So you wanna be a medical school superstar? Top grades, AOA sticker on your car? Try these 9 med school study tips, curated from the best student/professor recommendations, online advice and my own experience as a reformed procrastinator-turned-stellar student.
Turn off your phone, block pesky websites (I suggest focus booster, Nanny for Chrome, and Self-Control for Macs). Clear your desktop, both physical and virtual, and isolate yourself from distractions, human and inanimate objects alike. It may feel stark and a bit lonely, but this is protection for when your mind inevitably wanders.
2. Plan time blocks and breaks
There’s a lot of material, and no time to realize you just wasted an entire afternoon poring over obscure clinical research on Chinese laparoscopic surgery outcomes. This is where time-blocking trumps simple to-do lists; you need to know when to start and stop doing things. Example:
- 10 – 11 – Take notes on Monday lectures
- 11 – 11:15 – Break
- 11:15 – 12:15 – Review last week lecture notes
- 12:15 – 12:30 – Break
- 12:30 – 1:30 – Do 20 practice questions
You get the picture. Notice also the scheduled breaks; very few people can really focus for more than an hour. Schedule breaks so you don’t get fried, and you’ll have something to look forward to without guilt.
3. Chunk things down and start early and often
Huge blocks of time are a luxury, so try reviewing notes during those little chunks of time you have during the day. Waiting on line for the new PS4? Whip out some Netter’s flashcards and get that complicated hand musculature down. Have an awkward 20 minutes between class and a meeting? Review that day’s lecture. Doing this early and often will have the wondrous effects of spaced learning.
4. Cramming is prohibited in all 50 states
Don’t do this to yourself! Many a procrastinator have convinced themselves that they managed to squeak by because the pressure of a deadline or looming exam was the only imagineable way they’d start studying. Ahem. Exercise your self-discipline and start early, and you’ll change your mind real quick. Front-loading your heavy studying and not saving it till the end will have you chillin’ like a villain when your classmates are sweatin’ the weekend before a test. That, my friend, feels quite nice.
5. Two words: OLD. EXAMS.
What better way to assess how well you know the little nitty gritties? Obtain old exams any way you can (try not to break any laws), and test yo’self. Analyze your wrong answers carefully, and then take the test again for reinforcement. Best to simulate game-day as closely as possible before suiting up.
6. Human resources: older students & professors
Who better to ask for advice than people who have already survived it? Pick the brains of older students on what the best resources and study methods are, and what to focus on, and address any content questions to professors, observing closely what they emphasize. Then give yourself a pat on the back when they write test questions on those things.
7. Group study when the time is right
This point may be slightly contentious, but I find that group study too early can do more harm than good. You need to put in those hours, holed away in some Starbucks, to really take your own first stab at the material. Other students are great for quizzing each other on material that’s already been reviewed, but being a groupie too early on can lead to insecurity or worse, a false sense of security.
8. Creative tenacity
Medical school is unlike any other academic undertaking, and the 4 years in itself is its own learning process. Be flexible and cognizant when things aren’t working, and realize there will always be a solution as long as you keep looking. Not getting something? Tap into the vast array of books, study guides, YouTube videos, other schools’ resources and your peers for help.
Okay, now take these med school go be a ninja!