Study Habits for Medical School, New and Old
by Lorien E. Menhennett
Trying to absorb the vast quantity of information presented during medical school has been compared to drinking from a firehose. There’s simply no way to swallow it all. This means that I’ll have to prioritize information, and to maximize my time with excellent study skills. I’ve always been a good student. So I’ll be carrying over some old study habits that worked well in college and my post-bac. But I’ll also try some new methods that sound promising. It’s all based on knowing my personal learning style. Here’s my lineup:
Dry erase board. I used this extensively during my post-bac for everything from organic chemistry (drawing out structures and color-coded synthesis reactions) to genetics (creating a flowchart of the transcription process from start to finish). For me, the kinesthetic component of learning is key – I need to DO something with the information, not just read it or hear it (although audio and visual learning is important for me too). Seeing things written extra large, and with multiple colors, helps me remember them even better.
Scapple. This is a new experiment. Scapple is a Mac app that allows you to make connections between ideas and concepts. I tried it out while reviewing the Krebs cycle a couple weeks ago, and really liked it (the screen shot below is part of what I created to represent the links between the different molecules, enzymes, and other players in the cycle).
Cornell note taking method. Another experiment, this note taking method incorporates reviewing, questioning, and summarizing into the process. It’s much more active than just scribbling down what the professor is saying. That kind of active participation helps me learn and remember, which is why I’m giving this a try.
Study groups. I’ve had mixed results with these in the past, but I’ve heard that studying in groups is really recommended in medical school. So I want to try it.
I’ve made it this far, so clearly have my share of good study habits. But with the game being stepped up in medical school, I think it’s important to experiment too. There’s always room for improvement.