migm

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So I'm a bit concerned about the quantity of information to be memorized and understood in medical school. My biggest concern is that my current method of studying, creating study-guides, will be too inefficient. While I realize that a lot of my study method will be dependent on myself, the curriculum, and other factors, I was exploring the idea of the concept map method.

As I understand it (in case you aren't familiar), it is essentially a visual representation of your notes. The idea is to stop focusing on memorization so much. Instead, the drawing of lines and the visual representation is supposed to help with forming associations and to catalyze a conceptual based understanding of the material.

Does anyone actually use this method? If you do, or if you have tried it, i'd love to hear your thoughts on it. I have a few questions that come to mind even before I try the method myself:

1. Do you have just pages and pages of concept maps? It seems like the information would overwhelm the page quickly and force you to start a new page rather often.. How do you organize?

2. What do you like about this method? What do you dislike?

3. How does it work with anatomy and other classes like histology where the material is often visually orientated?

4. Do you find that the process of creating the visual maps is efficient enough to warrant its usage -- i.e. do you remember the material better? do you recall the material better later on for boards? does it make board review easier?

Don't feel like you have to answer all the questions. But if you have a constructive opinion, please share.

Thanks!
 

Isoprop

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So I'm a bit concerned about the quantity of information to be memorized and understood in medical school. My biggest concern is that my current method of studying, creating study-guides, will be too inefficient. While I realize that a lot of my study method will be dependent on myself, the curriculum, and other factors, I was exploring the idea of the concept map method.

As I understand it (in case you aren't familiar), it is essentially a visual representation of your notes. The idea is to stop focusing on memorization so much. Instead, the drawing of lines and the visual representation is supposed to help with forming associations and to catalyze a conceptual based understanding of the material.

Does anyone actually use this method? If you do, or if you have tried it, i'd love to hear your thoughts on it. I have a few questions that come to mind even before I try the method myself:

1. Do you have just pages and pages of concept maps? It seems like the information would overwhelm the page quickly and force you to start a new page rather often.. How do you organize?

2. What do you like about this method? What do you dislike?

3. How does it work with anatomy and other classes like histology where the material is often visually orientated?

4. Do you find that the process of creating the visual maps is efficient enough to warrant its usage -- i.e. do you remember the material better? do you recall the material better later on for boards? does it make board review easier?

Don't feel like you have to answer all the questions. But if you have a constructive opinion, please share.

Thanks!
i use mind maps (brainstorm method). it's a great tool, but remember that it's just that: a tool. it's not the best tool for every job, but it can be very effective in certain situations.

personally, i use mind maps to connect different ideas from a group of lectures. i don't like using them to memorize details b/c the maps get too complicated. so i have one ore two per unit or block and i use it for quick review.

a lot of anatomy is understanding relationships but mind maps didn't work too well for me. creating tables helps a lot. i haven't taken histo yet.

i think the most effective way of learning the material is to:
a) figure out what's important and likely to be on the exam
b) repetition
 

lainapox

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I do, for some classes. I usually use tiny-super-fine-tipped pens (like 0.18mm or 0.2mm) in different colors, and make a bunch of sheets concept maps using plain printer/computer paper or, for bigger tests, poster board (not the shiny kind. that's hard to write on). With biochem stuff (with molecules, enzymes, pathways, etc) different pathways are different colors, different organelles are outlined in different colors (for glycolysis-->citric acid cycle-->oxphos, I separated the things that happen in the mitochondria from the things that happen in the cytosol), and I usually designate a color to be the "connector" color in between pathways. This is great for signaling cascades!

It works less well for non-molecular/non-biochem stuff, but it still does work.
 
