Best Way to Study in Medical School?

Discussion in 'Medical Students - MD' started by liger, Jan 18, 2006.

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  1. liger

    liger Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Apr 25, 2005
    I'm heading to med school next year and was wondering if y'all might suggest what the best ways to study are. I am a big outliner because I learn things when I write them down, but it takes me forever and I feel like I'm going to have to change the way I study next year. Any suggestions on how to tackle all that material? What's a normal day studywise for y'all too? Class all day and then study all night? Thanks!
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  3. CoffeeCat

    CoffeeCat SDN Angel 10+ Year Member

    Jun 3, 2001
    Not a med student (yet), so I can't comment on the OP's comment, but I just got MS Office OneNote and it seems really good for outlining and writing up notes. Anyone use this, does it help?
  4. SkylineMD

    SkylineMD Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Jul 27, 2005
    trying to make outlines while studying all that information is going to be very difficult (especially with anatomy + lab). First thing would be to find a place that is conducive to studying (i.e. library). Second would be to try to avoid using 10 different sources for learning. Stick to notes + a few select books (not try to learn everything). Ask upperclassmen at the school for advice on how to study for classes (hopefully you'll find someone who honored and can give you great advice). Go to class in the beginning and see if it's working for you. if it isn't, then just take that time and study on your own. A lot of students have seen an improvement in their grades through self-study techniques.

    Just remember one thing - teachers are vain and think that their lecture is the most interesting, especially if it covers the topics they are researching. Often times, most questions come directly from lecture notes. Does it prepare you best for the boards? probably not but at least you'll do well in your pre-clinical classes.
  5. JonnyG

    JonnyG IN the hospitals.... 7+ Year Member

    YOu have to find what works for you. There is no best way to study. I do scribe notes (don't go to a school that doesn't have them) and course packet. I never go to class. Others go to class and read powerpoints and do equally as well.
  6. mendel121

    mendel121 Just hoping to match 5+ Year Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    I'm an outliner too - but I've started typing rather than writing this has made it faster. I don't go to lectures (my school publishes coursepacks of notes), but I have two kids and a part time job - so I'm very busy but still have the time to outline. Medschool is an adjustment, you'll find yourself dealing with a lot more material then you thought you could - I'm amazed at how much I can accomplish when I thought I was busy as an undergrad. I experimented with other methods, but now that I've adjusted to the workload, the old outlining method works best for me. Good luck

    edit: I study on average 4-5 hours a day, and I don't honor many exams but I'm doing just fine
  7. rockit

    rockit Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Jun 6, 2004
    Just go with anything that you can sustain that day. Notecards, typing, reading, annotating..just do whatever you can actually get through. Different things on different days.

    But always do a lot of questions.
  8. eripearson

    eripearson Junior Member 5+ Year Member

    Jul 5, 2004
    After three years of medical school I've found the following:

    Anatomy and Pathology - systems based...i would get to my desk and pull out a sheet of paper and start a flow chart (For GI I might write at the top center of the page mouth and then continue down the page with arrows and lines to represent structures following and lines horizontal to represent locally associated nerves, vessels, lymphatics, glands, etc. By the time I had finished a system I had written a good few pages and every possible structure associated with the system. In abdominal and neuroanatomy I found it useful to pick a structure and write about it in three dimensional space...what's superior, inferior, anterior and posterior to the portal vein for example....or the mamillary bodies) The rote memorization through repeated writing of flow charts added to the viewing in 3d space helped me to crush anatomy and pathology.

    Everything else...I sit down for a half hour or hour every day and pick a system and a disease and write as much as i can...for example today I picked respiratory disease and pneumonia...filling the page with the pathology, microbiology, management, pharmacology until i'm blank...anything i forgot i'd ust look up, add to the page and when i'm finished i tear it up and throw it in the bin. If i'm really blank on something i may write it again the next day.

    This may seem like a lot of pointless work but it's what works for me!
  9. surrender903

    surrender903 Gold Donor 10+ Year Member

    Apr 21, 2004

    you chose PCOM based on its proxmity to a Wawa?

    wouldnt Jeff or Penn been a better choice?

