Chip N Sawbones

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Ever since I started med school I've been having a lot of trouble keeping up with the course material. I can understand the basic concepts well enough, but memorizing details like the names of muscles, genes and proteins has been a constant struggle. It seems like no matter how many times I read over the lecture slides or textbook I can't remember all the details, or at least not enough to do well on the exams. If I make a set of flashcards or an outline and keep going over it I can generally memorize a specific set of details, but I don't think I can do that for every lecture of every class. I haven't been slacking off, I've been studying all day almost every day, but nothing seems to stick like it should.

I was able to get through anatomy just barely passing each exam, but things got worse when we switched to biochemistry, genetics, histology and physiology. We just had a combined exam in those subjects, and I failed with a 63. My physiology grade was pretty good, but there wasn't much memorization needed for that subject. The P/F cutoff was 70 and the class average was 88. When I did my postbac I never had a problem like this. What am I doing wrong?
 
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I think thats normal. And courses that take that amount of memorizing take time to master. The more we take those types of cohrses throughout undergrad abd such, it gets better. You may be having trouble with stress, hence your issues memorizing. I am a health psychologist in addition to a doctor of physical therapy student so I know the effects of stress on memory. Furthermore, lack of sleep can be detrimental to memory.

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Goro

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It can be overwhelming. I know that there's a lot of brute memory involved, but application of what you learn is also important. You hopefully shouldn't be memorizing mere factoids but learning how to think clinically as well. ie, severing the brachial artery would have what effect?

Does your school have any sort of education or learning counselors/specialists? if so, go seek them out,. Also, seek out some of the top members of your class and ask how they do it.

Be sure you get enough sleep. Too little sleep compromises retention.

Maybe drawing pictures will help? Writing things down in a table? Look into mind mapping learning techniques as well... a good number of my students do this.

Go ask your faculty to ask you questions about the material. Or have your classmates do this. This is a good way of finding deficits in your knowledge base.

Also, go chat with a counselor or therapist about this. I know that having academic troubles just starts a vicious cycle where your worrying impedes further learning. And if life problems are affecting your performance, that needs to be addressed.

IF you're not going to class, start doing so. On the other hand, if class attendance isn't required, then some people learn better on their own. They key is to finding a learning styl;e that best suits you.

Hang in there, and good luck!

Worst case scenario: take a leave of absence and fix those deficits! then come back stronger. Please keep in touch

quote="Chip N Sawbones, post: 14607904, member: 372259"]Ever since I started med school I've been having a lot of trouble keeping up with the course material. I can understand the basic concepts well enough, but memorizing details like the names of muscles, genes and proteins has been a constant struggle. It seems like no matter how many times I read over the lecture slides or textbook I can't remember all the details, or at least not enough to do well on the exams. If I make a set of flashcards or an outline and keep going over it I can generally memorize a specific set of details, but I don't think I can do that for every lecture of every class. I haven't been slacking off, I've been studying all day almost every day, but nothing seems to stick like it should.

I was able to get through anatomy just barely passing each exam, but things got worse when we switched to biochemistry, genetics, histology and physiology. We just had a combined exam in those subjects, and I failed with a 63. My physiology grade was pretty good, but there wasn't much memorization needed for that subject. The P/F cutoff was 70 and the class average was 88. When I did my postbac I never had a problem like this. What am I doing wrong?[/quote]
 

QofQuimica

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I've never been much of a memorizer either; there's a good reason why I went to a med school with P/F preclinical courses. As Goro said, you've got to do some experimenting and figure out what works for you. Since what you're doing now isn't working for you, there's nothing to lose by trying something else, right? Here are some more suggestions:

1) Talk to some second years about what they did that worked. Alternatively (or maybe in addition), talk to some of your classmates who are acing their courses about what strategies they use.

2) Like you, I am a very conceptual person. What helped me memorize random minutiae was mnemonics. There are often mnemonics that already exist to help you memorize various things, or even better yet, make up some of your own. If you get an old copy of First Aid off an upperclassman, you can use some of the mnemonics in there. I still remember some of those even though I took Step 1 in 2007.

3) Try to learn things from multiple different angles. If you're a self-studier, try reviewing with a partner or small group before exams. If you mainly just read, try doing practice questions to help you apply that knowledge. (I find that I retain a lot more if I use the material rather than just read it over and over.)

4) Talk to your profs. Let them know you are disappointed in your performance and eager to improve. See what they suggest, and again, be willing to experiment a little.

5) Take advantage of tutoring or other services offered by your school to help students who are struggling.

6) Study in small chunks, not all day. For me, it was a lot more productive to get up in the morning, study an hour before class, then another hour when I got home, then another hour after dinner, etc. Make sure you take time to recharge (take walks, work out, eat good meals, etc.).

