While this is such a broad subject I’d like to call attention to something that is a concern of every pre-med student approaching their first semester of medical school. During orientation numerous speakers addressed my class with this topic, some faculty, others students. Here are a few thing they said, “Your old methods of studying will not work, you will need to find something new,” “Trust me, you’ll have to start drinking coffee, and you’ll likely be sleep deprived,” “It’s like drinking from a fire hose”. From my own experience, I have not found the first to be true yet. My studying habits have remained the same as my final years of college and they’re serving me well. Second, excessive coffee is not a mechanism to compensate for lack of sleep… you’ll learn that in your physiology class. If you’re losing sleep due to studying, there is something you’re doing wrong: be it procrastination, inefficient studying, distraction or something else. All of the above can be fixed but first you need to identify what your impediments are. This process is sometimes the most difficult. Thirdly, like drinking from a fire hose is simply a lie. I was a firefighter, drinking from a firehose is way worse. In all seriousness, it may be difficult to try to cram every detail into your head, but through reasoning and persistence you’ll get enough of it.
I would encourage you to make yourself a schedule of what must be accomplished before you allow yourself your reward (a TV show, exercise or time with friends) if procrastination is the problem. Small, INTENSE study sessions with clear goals of where you will stop with frequent rewards is the key. If inefficient studying is the problem (which seems to be surprisingly prevalent in medical students) you must find a new method. It sound simple but there are SO many people that think if “I just try doing it this way a little harder it will work”. Go out on a limb and try something else, it may just work. Tutoring services through the school is often the way to go. At my school we have a phenomenal tutoring service that most of the class uses. Tutoring is no longer for the struggling, it is for those who desire another perspective on the material. Being distracted is possibly the easiest vice to mend. Remove the distraction. I’m not saying go to a room with no people, windows, internet, electronics or food and study. Sometimes being in the library, seeing others going through the same thing.
Metacognition is your friend. Take time to think about the amount of time spent on studying. Consider how well you retain things after doing the routine of studying that has always worked. If changes need to be made from there then make them. Realize that since you’ve made it this far, you must have done something right. No need to reinvent the wheel, just make it a little faster and lighter then give it another go. You retain a little of what you hear, more of what you read, quite a bit of what you write and almost everything about what you teach. This is why group studying can be beneficial if used once you feel confident enough with the content to have a high level, meaningful conversation about it.
Above all else, remember with this post and all advice you hear, decide if it works for you. If ever you’re told something that just doesn’t jive with how you function, throw it out. With everything you hear, ask: why is this important?
Brian Gooley is an M1 student at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Elsevier OnCampus Ambassador