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best way to memorize stuff?

Discussion in 'Medical Students - MD' started by pigglewiggle, May 15, 2007.

  1. pigglewiggle

    pigglewiggle 5+ Year Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    i was wondering if anyone had tips on how to memorize all of this crap that we learn in med school. i've tried about 20 different ways to study but nothing has worked. i like to write eveything down but it takes too long. how do other people study? what is a regular day like? do you just read the material over and over again until it sticks? or write it a lot? would love ideas!
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  3. stoic

    stoic "Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted" Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Nov 4, 2000
    sodom, south georgia
    what worked best for me (when it worked) was reading the stuff over and over, but from different sources: ie LOTS of review books. other than that it just takes time. (oohhhhhh sooooo much time)
  4. GuzzyRon

    GuzzyRon Son of the Son of Man 10+ Year Member

    I'm searching for a study method too. In undergrad, I write stuff down and it worked pretty well for me but with the amount of material I heard we're going be faced with in Med school, I'm skeptical this approach will do me any good.
  5. Med01

    Med01 Senior Member 5+ Year Member

    Nov 28, 2004
    I worked with some classmates who were good at memorizing stuff, and learned a few things. If you have some classmates who are good, try asking them how they approach the material.

    What they did:
    Make up mnemonics,
    Try and make associations for that thing, for e.g. a certain cell type has big squiggly lines

    I also struggled with memorization at the beginning. A good friend of mine bought a book for me written by the World Memory champion, and it tells you a few techniques to memorize things

    e.g. Make up pathways, e.g. walking through different rooms in your house. Then associate that pathway with a sequence of events, for e.g. the structures a certain nerve runs through (this really helped for anatomy)

    The book also associated words with images, for e.g. if a new foreign word was esterhatt, he would picture a lady named Esther wearing a hat.

    I really tried these techniques, for e.g. Laron's disease, I imagined someone I knew named Aron and what they would look like with that disease. And it works. I also imagined what a person with Cushing's disease would look like, as I read through the notes. On test day, you can recall that image.

    I felt images were key. If you can learn a new word and associate it with a picture it really sticks.
  6. crazy_cavalier

    crazy_cavalier T3-Weighted 7+ Year Member

    Use mnemonics... and the more vulgar/dirty/twisted they are, the more likely you'll remember them.
  7. ut2010

    ut2010 Medical Student 2+ Year Member

    Apr 11, 2007
    I also experimented with various techniques the first year and found that writing the various pathways or mechanisms on a board and explaining to a classmate helped me to remember details. I need to do active studying and teaching someone else helps to reinforce what we are learning.

    I also try, when I am writing on the board, to organize concepts together, it is easier for me to remember associations. For example: Which muscles attach to the scapula and what part of the scapula.
  8. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    Agreed. Mnemonics work great if the material lends itself to them. I think there's a medical mnemonics site someplace on the web that has a ton of them. As for what else works, the two tried and true methods are:
    (1) repetition -- do at least 3-4 passes through the material before each test [i.e. (a) attend lecture and read noteset, (b) review lecture notes and noteset, (c) maybe consult outside sources/board review guides on the material, (d) review it all again as the test gets closer], and
    (2) active learning -- which can take many forms, ranging from making notes in the margins of your noteset/board review books, making flashcards, writing (or in anatomy drawing) things out etc.
  9. barasch

    barasch Member 7+ Year Member

    May 3, 2005
    Hands down, you'll have to memorize a ton of stuff in med school. The good news: you'll get better as the year goes on.

    My most difficult time (albiet, I am only finishing my first year, so there are more difficult times to come) was studying anatomy. About halfway through gross I figured out a good studying techinque for myself. I'd pre-read the noteset, and as I came to a structure I didn't know, I'd find it in the atlas.

    Now, I knew almost *no* structures, so every other word from the noteset had to be looked up in the atlas.

    After finding the structure in the atlas, I'd look at what relationships it had to other structures, and it really helped me.

    I did flashcards for about half the year, then when I had to cram I'd use 'flashcard-esque' techiniques with board review books. There's a lot of memorizing in biochem, too, but because many of the biochem pathways interrelate, it was a little easier for me to memorize them.

    Again, as others said, repitition is key. For lecture to be an effective iteration of the repititive memorizing cycle, you should be prepared for lecture and make sure the new vocabulary words are not so new before you go.