7) Think about how to maximize use of your time. For example, consider taping lectures and listening to them while you commute or run on the treadmill. Bring flash cards with you and read them while you're waiting in line to check out at the supermarket. Avoid studying in places with a lot of distractions. For me, I got a lot more done if I was at home, while internet cafes or libraries were too noisy and distracting. But if being near the TV and your own bed are too distracting, then try going somewhere else to study.

Hope these ideas help, and hang in there. You can do this. :)
 
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Esquire

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If I make a set of flashcards or an outline and keep going over it I can generally memorize a specific set of details, but I don't think I can do that for every lecture of every class.
There's your answer. Don't stop doing what works, but do it more efficiently. Write faster, manage time better, etc.
 

mcloaf

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Ever since I started med school I've been having a lot of trouble keeping up with the course material. I can understand the basic concepts well enough, but memorizing details like the names of muscles, genes and proteins has been a constant struggle. It seems like no matter how many times I read over the lecture slides or textbook I can't remember all the details, or at least not enough to do well on the exams. If I make a set of flashcards or an outline and keep going over it I can generally memorize a specific set of details, but I don't think I can do that for every lecture of every class. I haven't been slacking off, I've been studying all day almost every day, but nothing seems to stick like it should.

I was able to get through anatomy just barely passing each exam, but things got worse when we switched to biochemistry, genetics, histology and physiology. We just had a combined exam in those subjects, and I failed with a 63. My physiology grade was pretty good, but there wasn't much memorization needed for that subject. The P/F cutoff was 70 and the class average was 88. When I did my postbac I never had a problem like this. What am I doing wrong?
Could you be a little clearer about what you've been doing so far? For example, the bolded is a pretty slow way to study.
 

lovesfall

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In my experience, the stuff that's going to be rote memorization has to be started early and revisited frequently or else you won't pack it in. I'm in the same boat - also nontrad, also highly memorization averse - and I definitely feel your pain! I like to integrate a bunch of different ways to remember things - watch YouTube, discuss with classmates, do practice problems where you can find them (textbooks, review books) and give yourself enough time to make mistakes before the exam. For anatomy, I absolutely HAVE to do the practice problems before I can even start internalizing the pictures (kind of weird). I like Grey's Anatomy Review for it, though. For the sciences, sometimes it's just about flash cards. For drugs I tend to actually memorize things the order that they appear on my flashcards. It's kind of annoying because I can only recall them in relation to one another, but it's worked well enough that I've done OK on tests. Presumably we will be seeing a lot of things again in organ systems so it's not a once-or-never type of activity.

Also - not sure if your school is like mine, but I've noticed in our exams that what seem like heavily fact-based questions can actually be distilled to something more conceptual and then you can rule out answers. If you aren't getting the results you want, the problem might not be that you aren't memorizing enough minutiae. It might be that there are underlying concepts that would be more valuable to focus on and then use your understanding of those to eliminate answers and get better grades.

Just my two cents.
 
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Chip N Sawbones

Chip N Sawbones

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Thank you all for the support and the advice. I'll be working on applying it over the rest of the year. To address a few of the specifics, I'll be talking with the school chaplain and one or two of the professors tomorrow. I don't think stress is really the problem, except for the stress that naturally comes with a big exam. I've been getting enough sleep too. There were a lot of questions on the last test in which I had no idea what half the answer choices were, or sometimes what the key item in the question was, so I'm pretty sure I need to work on learning more of the specific terms rather than the concepts. Usually if I'm familiar with what's being asked and what the answers are I can make the clinical connections and get the answer right.

On further reflection, I've probably been having the same problem with memorization for a long time, but up until now I've been able to mask it or compensate for it. I never memorized any of the details in biology class, I just balanced bad test grades with perfect lab reports that kept my average in class at an A. In general chemistry we were allowed to bring one index card of notes in to exams, so I got really, really good at writing small. I'd fit 30 lines of text on one side of a 3x5 index card and ace the test with everything I needed to know on the card and nothing in my head. I guess it's time to start learning things differently, though.
 

sazerac

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For physiology - you've already figured out the secret, use BRS phys.

For biochem - first you need to develop a feel for what is test worthy (this comes with experience) and then use some kind of flash card system to grind it out. Paper flash cards or a simple program like FlashcardMachine is fine. Use BRS Biochem and first aid to see somebody else's approach, but knowing them powerpoint slides is key for your class.

For genetics - very similar to biochem. Again BRS biochem and FA can help a little, but the class slides are key. As you've seen, MEDICAL biochem topics are more about raw data and less about pure science topics. Welcome to your new career.