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enjoydrywax

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I thank my parents everyday for gifting me with a semi-photographic memory. That concept map strategy seems so horribly inefficient for such a large volume of material.
 

migm

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I thank my parents everyday for gifting me with a semi-photographic memory. That concept map strategy seems so horribly inefficient for such a large volume of material.
There really isn't such a thing -- but the fact that you can process material at a deep enough level to quickly incorporate it into your long term memory is certainly an advantage when memorizing large amounts of material. That said simply reading things will result in understanding but not retention of material for me. That's why I create study guides -- the question is, if I'm doing something relatively timeconsuming, should I just go ahead and use these concept maps?

So far it seems like it is used by some students
 

beachblonde

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I'm not in med school (yet!) but I'm in a tough graduate program, so here's my thoughts: I used concept mapping in college and it worked out great. I just don't have the time/energy now, though, especially with the ridiculous color-coding and such that people tend to get into.

Profs often give out learning objectives for lectures, and I find that answering them is very helping in figuring out what the high yield material is. I also use a highlighting system for my notes (if necessary) where yellow is highest yield/most important material, pink is secondary, and green is tertiary. That of course takes time to do, but can be helpful with certain classes. I also make condensed study guides of high yield material from my lecture notes. Flashcards are great as well, I've got a program to make them on my computer so I can spend less time writing them out.

In med school, there are also review books with practice questions available. Sometimes old exams are available as well. Both of these are fabulous study resources and great ways to measure knowledge. I also highly recommend study groups; I never used them in college but I find them essential now.

For histo and anatomy, repetition is key. For histology, slides are often available online or on DVDs, and testing yourself as you go through them is a good way to learn the different tissues. Same for anatomy. Mock practicals are also good resources, as is making up your own and switching with friends.

White boards are great to have for pathways. Repetition, repetition, repetition! If you can draw out a pathway from memory, chances are you have a good idea of what's going on.

Can't speak for the boards, but having seen what USMLE type questions look like, they're not straight "what enzyme catalyzes the rxn of A to B?" The questions are clinical in nature and while having visuals might help, it's perhaps a different approach than what you're envisioning.

There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to getting a grasp on the best way to study in med school, but don't stress too much. Stay flexible and it'll all work out ok.
 

Isoprop

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I'm not in med school (yet!) but I'm in a tough graduate program, so here's my thoughts: I used concept mapping in college and it worked out great. I just don't have the time/energy now, though, especially with the ridiculous color-coding and such that people tend to get into.
i definitely get you on this one!! there's just not enough time and it's incredibly inefficient to write up a study guide. i will repeat, the key to understanding and memorizing is repetition. spending 3 hours to write up a study guide could have been spent reading the material over and over again.

Profs often give out learning objectives for lectures, and I find that answering them is very helping in figuring out what the high yield material is. I also use a highlighting system for my notes (if necessary) where yellow is highest yield/most important material, pink is secondary, and green is tertiary. That of course takes time to do, but can be helpful with certain classes. I also make condensed study guides of high yield material from my lecture notes. Flashcards are great as well, I've got a program to make them on my computer so I can spend less time writing them out.
hah, you just talked about how ridiculous people's color schemes are yet you have one yourself! but yes, i think highlighting is an efficient way to study. that way, when you review (remember repetition is key), you can quickly go to the important, highlighted information.

may i make a suggestion? instead of using your color scheme, why don't you re-highlight with a different color. for instance, go through the material once in yellow. then go over it again and highlight what you don't remember/what is important with green. that way, the third time you review, you know that the stuff highlighted twice is really high yield. it takes less time from my experience.

In med school, there are also review books with practice questions available. Sometimes old exams are available as well. Both of these are fabulous study resources and great ways to measure knowledge. I also highly recommend study groups; I never used them in college but I find them essential now.
yes i utilize review books now in undergrad. they condense important information in a few pages that's easier to digest. i don't know if i agree with the study groups: it works for some people and may not work for others. for review right before the exam, study groups can be a good resource. but for first-time learning, i'm not so convinced.

For histo and anatomy, repetition is key. For histology, slides are often available online or on DVDs, and testing yourself as you go through them is a good way to learn the different tissues. Same for anatomy. Mock practicals are also good resources, as is making up your own and switching with friends.

