps 3 and 4 religiously. For step 2 there is usually a classmate in med school that understands the material better than the prof does so I ask them for help if I need clarification. ;) I never follow step 1 anymore. There just isn't enough time. But I think my degree gives me enough background to understand the lectures without additional reading. So yes, undergrad does serve a purpose!

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