For histo - always know the provided pictures in the slides down cold, and the BRS cell / histology book is great. You can look at the histo textbook in the library if you want, but I wouldn't bother with owning it.


In addition to making paper or digital flash cards (yes it's painful but it WORKS), for biochem BRS makes a companion set of biochem cards you can buy. I highly recommend them for the biochem shelf final, and since you will probably wind up obtaining them anyway, you might as well get them now at the bookstore.
 
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Missorleans

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If you wanted to use flashcard machine I bet sazerac would be nice and tell you how to download his cards from last year.
Sounds like you've been doing a lot of passive studying so far. Try adding something more active than looking at words on a page. Answer questions, write/type out high yield info, concept mapping.
 

alpinism

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If you wanted to use flashcard machine I bet sazerac would be nice and tell you how to download his cards from last year.
Sounds like you've been doing a lot of passive studying so far. Try adding something more active than looking at words on a page. Answer questions, write/type out high yield info, concept mapping.
Yep. Unless you're super gifted with a near photographic memory, stop passively reading lecture slides and textbooks.

Its not what resources you use but how you use them. Figure out the high yield info (lecture objectives, bolded print, ask profs or classmates) so you don't waste time and spend all day focusing on useless info. When you study take detailed notes, make study guides, put together tables and flow charts, and do tons of practice questions.

Active learning lets you retain twice as much for twice as long.
 
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Chip N Sawbones

Chip N Sawbones

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Well, as it turned out, despite the high average for the combined exam, so many people failed one section or another that the faculty got together and applied Weird Tulane Grade Voodoo™ to the scores and now I just barely passed everything. I have no idea how that worked. Oddly enough, I was way above the average in physiology, the one class I passed without the adjusted grade. Of course, this doesn't change the fact that I wasn't learning all the material I was supposed to, so I'm still going to try to change my study habits so I can learn more effectively, but it is nice to know that I don't have to work to dig myself out of a hole.
 

Goro

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I agree it's nice to have one less stressor, but please don't be the type of student who is only too haoppy to just squeak by. The few students like that at my school all fail their Boards!
 
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Oddly enough, I was way above the average in physiology, the one class I passed without the adjusted grade.
I don't find it odd :) Physiology is more conceptual and, perhaps, requires less memorization than anatomy does. Anyway, I am glad you passed!!!
 

wholeheartedly

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Glad you're momentarily off the hook. Since I'm not a med student I'm not even going to attempt to offer study advice other than to say that when trying to memorize large volumes of stuff, I'd agree the active methods (ie like writing stuff and diagraming stuff on a dry erase board) has always worked better for me in getting stuff to stick.
 

yossarian444

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The amount of garbage to memorize in medical school is absolutely astounding. It seems all a blur looking back - like a bad dream. Find what works. For me, I din't have time to go to class. I didn't have time to watch the lecture videos either - some professors were terrible at teaching - it was worthless to watch their videos, even at double-speed. If they had decent notes/powerpoints, I just used those. I didn't bother with textbooks, as much as it pained me since I generally do like reading textbooks. If I struggled with a concept, I just memorized a few factoids here and there that might help with a multiple choice test question and moved on. Anatomy is bruit force memorization. Those flash card spaced repitition programs can be helpful - it's all about repitition. Try to put in 90+ hours of study time per week and be productive at least 65-70% of those hours. Good luck! I struggled quite a bit M1 year and then did pretty well M2 and Step 1. Don't get discouraged.
 

Aminex

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I was reading a study recently about aerobic exercise improving memory. It may have been a lame HuffPost fluff "study" but since Immunology has been an a**-kicker for me in the brute memorization department, I decided to walk on the treadmill while listening to recorded lectures. I murdered the quizzes related to the material so, who knows, maybe something to it. Can't hurt
 

Gfliptastic

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One good way to memorize for med school is association. Remember you are trying to form new synapses to quickly access information. It doesn't help you to EVENTUALLY remember something when there's a bunch of questions on an exam.

Association helps because it can cause more "robust" synapses. Hippocampus is intimately connected to the limbic system, right? As silly as it will sound, it involves more than one sense to be involved.

When attempting to memorize a particularly detailed concept, grab a pen. Pick a hand. Pick an interesting way to hold it. Now tap a specific part of your body. Left temple. Opposite hand pinky. And as you try to remember it, continue to do so. And create a synapse between not only the information, but the tactile stimulus.

NOT to say that it works 100% of the time. However, if you are currently dealing w/ a recall problem, what does it hurt?? I know it helped w/ anatomy. I knew where my flexor hallus longs was because I could point to it. And I remembered the innervation. And I remembered the dermatome associated. All by knowing where it was on myself.

I can't guarantee it will work. It worked for me. And its based on neuroscience. Individual results may vary. :)