The one thing in life that I’m really good at is being a student. Throughout my high school and college years my number one priority was always my grades. I only worked a few hours a week and really focused on studying. So the one thing I’ve been doing pretty much my whole life is studying. After the last year of medical school I’ve establish a really good system. However, everyone is different! And if something isn’t working for you, change it, even if its what you’re comfortable with. There is no time in medical school to waste using a study system that isn’t working to its fullest potential for you.
I study using the “3-pass” method. This isn’t actually a thing and I believe I made it up, but hear me out! I use the first pass as just exposure to the material, second pass as comprehending and understanding and third pass is memorization (which sometimes isn’t necessary). I usually add in a 4th pass the morning before the exam as review ;-).
FIRST PASS – exposure
This usually takes place in lecture. I listen to the professor or listen to the recording and take any notes that I think are important, highlight what topics the professor spends the most time on, and jot down anything that is “BOARD RELEVANT” (the worst two words to hear in med school). I prefer to listen to the recording because I can pause, look things up, and follow along with what the professor is saying.
SECOND PASS – comprehension
This pass takes place at home or the library a few days before the exam. I go through each lecture of the exam in detail. Reading every word of the slide, understanding the processes and understanding the content to a deeper level. During this pass I create a document on my iPad or on paper, that includes all of the things I must know for the exam. I like to transform the information into graphs and charts, to condense and to aide in my understanding. I’m a visual learner and I remember things by writing them and drawing them out.
Memorization. The key to med school even though no one will admit it. For this I use a whiteboard, and I rewrite my note sheet from my iPad and concepts I need to memorize until it sticks in my head. I usually do this the day before the exam. For some exams this isn’t necessary, but for exams with micro, algorithms or even formulas (hello renal phys) it is a crucial step!
I use this final pass as a refresher the morning of the exam. This one is more to calm my nerves than to actually learn any material. I review all the material and convince myself I have adequately prepared and there is nothing more I can do. I usually get up 4-5 hours before the test to prepare, drink so coffee, and head out to take the exam.
Good luck and stay focused! You are capable!