White boards are great to have for pathways. Repetition, repetition, repetition! If you can draw out a pathway from memory, chances are you have a good idea of what's going on.

Can't speak for the boards, but having seen what USMLE type questions look like, they're not straight "what enzyme catalyzes the rxn of A to B?" The questions are clinical in nature and while having visuals might help, it's perhaps a different approach than what you're envisioning.

There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to getting a grasp on the best way to study in med school, but don't stress too much. Stay flexible and it'll all work out ok.
Definitely agree with that last sentence. Be flexible. What works for one class may not work for another. You have a lot of different tools: review books, highlighting systems, mind maps, etc. so try to find the right tool for the right job.
 

NTF

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Ugh. I always hated concept maps. I used to be a public school teacher and used concept maps in my science classrooms. You should use any technique that as an individual you find useful.

But speaking broadly, there's no statistical evidence that concept maps enhance learning or comprehension. There is evidence that they are useful to teachers as assessment tools to chart conceptual change, adaptation, and integration of knowledge. So in that sense they can improve classroom instruction by giving teachers feedback on how their students are digesting and integrating knowledge. Then teachers can adjust their lesson plans accordingly.

I personally use a kind of concept outline where I just list words that have some association in an outline format. Then when I review I'm forced to recall the relationships between the concepts. If I can't remember than I look it up and restudy it.
 

beachblonde

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hah, you just talked about how ridiculous people's color schemes are yet you have one yourself! but yes, i think highlighting is an efficient way to study. that way, when you review (remember repetition is key), you can quickly go to the important, highlighted information.

may i make a suggestion? instead of using your color scheme, why don't you re-highlight with a different color. for instance, go through the material once in yellow. then go over it again and highlight what you don't remember/what is important with green. that way, the third time you review, you know that the stuff highlighted twice is really high yield. it takes less time from my experience.
I guess I didn't make myself clear on that one, lol. I actually use a system closer to what you described than what I talked about. The three color highlighting I've only used for one graduate course so far. Otherwise, I do one highlight when I preview the material, and then another (if necessary) after attending lecture. It works out pretty well.

Of course, switching highlighter colors still doesn't take up the same amount of time as concept mapping with a specific color code does.

Study groups are best after everyone has studied a while for a given exam. That way, you can quiz each other on the material, go over spotty bits that people may be having trouble with, and take notes on what you need to work on. But if people haven't prepped sufficiently, study groups will be a waste of time.
 

MDman87

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One of my teachers last quarter required us to construct concept maps for her class. It was miserable. Maybe it was just my attitude about the class, but personally I would say that concept maps are (for the most part) useless. Obviously, some people use them with success, but after that class, I'll never use a concept map again
 

migm

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One of my teachers last quarter required us to construct concept maps for her class. It was miserable. Maybe it was just my attitude about the class, but personally I would say that concept maps are (for the most part) useless. Obviously, some people use them with success, but after that class, I'll never use a concept map again
What do you prefer?
 

Aesculapius

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My school really promotes concept maps hard in our PBL class. I find that it's really more of a waste of time in having to make the map. It looks pretty at the end, though.
 

EpiPEN

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1. Do you have just pages and pages of concept maps? It seems like the information would overwhelm the page quickly and force you to start a new page rather often.. How do you organize?

I don't like to do concept maps on the fly when I'm taking notes. Personally I like to plan it out once I have my regular class notes. When I plan out the map and where everything goes, then make the map, it helps me greatly to remember. That is, assuming I'm not being lazy or is out of time for reviewing...

2. What do you like about this method? What do you dislike?

dislike - takes too much time
like - good for CERTAIN classes. For things that just has huge amounts of information to memorize, I'd stick with charts/tables/flashcards (like knowing all vitamins in the body)

3. How does it work with anatomy and other classes like histology where the material is often visually orientated?

It doesn't. Use another method. Always use what method is best for something, not the one method you are loyal to. I used 3 different studying strategies to study for my 3 classes last quarter because they presented different kinds of materials.