    Good luck - remember grades are relatively arbitrary and are no measure of your potential career
  10. stoic

    stoic "Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted" Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Nov 4, 2000
    sodom, south georgia
    disagree here. if you're not a lecture person, don't waste your time. i didn't and found the extra free time useful for studying and having some attempt at a normal life. (really, i didn't go to a single lecture last semester).
  11. soeagerun2or

    soeagerun2or Banned Banned 2+ Year Member

    Sep 27, 2006
    Picture what the word sounds like in your head and make a "movie" relating the elements.
  12. ginger60

    ginger60 2+ Year Member

    Jan 14, 2007
    I'll echo what some of the others have said--mnemonics are great (get an old copy of first aid to see which ones they offer) and try to look at the material from as many different ways as possible. Use different sources (syllabi, textbooks, review books), and different senses (reading, hearing lecture, speaking about it to a classmate, writing it or drawing it) to go over material. I did not prepare going into lectures, but felt that the combination of hearing lecture and writing stuff down during it, reading the syllabus later, putting a lot of the syllabus/lecture notes into my own more concise notes/pictures/flashcards, discussing the material in small groups or teaching it to classmates, and then reading those notes/pictures (and sometimes topics from outside texts) before tests worked great. That may sound like a lot, but its doable, and you can tailor it for each subject according to which resources are the best. Putting things into your own words or pictures is something I know a lot of my classmates did, and I think you tend to remember things better that you write than that you read. Also, I didn't realize until halfway through my first year how valuable it was to draw pictures--if you come across a useful diagram, redraw it and add whatever you want to it, it definitely helps for many things and not just pathways.
  13. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    I think what s/he was saying is that IF you plan to go to lecture, you will get more out of it, and will be more engaged, if you prepare for it. On this point I strongly agree. There are certainly other ways to learn than lecture, but if you do choose to attend, you should make the most of it.
  14. 45408

    45408 aw buddy 7+ Year Member

    Jun 13, 2004
    Read it. Repeatedly. I like to write a point of clarification in the margins, and I'll highlight the things that weren't common sense to me. Some comments in the lectures are totally common sense at this point, so there's no reason to write it down. If I didn't know it though, then I'll make a note of it.
  15. alesdu1

    alesdu1 Junior Member 7+ Year Member

    Jul 11, 2006

  16. kusb

    kusb Noob 2+ Year Member

    Apr 21, 2007
    Also remembering greek/latin meanings is very handy. It's a bit more dificult in anatomy for instance, regarding native english speakers. But it usually works out for me.

    eg. cardiomyopathy - cardio - heart
    ..............................myo - muscle
    ..............................pathy - disease
  17. Ashers

    Ashers Bacteria? Don't exist. Physician Faculty 10+ Year Member

    Apr 5, 2006
    Land of Entrapment
    When you guys are saying you don't think recopying things will work in med school, it does. I didn't do this in college; I crammed the night before exams, but I started doing it 1st year, and it's really helped. I recopy/retype all of my notes. In pharm, I hand wrote everything; I used different colored pens, so it'd be color coded. In path and micro, I retyped everything from the lecture slides, and everything the professors said; I added pictures from Robbins that were referenced, and the pictures from the slides, so I'd have them in color. I also inherited a set of pre-made pharm notecards (made by a guy 2 years ahead of me). Then I read the text books, annotate, highlight, and reread them the day before exams quickly, paying attention to what I annotated.

    Then occasionally I made tables, like for leukemias/lymphomas.

    That doesn't mean I have NO life. I still do stuff, but I am known for living in the library from the time it opens, and depending on the block, I could be there pretty late.
  18. pigglewiggle

    pigglewiggle 5+ Year Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    thanks for all of the awesome advice. when you say you read stuff over + over, are you actively trying to memorize what you're reading (ie covering the page up with your hand) or do you just read it so many times that it sticks. and do you find it hard to read something as long as a textbook over an over?
  19. dannylee718

    dannylee718 The Village Idiot 7+ Year Member

    Sep 1, 2006
    yea stuff... yeah like pressing "Print". :hardy:
  20. Dakota

    Dakota Senior Member Physician 10+ Year Member

    Sep 5, 2005
    Reading texts over and over passively has been of little use to me.

    I make detailed notes from the readings and detailed note sets from the lecture slides and mp3s. Then I make flash cards with the note sets. Then I go over those rereading them and testing myself. This is a fairly slow process but was what it took for me to really get all the picky details down.
  21. veenut

    veenut 10+ Year Member

    Jun 16, 2004
    Make index cards with either important points or questions that could be asked from each lecture. Memorize the hell outta those cards. Reading passively probably won't do you a bit of good.
  22. Ashers

    Ashers Bacteria? Don't exist. Physician Faculty 10+ Year Member

    Apr 5, 2006
    Land of Entrapment
    Ok ok, printing takes a while, especially since my printer recently decided to be stupid, and I can't print on both sides without hand feeding each page individually. :mad:

    I go out for wings at different bars at cheap wing nights. And I would bike a couple hours a day if I didn't have to study for stupid boards, now I'm lucky if I can go once a week.

