Don’t you think medicine is one of the hardest subjects to study? After all, to become a doctor, you need to have a full understanding of how the human body works.
If you specialize in a branch of medicine like neurology, then you need to know about a variety of diseases specific to our nervous systems. This means that you need to know everything about their symptoms, causes, treatment, etc.
To achieve this, you might already spend the majority of your time studying to become a good, qualified doctor.
But, what if I told you that there are more effective ways to study? They will help you better memorize any subject, save time, and make your life as a med student a lot easier.
Here are the 14 proven studying hacks for medical students.
1. Don’t Get Distracted
Distractions not only prevent us from focusing on studying, but they also contribute to procrastination.
Some of the most common distractions are our phones, social media, and even friends. They prevent you from listening to the lecture and noting important medical details. If you are studying medicine abroad, doing it might be even harder because everyone has different accents, which you are not used to.
As a result, you often have to study more in the evenings, or worse, take additional classes to catch up with the material.
To avoid being distracted, you should mute and put away your phone, and ask your friends to not speak with you during classes.
Only in a couple of months, you will see a significant improvement in your grades and ability to retain information.
2. Take Notes
Taking notes can be a very powerful habit if you get used to it.
The idea is actually pretty simple. You listen to the professor, understand what lesson they convey, and write it down. But, there is a catch. For example, some medical students write down everything the professor says.
So how do you take notes?
- Don’t write down the basic information.
- Listen to the professor until the very end, and make sure that you got the bigger picture of the facts that they are presenting.
- Afterwards, write down technicalities that would support the main idea.
This way it will be much easier for you to organize facts in your notes. They will become shorter and easier to understand.
3. Ask Questions If You Don’t Understand
If you don’t understand something, raise your hand and ask about it. This indicates to the professors that you listen to them (which they love).
it will help clear misunderstandings not only for yourself but also for your classmates.
If you don’t feel comfortable asking a question in front of everyone, write it down and ask the professor after the class.
4. Review Your Notes In The Evening
Freshen up your newly acquired knowledge by taking a look at your notes.
Reviewing notes often helps move new information from short-term to long-term memory. You can even expand your notes when you study in the evening which will further strengthen your knowledge.
5. Pick Other Tactics For Studying
Besides taking notes, you can use flashcards, make mind-maps, and revise past lessons you’ve learned.
Adding variety to your studying will make it more exciting and efficient.
6. Set up S.M.A.R.T. goals
If you want to achieve your goals you should try making S.M.A.R.T. goals. This means that they should be:
This is one of the best formulas to set your goals.
Make your goals specific to achieve exactly what you want. Making them measurable will help you track your progress. There is even an old saying for that: “What gets measured, gets done.”.
Ensure that your goals are achievable. Chasing big dreams can be exhausting. On the other hand, following a step-by-step process will make you feel very productive.
Relevancy allows you to estimate the priority of the goal.
And making the goals time-bound helps you hold yourself accountable. If you procrastinate, you can trigger your procrastination when you need to and still be productive.
Here are some examples for S.M.A.R.T. goals:
“Find a doctor to shadow before 6th July”. and to achieve this one you might set another goal like “Ask at least 30 doctors if I can shadow them before 15 June.”
“Finish preparing the apartment for guests before 7 PM.”
“Develop a habit to sit down and study medicine at 4:30 PM for an hour, every day.”
7. Stay Organised
Many employees and students use common practices like organizing their time to stay productive.
It also helps students understand that they can spend their time efficiently. This allows them to finish more tasks and still have a lot of free time.
Usually, in a schedule, they do this by mixing the tasks they need to do with the tasks they want to do. As a result, they end up with very balanced, enjoyable, and productive schedules.
In your schedule, you should include daily tasks like studying, fitness, music, cooking, etc.
Remember, a schedule is not there to harm you. Yes, your day is supposed to be productive, but you should also enjoy it.
Here is an example:
7:00 – 8:30 Wake up, have breakfast, prepare for med school
8:30 – 9:00 Travel to your university
9:00 – 16:00 Attending classes
16:00 – 16:30 Get home
16:30 – 17:30 Free time
17:30 – 18:00 Workout/ Fitness or another task you enjoy
18:00 – 18:30 Take a bath
18:30 – 19:00 Eat dinner (you can watch or read something while you eat)
19:00 – 20:30 Review your notes, study the medical materials
20:30 – 22:00 Free time
22:00 Go to sleep
This is an example of a highly productive, yet enjoyable routine some students have. You can do something similar. Experiment, and you will find the right schedule for you.