    /just askin'
  10. scneuro

    scneuro Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Jul 10, 2005
    WaWa is essential, they're everywhere in philly and the nj/pa region
  11. Iwy Em Hotep

    Iwy Em Hotep The Welcomer 10+ Year Member

    Aug 25, 2004
    I think outlining is a good idea. What really kills your time in med school is doing something half-assed, and then having to do it over again because you forgot. Take reading. You can sit down and spend an hour reading the textbook, or you could spend an hour and a half reading and outlining. The latter is more efficient, because you know it that much better.

    Making up stupid stories/songs/poems helps. Drawing helps, especially if you do it at a chalkboard in front of people.
  12. chef_NU

    chef_NU G-Unit 5+ Year Member

    Jul 27, 2004
    Make sure you don't forget the cecum, colon, and rectum.
  13. surrender903

    surrender903 Gold Donor 10+ Year Member

    Apr 21, 2004
    yes i realize that. its just that the Wawa's at Jeff and Penn are ALOT closer than the one at PCOM.
  14. Napoleon1801

    Napoleon1801 10+ Year Member

    Jul 28, 2004

    Bust your ass like there's no tomorrow. :thumbup: :eek:
  15. Penelope1

    Penelope1 Member 5+ Year Member

    Aug 25, 2004
    I like to make a one-page review sheet before each exam where I write anything I'm not likely to remember. It's limited to one page so that I'm forced to learn anything that won't fit. Then, after I've gone through all the material, I only have to study that one sheet, which feels a lot more doable.

    Also, teaching your friends whenever you figure out or google search something you were all confused about is good for them and even better for you - you'll remember it better for making the extra effort to puzzle through it.

    Try different things to see what works for you. There's plenty of time to study, if you're efficient, and outlining might be worth the time it takes. For example, I could start studying for an exam right away (four weeks before the exam), read stuff passively, forget everything, and have to study it all over again the week before the exam. Or I could start at the last minute (a few days before the exam), refuse to go on before I've memorized each fact, google everything that doesn't make perfect sense, know what all the latin words mean so I can remember better, draw stuff out, etc. The latter method works better for me - other people prefer to study a little each day, work in groups, etc.. Whatever works for you.
  16. CANES2006

    CANES2006 Miami chica 10+ Year Member

    Jan 11, 2002
    Miramar, FL
    I don't think it's feasible to outline in medical school. There's just too much material to go through. Outlining is too time consuming, but if you can do this in medical school more power to you.
  17. UCLAstudent

    UCLAstudent I'm a luck dragon! 10+ Year Member

    Sep 6, 2002
    I study via straight memorization of the lecture notes. Repetition is key. This method is particularly time-consuming, but it's worked very well so far, and I still have plenty of free time. I only look at the books for reference.
  18. AcademicTerror


    Aug 29, 2009
    Well I'm in high school, but what I do is just try to concentrate and stay focused. I also try to be interested in the material I learn. Like for example, I don't always accept everything my textbook says, I try to read and understand the concept on my own. It's the process of "discovering" concepts/meanings/info that's actually fun (sounds stupid right?).

    accidently deleted the link my bad
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2009
  19. You just revived a thread that spent its last few years resting peacefully...

    But 'ey, why not. I was never much for flash cards / was always a writer, but lately, I've been trying to do what UCLA here said he did years ago.
  20. Downbytheicu

    Downbytheicu 7+ Year Member

    Sep 6, 2009
    I do things very systematically, partly because its how I think, and partly because my program lends itself to it. When we study cardio, we study everything related to cardio. I wait until I have finished the reading (so that I know the details that are relevant and which are not), then I hand write out my notes (compiling all my texts by topic so I don't have repeat information) starting with cardio development, then path related to development (VSDs, tetralogy, etc), then anatomy and related pathologies (pericardium->pericarditis), biochem related pathology and pharm (cholesterol synthesis->dyslipidemias->statins), then physiology and pathophys starting with right atrium and working around the heart.