    There's also baking cookies for "library parties" around exam times. :D
  23. naegleria brain

    naegleria brain 2+ Year Member

    Dec 24, 2006
    for microbiology, i made a hilarious little story for each little bug. on an exam, if i had trouble, i'd recite the story to myself, and usually something clicks. do it with a friend, you'll laugh and enjoy it, have fun, and it'll stick. dont BS with him/her too much tho, or youre just wasting time.
  24. Dakota

    Dakota Senior Member Physician 10+ Year Member

    Sep 5, 2005
    If you go to a school that usues power points (and who doesn't?) then my recommendation is to invest in a color laser printer and some color toner cartridges. I print off tons of slides, in full color, for a relatively low cost per page. I recommend Konica-Minolta, the only brand I have had experience with (others might be great too). Both my 2300W and 2430dl have been great. I wouldn't know what to do without it.
  25. shivasHeroLike

    shivasHeroLike 7+ Year Member

    Oct 2, 2006
    create diagrams & images
  26. Medikit

    Medikit Plastic Bag Middle Class Physician 10+ Year Member

    May 21, 2004
    I think it's really individualized and ultimately even the best of ways might not achieve your ultimate goal. Time spent seems to be as important as method used if not more.
  27. subi

    subi 2+ Year Member

    Aug 11, 2006

    agree... it works for me!
  28. Salma123

    Salma123 Junior Member 10+ Year Member

    Mar 21, 2006

    PiggleWiggle, I love your question, I reallly do. Bevause this is exactly how I feel now. I have been trying different methods to study, and athought I am M2 i still did not figure out the best way. Thanks for asking this questions and for alll those ppl who asnwered.
  29. boilerbeast

    boilerbeast suPURDUEper 7+ Year Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    I'm a third year now, but I totally feel your pain. I felt the same way last year. This is what wound up working well for me. It lets you do the repetition/active learning all at once.

    I took a sheet of notebook paper and folded it in half the long way. on the left side, I would write a little question/category/etc (with the number of answers) and the answer on the same line, but on the right side. You can just cover the right side with an index card, think of the answer, uncover/check it, and then kind of just zoom down the list. Way quicker (and much less paper) than flashcards and you can just highlight the ones that you miss so you'll pay extra attention. I learned a lot making them, but it took some classmates called them "OCD sheets," but it worked so well for me.

    inferior EKG leads (3)...................................II, III, aVF
    stress echo lets you see..............................inducible ischemia
    Cannon A waves seen in...............................congenital heart block
  30. DrMattOglesby

    DrMattOglesby Grand Master Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    Aug 15, 2007
    i got a theme from reading a lot of posts that Anatomy is one of the hardest classes for first year med students.
    I am taking human Anatomy right now...will that make the class significantly less of a hurdle for me when I enter med school?
    or is anatomy in med school just incredibly crazy hard?
  31. BusterDO

    BusterDO 5+ Year Member

    Jul 18, 2006
    Human anatomy in undergrad and human anatomy in med school don't even belong in the same catagory. If you feel like you're about throw your book it may be similar, but med school anatomy for me was much more. It also doesn't help that you have to memorize it ALL in a short amount of time.
  32. musiclink213

    musiclink213 My room is a mess 7+ Year Member

    Oct 20, 2003
    New York
    I know everyone says use mnemonics, but for me, it just simply doesn't work. I'll end up remembering the mnemonic, then have no clue what it stands for. In biochem, we had to memorize the steps of the citric acid cycle, and I was sitting there during the exam going, "Can I Keep Selling Sex For Money, Officer?" but couldn't remember ant compounds besides citrate.

    What I do, I highlight just about everything. I Have about 6 different colors, nad I have htis entire crazy colorcoding system, but it works for me. Although I don't dare try to explain it, I have a hard time explaining it to myself. Sometimes, if I can't decide if something should be green or blue, I'll do the lower half of the line in green and the upper half in blue. My books really are like a whole rainbow to look at.
  33. bambi

    bambi Junior Member 10+ Year Member

    Aug 5, 2003
    My course is problem based so we have very few lecture notes so just have whatever notes we make ourselves. During term I make very detailed notes from a range of resources, then when it comes to revision I read a paragraph or so then read it again and highlight, I do this for 4 pages, then I go back and re-read the 4 pages. Then when I have been through my notes for the whole semester once I will go back and skim read everything again. Not, exactly active revision but it works for me, I think it's the colour that stimulates my memory, I highlight almost every word, my notes look stupid, but it works.
  34. DragonWell

    DragonWell Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Nov 20, 2004
    This is my preferred method of committing details to memory as well, and while it worked well in first year, second year has proven to be just too much material for this system. In lieu of making my own sheets, I now download flashcards from and print them out in two column format on sheets of paper. I also recently discovered that the Deja Review and Recall series of books are set up exactly this way, although of variable quality. Of course, using a premade book or flashcards detracts from the active learning that happens during the process of making the questions, but when time is such a big factor, you can only do so much.