“All work and no play” is a recipe for burnout. Do the things that make you happy. Start an at-home workout, head outside and enjoy a sporting activity, listen to some music—whatever makes you happy.
8. Build Habits
Some people say that to truly develop a habit you need to repeat it for approximately 60 days. However, neurologic studies have found that you need anywhere between 18 days, to a whole year.
But in reality for how long you repeat doing something has nothing to do with building a habit, or how to discipline yourself. All you need is a reason.
For example, if you smoke and you are fed up with it, one day you might decide to just quit it. Remind yourself that smoking shortens your lifespan and in general it’s just a money-wasting addiction that you don’t enjoy.
Unless it became a really strong addiction, you will be able to stop it.
All you need is to commit to the decision you’ve made.
9. Stop Cramming
There are two possibilities why you do this.
- You procrastinate and put off everything until the very last moment.
- You believe that by studying everything at once for long sessions, you manage to study effectively and yield results.
Let me explain to you why cramming will not help you with your studies.
One Stafford research (like many others) has shown that your productivity decreases the longer you work/ study. Especially, if you don’t rest properly.
Therefore, studying overnight and sacrificing sleep is counter-productive. However, by allowing yourself to rest you will get much of the energy needed. After an hour-long study session, just 15 minutes can get you back to almost 100% productivity and you will be able to continue studying for longer periods of time.
And if it’s hard for you to make yourself study, try making and following a schedule – a practice that was mentioned above. Organizing your time truly works and many students report that it helped them and their academic success.
10. Try Passing Old Exams On The Internet
One of the best ways to assess the quality of your knowledge is by passing a past exam you’ve had, or a different exam on the Internet. Because you already know the subject, you can quickly answer all of the questions. Then look if any of your answers were wrong and analyze them. Maybe you made a mistake because you misunderstood a fundamental concept?
You can take the test again to further reinforce your knowledge.
11. Study In A Group
If you manage to assemble a group of people who truly want to study medicine, you can do wonders. Having others around you will motivate you to study.
What is so great about study groups, is that you can always discuss concepts and ideas with others. This helps everyone get a bigger picture of the subject and clear misunderstandings if any occur.
12. Learn How To Cook For A Few Days Ahead.
You can cook food for an hour or two, which will be enough for a week. Usually, cooking each Sunday makes the most sense.
Cooking yourself will save you a lot of money as well as even save time. Instead of waiting for your food to be prepared in a restaurant, you can always take out your plastic food container and eat whenever you want.
Additional benefits of cooking yourself are:
- The results are satisfying because you know that you achieved them.
- You can control how much proteins, carbs, fats, and other nutrients you eat.
- Your food will contain less sugar
- Cooking is a lot of fun and you can look forward to it at the end of the day
- You can impress your friends with your cooking and even someone whom you like.
13. Get a Hobby
That’s a general lifehack, but it will assist your studying.
You see, sometimes medical studies can get very boring and monotonous.
You can add a bit of variety into your lifestyle and find a hobby. It might be singing, sports, cooking, art or anything else that you enjoy! … as long as you manage your time properly.
14. Have Enough Sleep
I’ve mentioned this before, but resting (and especially sleeping) is vital for every human.
We spend ⅓ of our lives sleeping for a reason. During sleep, our bodies form memories that we accumulated throughout the day, build muscle, release the proper amount of hormones, strengthen our immune systems, and remove toxins from our brains.
Some of the benefits of good sleep are:
- Enhanced focus.
During sleep, our brains remove toxins which helps a lot with our reaction times.
- Make better decisions
It will be easier for you to keep the bigger picture in mind and make better decisions.
- Your memory will improve.
As mentioned before, while we sleep, our brains process various information that we have accumulated throughout the day. Having a healthy sleep ensures that everything has been appropriately processed and you’ve got plenty of room for new memories.
About the author
This post was written by Dr. Sam El Mais, M.D.
Dr. Sam El Mais, M.D. is a British doctor who graduated from Craiova Medical University in Romania. Sam specialized in Internal Medicine. He is the founder of Medlink Students – a company whose mission is to secure student’s entry into the medical schools of their choice. Sam has over eight years of experience in guiding and advising international students about their options to study medicine in Europe.