sabsaf123

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So I just finished my second week of medical school and its obvious to me that the first pass though the material is taking me way too long. For example, if I get a biochemistry lecture it takes me about 3-4 hours to understand the concepts from that lecture. The school gives 1.) a ppt, 2.) a handout (written explanation of ppt), and 3.) lectures are posted online(watch at 2x). Although my reading comprehension on standardized exams has always been great, I have always struggled to understand biological concepts from simply reading alone. In undergrad, I would understand something like DNA replication way better if I saw a video of the enzymes involved compared to reading about what each enzyme does. The issue is that this process of combining online videos with reading the material is taking me ~3 hours to understand one lecture in med school.

Our school starts us off slow for the first few weeks and then it becomes increasingly harder as the semester goes on. I've done well on quizzes so far, but obviously i cant spend 3 hours on the first pass going forward when I have ~4 lectures/day AND I need to review lectures/do ANKI from previous days.

Any advice?
 

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You'll just get stronger, faster, better, stronger.

Keep doing what's working for you, but pay attention to how you're allocating your time. Always evaluate "what did I take away from xyz resource?" and "was that time well spent?". I'm of the opinion that you become smarter and better at learning as you progress through medical school (even though it often won't feel like it)-- just keep good habits and you'll find your way through accordingly.
 

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You'll just get stronger, faster, better, stronger.

Keep doing what's working for you, but pay attention to how you're allocating your time. Always evaluate "what did I take away from xyz resource?" and "was that time well spent?". I'm of the opinion that you become smarter and better at learning as you progress through medical school (even though it often won't feel like it)-- just keep good habits and you'll find your way through accordingly.
and we have the technology....
 
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Peach Newport

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I keep a ratio. 4:1 means it takes me 4 hours to get through 1 hour of lecture. For me...

Biochemistry: 4:1 or more
Anatomy: 4:1
Histology: 3:1
Physiology: 2.5:1
Pathology: 3:1
Immunology/Microbiology: 4:1
Pharmacology: 3:1

However, I take absurdly detailed notes on my laptop. I couldn't take handwritten notes, it would have killed my wrists and made my ratios much worse.
 
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sabsaf123

2+ Year Member
Aug 19, 2015
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Medical Student
I keep a ratio. 4:1 means it takes me 4 hours to get through 1 hour of lecture. For me...

Biochemistry: 4:1 or more
Anatomy: 4:1
Histology: 3:1
Physiology: 2.5:1
Pathology: 3:1
Immunology/Microbiology: 4:1
Pharmacology: 3:1

However, I take absurdly detailed notes on my laptop. I couldn't take handwritten notes, it would have killed my wrists and made my ratios much worse.
How do you take so long per lecture and still complete everything before the exam? For example, its not unusual for us to have a day with 2 biochem lectures, 1 anatomy, and a 3 hr lab. According to your method that would take 8 hrs (biochem) + 4 hrs (anatomy) + 3 hrs for lab = 15 hours. And thats without adding the time you should be spending reviewing old notes/anki cards for previous lectures.
 

Peach Newport

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How do you take so long per lecture and still complete everything before the exam? For example, its not unusual for us to have a day with 2 biochem lectures, 1 anatomy, and a 3 hr lab. According to your method that would take 8 hrs (biochem) + 4 hrs (anatomy) + 3 hrs for lab = 15 hours. And thats without adding the time you should be spending reviewing old notes/anki cards for previous lectures.
Those were vague averages, but let's break it down for what I'd have in a week.

3 hr anatomy = 12 hours
3 hr biochemistry = 12 hrs
3 hour histology = 9 hrs
2 hr physiology = 4 hrs

There was also reading, which I'd only do right before exams.

I only crammed physical diagnosis and OMM (I'm a DO) on test week.