    BTW, my experience has also been that memorizing details w/o first understanding the concepts is utterly useless. My study strategy is to go for concept->then memorize details->then do application/integration type questions. It's worked pretty well so far....
  35. gujuDoc

    gujuDoc 10+ Year Member

    Feb 21, 2004
    How true. Something some med students at USF say is that if you work in groups each person should try and take a slide and start talking about it in a way like they are explaining an ongoing play.

    Another thing is making charts if that helps you.
  36. gujuDoc

    gujuDoc 10+ Year Member

    Feb 21, 2004
    :laugh: :laugh: it will help some but gross anatomy in med school will be a lot worse due to more material and more details.
  37. Twitch

    Twitch 7+ Year Member

    Jun 17, 2004
    So I had bookmarked this memory thread to come back and look at it.... then I forgot. :p
  38. MajorPsoas


    Nov 17, 2007
    One of my favorite mnemonics a friend told me for remembering the difference between the vasa recta in the jejunum and the ileum - remember a guy named JJ (for jejunum) with a really big dick (for the longer vasa recta). I'll never forget.

    Associating with things you find funny, vulgar, weird, or just so odd that you'll remember will help. Also, image-association helps a lot too. Good luck.
  39. kdburton

    kdburton Ulnar Deviant 5+ Year Member

    Sep 3, 2005
    Haha ya the vulgar mnemonics always work the best :) heres the one i learned the cranial nerves with:

    Oh Oh Oh To Touch And Feel Various Girls' Vaginas and Hymens

    and then to tell whether they are sensory, motor, or both (have to memorize special sense separately tho) it goes:

    My Sister Says Marry Money But Brother Says Big Boobs Matter More
  40. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Jun 4, 2001
    Vader's five step fool-proof method for studying success:

    1) Read material "actively" by highlighting, taking notes, making flashcards, or whatever method works for you.

    2) Attend lecture/small groups, participate "actively". Print out powerpoints, make notes and highlight on handouts, always do small group q's ahead of time and do background reading.

    3) Teach each other the material in small study groups. If you can teach someone else, you really know the material. If there are gaps, your classmates will be happy to fill them in for you.

    4) Practice questions from review books, go over explanations to answers. The latter part is especially important because you reinforce material and fill in the gaps in your knowledge base.

    5) Go over material again where there are gaps in your knowledge by doing focused reading.

    Repetition is key!! :D
  41. MastahRiz

    MastahRiz 10+ Year Member

    Nov 24, 2007
    Sacramento, CA

    the best way to learn anything is by teaching it to someone else, even if it's your dog.
  42. Shaolin80

    Shaolin80 5+ Year Member

    Apr 23, 2007
    Many different sources, starting from the simplest sources first to develop a foundation!

    i.e. Anatomy - start with the dissector, Netter's Flashcard and online animations of devo. Next repeatedly go over and then finally read Moore's (esp. clinical blue boxes) to reinforce everything, then I review by reading Kaplan review/Questions to make sure I haven't under stressed a topic and tie up loose ends by reading Moore's.
  43. MastahRiz

    MastahRiz 10+ Year Member

    Nov 24, 2007
    Sacramento, CA
    repetition and association.

    Or was it association and repetition... I forget everything.
  44. F12

    F12 Waffley Goodness 2+ Year Member

    May 16, 2007
    1. Read things once to get an overview.

    2. Read things again for complete conceptual understanding. I takes notes here, but I never look back on them. My handwriting is terrible, so they just get thrown out.

    3. Repeat #2

    4. Briefly review notes, focusing on memorization heavy parts of the material.

    5. Take the test.
  45. Noeljan

    Noeljan Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    May 23, 2002
    Don't waste too much time with books. The only textbooks I bought and even looked at the entire first semester was for anatomy (and even there I mostly looked at the pictures for reference). My theory is, why have class if what they teach you isint important. I found that if you know what is in the notes for class, you know everything for your exams. Just go over your class notes a bunch of times, maybe rewrite some parts to drive the concept home. I also like relistening to lectures. I'm not saying books will never come in handy, but I forsee myself needing them more for review once boards studying comes around). Heck, if you are confused about something just google it, or ask your prof for help. Most of them love students who come to class and ask for help when they need it.

    almost forgot, also used Weaters for histo (at first borrowed my boyfriends) It has really good pics....