    It's insane, but, at the end, it's like I've written myself a very concise cardio textbook that is specific to me, my thought process, and catering to topics I have more difficulty with. By the time I'm done, I have narrowed 1500 pages of reading down to 30 or 40 pages of handwritten notes that I carry everywhere with me.
  21. MadEvans

    MadEvans is a warm gun 5+ Year Member

    Jun 21, 2008
    That's the process we take for case based instruction. I can handle doing that progression in a single disease, but I can't imagine just how much information that is for an entire system... but that's seriously awesome that you're able to do that.
  22. docONcall

    docONcall It's happening...

    Oct 28, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    Cornell Notes. I found C Notes pretty damn helpful. And then after reading your C Notes over and over, write down what you learn on a piece of paper.

    I guarantee this to work best.
  23. Guarantee, eh?

    I didn't have a ****ing clue about what you were saying... had to look it up. Seems interesting.
  24. coldweatherblue

    coldweatherblue 5+ Year Member

    Nov 24, 2007
    I study the least-traumatic way possible to learn the material. This varies every day by length and location, but it always involves staring at notes (low impact initial stimulus), then looking at the wall and remembering the notes I just looked at (high-impact repeated stimulus) then moving on to the next paragraph, etc. Usually I go over what I've learned within the next day to reinforce it. Study how long-term memory is stored and think about what you're REALLY doing when you study.. it starts to make sense. Yes everyone has an individual learning style but the fact is we use the same machinery to store long-term memory, so if you figure out how to stimulate that machinery (long term potentiation ect) you can figure how to learn the max amount possible in the least amount of time with the best retention the least traumatic way.
  25. sapama


    Nov 18, 2009
    ooh, I like this. I like to understand the whole picture and how things fit in relation to others, I'll have to give this a try. Thank you!
  26. ElisaBailey

    ElisaBailey Junior Member 5+ Year Member

    Aug 23, 2006
    A lot of great advice here, esp. that you have to find your own style. Just wanted to add, you mentioned you write out your notes but it may take too long - don't write that technique off too quickly. Yes, typing things up on a comp is faster, but when you write things down it takes longer and it gets wired into your brain more than typing something out (a lot of us can probably read-type an essay without knowing what we just read), so give it a try before switching studying methods. It might take longer but might help you understand the material better in the long run.
  27. swedishfish

    swedishfish 7+ Year Member

    Nov 28, 2009
    i agree with rewriting notes. it takes a long time but it's always worked for me. i suggest trying various methods during your first few months to see what works. (rewriting probably won't be feasible MS2 though).
  28. AcademicTerror


    Aug 29, 2009
    coldweatherblue, wow I never thought of that studying tactic/technique

    -I'm going to start doing that, thanks dude

    eriperson, spending half and hour to write about a subject is something I think I'm going to try out.


    Cornell notes look interesting- I'm giving it a try
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2009
  29. NickNaylor

    NickNaylor Thank You for Smoking Lifetime Donor 7+ Year Member

    Academic, make sure you leave EXACTLY two inches for the summary section, otherwise this method will not work well.
  30. abmd

    abmd 5+ Year Member

    Dec 23, 2009
    you have to find out what works for you. everyone is different. i know people who study all day long including every friday and the weekend. i can't do that. i found a method that worked for me, and i took the week off after midterms and i did well. i pre-read then either go to class or read it again when i am supposed to go to class. you don't have to go to class either. i only go to the ones that i find are helpful to me. then i reread the syllabus the week before exams when i start studying that friday. just try out a couple of things and see what works for you. and yeah do stick the the course notes and just one/two sources don't over do it, you only have so much time.
  31. VanBrown

    VanBrown Your retarded. 7+ Year Member

    Nov 12, 2008
    i study with all of the ideas in the scope of a clinical setting... instead of memorizing something just because it was in lecture I think about how this is important clinically and how it ties into other things.
  32. Sam212

    Sam212 Lover not a fighter 10+ Year Member

    Jun 9, 2004
    Here's the low down, you need to find out what works for you, it'll take you a couple of exams to figure that out. Once you've got that figured out, it'll be a much quicker process. I rarely attend class, score almost always above average and rarely study more than 3 hours a day. I even take days off here and there. Of course you step it up a notch when it's exam time, usually 6-10 hours for 2-3 days is enough for me.

