I am still in awe that the first semester is already over! A few months back, I have been blogging about my uncertainties regarding medschool but here I am now—grateful and satisfied for the tough times I had during my first five months in med.
Because of that, I decided to create MedSchool Survival Series with this post being the first. Yep, I’d like to start with study habits. And I’d like to specifically share here each study technique I used (and how effective they were) for the six courses I took.
But I’d like to clarify that study habits is not a one-size-fits-all. It’s effectivity usually depend on one’s personality, outlook and self-discipline. And of course, the education system is also a factor. Still, study habits are essential for academic excellence.
Since medschool courses differ from each other in many different ways, I decided to deal with them with different approaches which I enumerated below.
Anatomy can be very advantageous for visual learners like me. I always find it easy remembering structures when I study it on the atlas. Because technically, what the book (especially Gray’s Anatomy Basis for Clinical Practice) is basically describing are the position of the structures. So why waste 5 minutes reading long paragraphs when you can easily learn it by just looking on the atlas.
ALWAYS REMEMBER! Anatomical terms are very important. You must master them by heart so that whenever the exam asks what lies posterior to this or what structure is caudal to that, you can easily picture it out.
Another must-know in anatomy are the boundaries and content (e.g. contents of cubital fossa, boundaries of the axilla). You can easily find mnemonics for that online. For me, I find it easy to memorize in this sequence: superior/anterior, lateral, medial, inferior/posterior. In that way, I don’t mix things up.
RECOMMENDED READS: BRS Anatomy, Snell’s Clinical Anatomy by Region, McMinn Atlas(it has pictures of from actual humans and cadavers), Netter Atlas
Physiology is the total opposite of anatomy. You can’t get things by just looking. YOU. HAVE. TO. READ. And by that I mean, you need to read a 20-page chapter for a 10-item quiz. And as you read you need to UNDERSTAND, CONCEPTUALIZE, ANALYZE and CORRELATE. Physiology is subjective as Anatomy is objective.
YouTube tutorials had been of great help to me especially when I don’t have enough time to finish reading. Channels I recommend are Khan Academy, Crash Course and Amoeba Sisters.
Besides that, you really have to read.
RECOMMENDED READS: BRS Physiology, Guyton and Hall Textbook, Guyton and Hall Pocketbook (we call this baby guyton, for when we don’t enough much time), Berne and Levi
The most feared subject of all. In biochemistry, you have to read and read and memorize and conceptualize and analyze.
Coming from a chemistry-based premed, I did not have much hard time understanding biochemical concepts and disease correlations. What I had difficulty with is memorizing terms—-especially ENZYMES! So what I did was I made flashcards for easy memorization. I write the term/enzyme in front with the definition and I write the explanation at the back. It works for me!
Another is that, instead of reading the whole chapter I only study the diagrams or the charts of each cycle or process (e.g. Krebs Cycle). YouTube videos can be helpful too! And most of the time, turning it into a funny story is most effective way!
RECOMMENDED READS: Harper’s Biochemistry, Lippincott
I never had a hard time studying Histology because we had lots of it in premed and in the board exams. It is in fact one of the core subjects of Medical Laboratory Science.
For histology, you have no other choice but to memorize terms. It is most important to know the differences of related structures and to know key features of each. Studying the microscopic slides can be helpful too.
Also, it is important that you know that basic four by heart—Epithelium, Connective Tissue, Muscular Tissue and Nervous Tissue.
HACK: Certain features that are unique in a specific structure are ALWAYS a must-know.
RECOMMENDED READS: Junquiera’s, google or take photos of microscopic slides
Well, this is the kind of subject you can depend on your common sense with. Although it sometimes require memorization, there is not much to study about it.
I hate Math and I really had a hard time with this course. But the only secret I found is practicing the computation because lots of it are usually asked in the exam. Practice is the key!
- It’s always a good thing to take notes (by manual writing) because by doing so, you have higher chances of retaining the information.
- Be organized. Keep a notebook for each subject wherein you write all the important stuffs. In that way, you can easily browse back through them whenever needed.
- Sort out hand-outs, trans, and other print outs by subject. Have an envelope for each so you can easily go back through them especially when you’re having a comprehensive exam.
- Organize your highlighting. For me I use two techniques.
- COLOR CODING. I used only one color for each subject so that whenever I see that color I know what subject it is referring about.
- RULE OF THREE which includes a circle, an underline and a highlight. The circle is for important terms and key words while the underline is for other facts. Both is done with a re-liner that matches or contrasts the color of the highlighter which I used to highlight concepts and explanations. In this way, by just one looking I can easily know which are the important informations in that particular page.
- Make a study schedule and stick with it. Do I need to mention about Bullet Journals and Planners? I might need a separate blog post about that—making priorities.
- Don’t exhaust yourself (next on the series is self-care)
- When you do not know how to start your study session, always pick first the topic you understood least or the part you had a hard time grasping.
- Always remember: 90% of learning happens on the actual/clinical.
Lastly, I’d like to recommend the POMODORO TECHNIQUE because it was very effective for me. You can look it up online. But basically it is a study technique with a 25 min/5 min rule. You study for 25 minutes straight and then have a break for 5 minutes. According to studies, it helps with memory retention without too much strain on the brain. I do this using the app lanes.io which is very useful in tracking up my progress.
Don’t forget to read the next part of this series which will focus on self-care.
That’s all! Always remember to make studying fun!