Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia

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Effective Study Habits for Medical School

Most students in medical school already have the qualities of dedication, discipline, and self-confidence. What sets the good student apart from the average student, however, comes down to the study method. A good study method makes a good student!

High-achieving medical students increase their active learning ratio

First let’s differentiate active and passive learning. Passive learning refers to learning strategies such as reading the syllabus, glancing at the slides, and copying notes. Active learning includes methods such as practice questions, flashcards, asking questions, and explaining concepts to peers. Active learning makes students thinkers; it trains the brain to think through information and helps to master scientific materials.

Understanding the material in students’ main language

Understanding the material takes effort, but it is a rewarding process. Translating notes into a language that one understands the most is crucial for comprehension. Transcribing things into students’ own words and manipulating the material in one’s mind is a basic study strategy crucial in learning. 

Preview of lecture

This can be counted as the first time the material is seen. Look over the lecture and write eight general sentences explaining the lecture. Leave space between each sentence so that the details can be filled in later. The goal is to create a mindmap of the lecture. Alternatively, the sentences can be question-oriented and you can fill in the details as answers to the questions. 

During and after lecture

Bring these sentences to the lecture. Check each point that is covered as the lecture goes on, add in details when  possible and put a question mark on points you don’t understand. It is very important to get clarification from the lecturer on the points that have been question marked. Review the materials 10-15 minutes after the lecture. While this is optional, studies have shown that it greatly increases comprehension (Michael, 2006; Freeman et al., 2007).

Transcribe and create diagrams

Transcribe notes and books that have been read into your own concise words. Create diagrams and drawings to help form logical representations of various relationships within the mind. Forming relationships is the key to learning!

The review phase must happen over time

The best method of review is to do it over time and not all in one day. The brain is a muscle in a lot of ways and information cannot be cramped in one go. Review materials over and over again. The information needs to be seen multiple times for it to enter long-term memory.

Take time off

Have a clock-out time of when you will stop working. Rest and downtime are important to prevent burnout.

Effective study habits can change a student’s performance and help them excel. Thus, it is a skill that cannot be overlooked.

published on: 4 May 2020