    Oh, One more thing, anatomy is not the hardest course you'll take in medical school, not even close.
  33. HPSPpayissues

    HPSPpayissues 2+ Year Member

    Jul 15, 2008
    It depends on the person. Many people find anatomy the toughest because of its sheer volume and memorization. No other course i know had that much memorization. Although most med school classes are pretty simple, (no quantum mechanics or rocket science) some doctors and med students actually critically think sometimes :laugh:
  34. shreypete

    shreypete 10+ Year Member

    Sep 28, 2007
    You might want to reconsider that. Pathology IMO is the hardest course and it surpasses Anatomy in terms of memorization any day.
  35. mq123

    mq123 Blah username =/= blah me 2+ Year Member

    Jun 12, 2007

    I spent most of MS1 and some of MS2 (this past semester) outlining lectures. We get bound syllabi with countless number of pages/slides, and just the thought of studying from them made me sick.

    I'd reduce each lecture + associated textbook material down to 1 sheet, front and back. This helped me psychologically, too, seeing that I had to read 50 pages instead 500...

    That said, outlining started to get VERY annoying and hard to do in MS2, especially since we do systems-based pathology now. Plus, some sage upperclassmen informed us that MS2 is all about independent learning, and that the syllabi are pointless. Soooo, my new approach:

    1. Either go to lecture and listen while reading a textbook OR
    2. If I can't make it to lecture, don't bother looking at the syllabus, and read textbook only AND
    3. Structure my studying around FA and Goljan RR Path and listen to Goljan audio >1 atleast for every block. I type up each Goljan lecture, print it out, re-read while listening to him again, and take any extra notes. This becomes my one thing to look at if I were in a crunch the night before a test

    Believe me, for a life-long outliner, this was a HUGE change, and I was uncomfortable at first, but I actually felt prepared going into the exam.

    Another thing: I memorize things, too, by reading over and over, but now I've started to read texts 'passively' (aka without highlighting/writing) and if I do it over a few times, by test night, I don't have to cram as much.

    However, like others said above, whatever works for you, go for it...

  36. sumstorm

    sumstorm 7+ Year Member

    Apr 5, 2008
    I am in vet med, so a bit different, but not a far stretch. Well, actually, one of our challenges is the common use of human med texts and then having to learn which species have differences and what those are...making the texts close to pointless!

    I find that I have to study differently for different classes and different instructors. That was the hardest thing to figure out for me, that one method wouldn't work for everything.

    One thing I do that does help in many classes is that I come up with questions during lecture and studying and jot those down. The questions may be comparative, detailed, etc depending on how we are tested. I then review those questions routinely and fill in gaps. So that may be 'everything I know about X' or it may be 'list the anatomical differences between the cat and the dog' or 'in detail, review the blood flow of the forelimb of the cow, horse, and pig', or it may be 'detail the mechanisms that cause acromegaly in common domestic species'

    I confess that I rarely read books anymore. I keep books around to look things up for clarification, but am primarily dependent on notes from lecture. I take all my notes on computer, but that is because my writing is illegible. I download the powerpoints from lecture, annotate those during lecture, adding questions and notes (I do use One Note for that because I can tag questions or other things like citations.) I sometimes use imindmap, a computer programming for diagramming (expensive though) to puzzle through stuff, but often it takes too much time.

