Studying…. obviously this is a must for any premed or medical student and essentially a lifelong requirement of anyone involved in the ever-changing world of medicine. The thing that most students fail to do however, is study how they study!
More often than not, a typical student will study for hours at a time, often only taking a break to use the restroom. On the other hand, some students take so many breaks that they might as well not be studying at all! In order to study in the most efficient way possible, the goal is to find a happy medium between these 2 extremes. Not only will you study more efficiently, but you’ll be more likely to retain the information and recall it in the future. Below you’ll find 5 helpful tips on how to study properly.
Did you know that some of the most famous intellectuals in history took naps on a regular basis? Just do a quick online search and you’ll find that regular naps were common among numerous great minds including Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Lyndon B Johnson, and many more! Research shows that naps have a profound effect on “refreshing” the brain so that it’s able to function more efficiently. A nap is essentially a booster for your brain’s ability to learn new information. The key concept to take away from this is that you should not be studying for hours and hours and hours. Those all night study sessions will not only hinder your ability to actually learn the information in the first place, but it will also make it much more difficult to recall it later when your brain is completely fatigued. I have done my share of all nighters and trust me, I wish I’d have managed my time and studied the correct way instead.
Blocks Aren’t Just for Toddlers
Studying in blocks is shown to be more efficient than forcing yourself to study for 2 – 3+ hours at a time. Our minds and bodies need a break in order to recover from the information we just went over. Study for about 45 – 50 minutes and take a 10 – 15 min break. Make sure that during your break you stand up to stretch as well in order to rejuvenate the body. You should never sit for more than 1 hour straight! Furthermore, try to plan an extended break every few hours or so. The mind and body can only handle so much without taking a 30 min to 1 hour rest. Go hang with friends, have dinner, see family, or whatever else may interest you.
Turn the Phone OFF
I know this is a challenge for many people, myself included, but to study in the most efficient way possible, you should turn your cell phone completely off before you even start. While it may seem completely innocent to send a text here and there, it’s actually taking your mind away from the topics and causing you to lose focus. Turn the phone back on during your study breaks in order to respond to friends & family or to check out the latest on social media. In reality, you should be studying in blocks anyway so being without your phone for 45 minutes at a time isn’t going to be the end of the world!
Summarize to Succeed
So you’re reading your textbook and simultaneously taking notes so you can go over the key concepts later. Notes are always a great idea. Sounds like a good plan right? WRONG! Evidence shows that taking notes while reading the material is much less beneficial than reading the material all the way through and summarizing what you read at the end. I’m not saying you need to read an entire book or even an entire chapter and summarize it. However, you should break the text into segments big enough that it requires you to really think about the information you just read. By summarizing the information after you’ve finished the entire section, your mind is forced to critically evaluate the information and is much more likely to retain it. Taking notes while reading may seem like a good idea, but in reality, your mind isn’t doing much thinking at all when you copy something straight from the original text. Force yourself to think critically after reading the material and summarize the key points without looking back at the text. You will be much more likely to retain that information for use in the future!
Time to UNDERSTAND NOT MEMORIZE
Some people fail to realize that understanding something is much different than memorizing facts. Although there are times when you’ll have information that requires rote memorization, if it’s possible to actually develop an understanding of a concept, you should do it.
The easiest example to use here is an equation. Most students see an equation they should know and immediately think they must memorize the equation. But the better idea is to understand why the equation exists in the form that it does! Why is the area of a triangle A = (1/2)(base)(height). Well quite simply, the area of a triangle is half the area of a square of equal dimensions. This is a very simple example and obviously, other equations can become much more challenging to develop an understanding. However, by developing an understanding of why the equation exists, you don’t need to memorize the equation. Instead, you can simply derive the equation from your understanding of it!
Understanding extends beyond equations, but it seems to be the easiest way to explain the idea. The same could be said of a variety of subjects, and although I don’t want to describe numerous scenarios here, I hope the main point got across. Don’t just memorize facts and information. Instead, develop an understanding of it piece by piece. Build the foundation, then the framework, and then the roof. By building on previous knowledge and understanding how everything connects, you will be much more likely to retain it and recall it later. Always ask the question, WHY?! Try to find the answers in the details and fully reinforce your understanding of the material.