    I think my main point is, don't waste so much time doing extraneous readings and lists when what you need is right in front of you:)
  46. Mr. Tee

    Mr. Tee Indentured servant 7+ Year Member

    Nov 24, 2005
    Read slowly to fully digest the material the first time around. Take a long time to stare at atlas images to absorb what's going on. For pure memorization material, outline the info. in charts/diagrams and stare at them for a long time. Rewriting these charts/diagrams from memory will also help in retention.
  47. rachmoninov3

    rachmoninov3 Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Dec 14, 2004
    About the reading the material over and over again:
    my school uses blocks, so I generally read the day's powerpoints, read the rest from that week, and read the powerpoints of a previous week, then return to the powerpoint for the day and reread it before I call it a night. Whether or not I read actively or passively depends on my mood. This way, I don't stress if I don't get something the first time. Also, when I'm really tired, I can quiz myself so I'm not reading a slide passively for the billionth time: sulfa drugs are PABA or pterosomething analogues? (obviously I need to read that lecture a few more times):oops:

    So far in 2.5 blocks I've scored a 79 and an 89 for the first two blocks, so it appears to be working...however, I've no dreams of rad, derm, or shock trauma.
  48. sporte1111


    Jan 10, 2009
    I dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, I am presently employed as a caregiver and school bus driver. Presently I am working on getting my CNA certificate. When I was younger I took a few years of electrical engineering classes, and I have completed a 5 year IBEW electrical apprenticeship. I worked as an electrician for 25 years and acquired all the hours I need to retire with a good pension. I wanted a change anyway, and I am way to young to collect my pension, So I decided to do something different.

    Anyway back the memory subject.

    When I have to memorize something that is pretty lengthy & uninteresting. I have found that grounding myself is probably the most important thing. Meaning I have to find that calm peaceful place inside of me. To do this I have to wake up hours before my day starts, & find a quiet place with no interruptions. (I.E in the bathroom ect...)

    I will take the book I need to memorize, and scan each page on my all in one printer copy scanner machine. Then I will cut the scanned pages into memorize-able sections, dividing the information into blocks that I can read and memorize in a very short period of time. On the back side of each cut scanned page I write down a short summary and sometimes draw pictures of what I need to remember next to the summary. (These are my flash cards...) Note: If I need to memorize like 10 or more pages I will write all of my summary's on a separate sheet of paper then memorize them in order. Doing this helps me grasp the big picture, and put it in a easy to remember sequence that I can memorize quickly.

    Then I read each flash card into my computer microphone one at a time. (My summary first), after that I will leave a long blank period on the recording, during this time I try to remember what was on the other side of that flash card.

    (Following the long blank period, I read the reading material I need to remember into the microphone word for word that relates to the summary). I save, and name each flash card as a file. Then I copy them to my I pod in the correct order and play it back over and over on low volume while I am sleeping and during the day when I have time.

    When I get up in the morning during my quiet calm time, I read the card's to myself. Then I test my self to see what I remembered.... Doing this really works good for me.

    My prayers are with all of you and ""Good Luck""

    Sport :oops:
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2009
  49. themudphud

    themudphud 2+ Year Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Flash cards. Questions on front, answers on back. Takes a while to write them up but definitely worth it. Let's you take your studying with you anywhere: walking between patients on rounds, at a redlight, on the can, etc.
  50. deuist

    deuist Stealthfully Sarcastic Physician Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Jun 14, 2004
    Teach the material to others. If you don't have an audience, pretned that you do and try to explain the concepts and details. Once you can teach something, you should be pretty versed in the subject. Making up songs can help, too.
  51. Blues003

    Blues003 7+ Year Member

    Jan 3, 2009
    Mnemonics or plain akward logic and associations can really help you. I am known in my year for having made lots of mnemonics for Anatomy indeed...

    Teaching others is also a great way to learn. Read something, then immedeatly teach it. If you're wrong, they will correct you :)

    I never used flashcards, so I can't really talk about that :z

    Writing notes down helps, but I usually don't look at my notes ever again. I just make them cause that way I'm learning in 3 different ways: by reading, by actually rethinking about what I just read, and then by writting it down, in my own words.

    I never underline or highlight though. I feel I am messing the book and I get feelings of guilt :(

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