    Sometimes study groups help....sometimes not. In the course that was hardest for me (histology) I needed lots of solo time but the ability to 'phone a friend' with some questions. Anatomy was all group studying for me, but with lots of different groups. Bacteriology/mycology was group studying with the same folks on a regular basis.
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2009
  37. gulnosh

    gulnosh 2+ Year Member

    Dec 22, 2009
    My goodness...i m scared for i 'll be facing patho this year..:scared: any tip plzzz???
  38. OptimeRememdium


    Dec 28, 2009
    This thread has been helpful :thumbup:
  39. shreypete

    shreypete 10+ Year Member

    Sep 28, 2007
    I'm in the same boat as you gulnosh, except that my Pathology course has started like 3 months ago. I'm going to do some serious study for it from the 2nd sem. But so far I'm just using 3 books along with lecture/seminar presentation notes:

    1) Robbins Basic Pathology (although a majority of students in my class are using the bigger one - Pathological Basis of Disease).
    2) Robbins Pocket companion
    3) Robbins Atlas of Pathology

    I've also ordered for BRS and Goljan so I'm going to probably use more of these review books for studying while using the other books (except for pocket companion) for reference.

    Pathology gives me the shivers. Or may be I should blame Robbins for that effect. I don't get how some of the students on SDN say that they read Robbins and it was quite easy for them and quite a great text (it takes me such a long time to finish a single chapter.)

  40. :laugh: no way.. Robbins is the best textbook ever.. the thing is that you should prepare yourself for path reading phys, anatomy, micro, histo in advance.. that way things are easilier. Besides, based in the clinical facts and basic concepts pathology along with robbins comes really cool..
  41. shreypete

    shreypete 10+ Year Member

    Sep 28, 2007
    Well I was well-prepared in the other subjects prior to having Pathology and I did quite well in every subject (except for Micro which is currently going on this semester). All I can say is that Robbins is meant to be read by the "chosen few" or perhaps if I had a lot more time on my hands, I would have definitely had the stuff on my fingertips. :(
  42. gulnosh

    gulnosh 2+ Year Member

    Dec 22, 2009
    thanx buddy!!! for this books list and also for a" rihgt-time-info "about creepy patho.
  43. HPSPpayissues

    HPSPpayissues 2+ Year Member

    Jul 15, 2008
    I think it is because I never took anatomy in college or high school, so the subject was new to me. It didn't help I really didn't know how to study or memorize things, lol. I was somewhat of slacker in undergrad. Plus, I thought most of the path stuff seemed like a review to me from my first year.Plus, path is actually interesting, so it sticks much easier.
  44. xnfs93hy

    xnfs93hy 7+ Year Member

    Jun 24, 2008
  45. BlueElmo

    BlueElmo 10+ Year Member

    Sep 6, 2006
    Hmmm, I used to just look at lecture notes, PowerPoint slides and just memorize through rote repetition in undergrad. It was moderately successful, maybe I'll try outlining in med school, though I've never really outlined notes before.
  46. fahimaz7

    fahimaz7 10+ Year Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Study everyday. When you finish , start over and do it all again. I normally make 3-4 passes through the material before a test (our last was a 3 inch binder full of pdf's.)
  47. mq123

    mq123 Blah username =/= blah me 2+ Year Member

    Jun 12, 2007
    When you get 2-3 inch thick syllabi every couple of weeks in med school, outlining seems like a very good idea, given you have enough time to do it... :laugh:
  48. JustCallMeDoc

    JustCallMeDoc 2+ Year Member

    Jul 1, 2008
    For me, previewing the material has been so important. That way I go to lecture knowing about the general topic that will be lectured on, use the lecture to reinforce the concepts, then only have to spend a little time reviewing that day's lectures.
  49. abmd

    abmd 5+ Year Member

    Dec 23, 2009
    also, don't go to lecture if you are NOT a lecture person or find that the lecturer is not helping you. i stopped going to most lectures and had much more time. class is not for everyone. and i ended up doing fine
  50. frickengeniusMD

    frickengeniusMD Banned

    Dec 21, 2012
    wow, you think you're pretty smart don't you.....
  51. achamess

    achamess 7+ Year Member

    Jul 6, 2007
    Learn from the best materials, which you can find here on SDN. And then use a validated knowledge management system to keep it in your head.

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