One of the hardest parts about medical school is discovering how to study. You may have found an excellent method in your undergraduate career. However, it may or may not work in medical school due to the high volume of information coming your way. Other medical students will also be shouting out different strategies, books, websites, and videos that they swear by. Hearing about all of the potential resources and study tips other students use can be very overwhelming.
It may take an exam or two (or three…) to figure out what finally works, but eventually you will discover what is best for you!
Know how you learn best. Are you an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner? Hopefully, you know the answer to this by now, but if you do not, you can easily find a test online to confirm the type of learner you are, or go to your school’s academic services department. This will help you determine what types of study tools and techniques will be most helpful for you. For example, if you’re an auditory learner, re-listening to lectures may be incorporated into your study plan, or, if you’re a visual learner, making charts and diagrams from your lecture notes would be beneficial to you.
Know when you learn best. Studying for 14 hours every day won’t do you any good if you only truly focused for 4 or 5 of those hours. Figure out when you feel the most focused and productive. For instance, I focus well when I wake up early in the morning, don’t focus well after lunch, and have another spurt of productivity throughout the evening. I do my best to schedule my study time during those windows of time, and do other productive, non-studying tasks after lunch (if there is no class).
Choose your resources wisely. There are a lot of great resources out there, but unfortunately, you cannot use them all. Pick a few that you can use often. They don’t necessarily have to be the same ones for every exam, but ones you feel will help you for particular subjects. Because I am a visual learner, I love using resources such as Sketchy Micro for microbiology and Pathoma for pathology. I also love practice questions so I will look at ones in the BRS books, First Aid, or even look on Quizlet for questions others may have already made (be very careful with quizlet though!).
Work efficiently. Time is extra precious in medical school. It may take a while to figure out how, but work towards efficiency. You do not need to write or type every word the professor says during lecture, nor read every word on every single page of the assigned reading. Discern what is very significant and what is not as important.
Find a good study buddy or group. Even if you think you aren’t a group studier, it is a good idea to discuss concepts with another person. They say if you know the material, you should be able to teach it to someone else. Studying with other people also helps you see concepts in a new light, reinforcing the information so that it sticks better in your mind. Make sure you are studying with people who will stay focused on the task at hand ;).
Have multiple study spots. Studying in the same location day in and day out can get pretty boring, so be sure to have a few locations where you know you can focus and be productive with your studies. I like to have at least one location where I have quiet solitude, another location that is quiet but has other people around me, and another one with a little background noise. A change in scenery can do wonders!
Make a study checklist. This is crucial. There are so many lectures, it can be hard to keep track of what you reviewed and what you have not. I make my checklist in such a way that I will have gone through each lecture three times before the exam. I like to use the Numbers application on my Macbook, which has a layout option with actual check boxes.
By keeping these ideas in mind, hopefully you will be able to construct a solid study plan for yourself.