4. Do you find that the process of creating the visual maps is efficient enough to warrant its usage -- i.e. do you remember the material better? do you recall the material better later on for boards? does it make board review easier?

For review, I still like a quick summary chart/table that I can glance over before the exam to make sure I know everything. I think the real benefit of making these notes is the actual effort in making them that helps you to remember. But again, it all depends on the class, at least for me. (i.e. immunology made into one concept map was great, but that doesn't mean I didn't also make a table of all the cytokines to make sure I know them all)
 

migm

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1. Do you have just pages and pages of concept maps? It seems like the information would overwhelm the page quickly and force you to start a new page rather often.. How do you organize?

I don't like to do concept maps on the fly when I'm taking notes. Personally I like to plan it out once I have my regular class notes. When I plan out the map and where everything goes, then make the map, it helps me greatly to remember. That is, assuming I'm not being lazy or is out of time for reviewing...

2. What do you like about this method? What do you dislike?

dislike - takes too much time
like - good for CERTAIN classes. For things that just has huge amounts of information to memorize, I'd stick with charts/tables/flashcards (like knowing all vitamins in the body)

3. How does it work with anatomy and other classes like histology where the material is often visually orientated?

It doesn't. Use another method. Always use what method is best for something, not the one method you are loyal to. I used 3 different studying strategies to study for my 3 classes last quarter because they presented different kinds of materials.

4. Do you find that the process of creating the visual maps is efficient enough to warrant its usage -- i.e. do you remember the material better? do you recall the material better later on for boards? does it make board review easier?

For review, I still like a quick summary chart/table that I can glance over before the exam to make sure I know everything. I think the real benefit of making these notes is the actual effort in making them that helps you to remember. But again, it all depends on the class, at least for me. (i.e. immunology made into one concept map was great, but that doesn't mean I didn't also make a table of all the cytokines to make sure I know them all)
Thanks for this, quite helpful. It seems like you have a certain guideline, at least internally, for which classes you will create these maps for and which won't. What are your "counterindications" for a map?

It seems like 1. a large amount of information (i.e. what cytokine does what function immunologically, or what is CD137 and CD95.. etc). What else makes these things not worthwhile?
 

EpiPEN

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Thanks for this, quite helpful. It seems like you have a certain guideline, at least internally, for which classes you will create these maps for and which won't. What are your "counterindications" for a map?

It seems like 1. a large amount of information (i.e. what cytokine does what function immunologically, or what is CD137 and CD95.. etc). What else makes these things not worthwhile?
There isn't so much a rule as much just judge each class based on common sense. Trouble is, I don't think there's a rule I go by, just a general feeling for the class when it starts (or I'll change my style as the class goes if one isn't working as well). Even cytokines, they might be represented well in a concept map as well, becuase a lot of them just lead to the activation of each other (while others don't). That's why I mentioned in immunology, I did concept maps as well as tables. Tables for the quick review and the concept map to help me really get the material by tracing out all the steps.

But if I had to simplify it down to a rule, it might be something like, use concept map if:
1. information is abstract
2. information involves cascading events (like in organ physiology how blood pressure changes depending on various conditions)
3. information is very wordy in explanation
4. It is important to learn how things flow

and don't use when:
1. information is mostly definition
2. information is unrelated to each other
3. there is a lot of information (i.e. you concept map becomes too cluttered)
4. There is lot of repeates in information (i.e. lots of NSAID out there, it would make a pretty huge single concept bubble)

So for example, biochem has lots of pathways, great for concept mapping. Drawing out all the drugs and conditions that interact with cancer, a good idea. A Drugs, their reaction types, and the chemicals they interact with, probably better saved for a nice table.

The bottom line is to not get stuck thinking you must do something only one way because you learn all kinds of materials. It's a good idea to do some practice with concept maps to see if it works for you. Once you have some experiences in your belt, then it will come naturally whether or not you want to use concept maps on something.
 
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