This totals about 37 hours of first pass per week for me. I'd usually study about 7-10 hours per day. Realistically I'd do first pass Monday through Thursday. My tests were on mondays, so I'd study for tests (2nd and 3rd pass) on Friday-Sunday. Anatomy required a little more time than that - at minimum I'd want to start on Wednesday - so I'd have to catch up the next week.

This isn't particularly efficient, but it's how I needed to study in order to really learn the material. I got much better, and it worked very well, at least for me.

Not to be that guy, but I go to a school with mandatory attendance. So these 8 hour study days were AFTER I came back from class.
 
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Peach Newport

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Not gonna lie, that seems pretty inefficient. 10-12 hours/day of studying seems excessive. FWIW I've done both better on exams and gotten in fewer fights with my gf about working too much after switching to a "only study what you don't know" strategy. Also, repeat exposures at spaced intervals has been proven pretty effective, so cutting down on 1st pass time in favor of getting an extra pass of yesterday's material is pretty well-supported. Even before I made the switch I wasn't spending 10 hours/day studying. If you haven't already, I'd consider this approach. It has definitely made my time in med school more enjoyable.
I'm just not the kind of guy who hears a fact once and remembers it, much less understands it. Anything I hear in a lecture will 100% go in one ear and out the other - unless I write it down, or somehow actively learn it. It doesn't take me nearly that long on the second pass. I make sure to go through EVERYTHING at least 3 times before a test.

I manage to spend one afternoon/evening a week with my girlfriend, though I pretty much have no free time during Sunday-thursday.

I've been doing very well using this method, and to be entirely honest I'm very scared of trying new study methods.

It's not efficient... but it's working. I'm absolutely smoking my tests... though maybe at too high a cost. As far as I'm concerned, if it ain't broke, I shouldn't d*ck around with it.

I'd love to hear more ideas though.
 
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Peach Newport

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My girlfriend is a med student and she would absolutely hate me if we only spent one afternoon/evening per week with each other. I'm in the top 25% of my class at a pretty decent med school and I see my girlfriend every night, gym 3-4 days/week, and still manage to dick around a decent bit in between. Similarly, while we're busy, it's a rare Wednesday when my other med school friends aren't going out for bar trivia or wing night or something. I would seriously consider trying to make better use of time you're in lecture (pre-reading is crucial) and making more passes earlier on while sacrificing the "quality" of the first pass.
Do you have mandatory attendance? We don't have lecture - we have mandatory clicker sessions (our lectures are pre-recorded and we get quizzes on it in class. we don't learn material in class).

I keep thinking I'd be much more efficient if I wasn't so burned out from 4-8 hours of class time.
 
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So I just finished my second week of medical school
Slow down, haha.
cut yourself some slack.
Also, everyone has gone through what you're going through now. that panic of, 'this is nothing like undergrad'. 'What study habits should I now adapt and create.' !

also see Goro's 2017 guide to studying: Goro's just posted a 2017 guide to studying for med school. MD & DO - Goro’s guide to success in medical school (2017 ed.).

and its obvious to me that the first pass though the material is taking me way too long.
It's only second week.

If you think it's taking 'too' long, drop it and move onto something else. there's countless subjects around that will soak up as much of your exams as the ones you're struggling on.

If you're bogged down, have no focus left, study something else. Go back to the material you're struggling with later, more refreshed. get someone in your class who majored in that topic to tutor you or try to explain it.

Personally, true inefficiency is when you spend a lot of time over a topic and majority of that time is not well spent. You haven't learnt anything and you don't have focus to learn or absorb/retain. There's nothing gained, and worse, you could have spent the time doing something else.

Try learning techniques like pomodoro to cut out the 'fat' if you will. Or set time limits for yourself to ensure you're also spending time on other subjects.

always ensure you're still allocating sufficient time to cover other topics. things that come more easily to you, so you can still ace those topics on your exams. and not cram them at last minute under duress.

It would suck if you actually did spend too much time on an area of weakness, and not enough time on other things. then you end up doing less stellar across the board on everything.

There's no golden rules to how you approach things in first pass. It sucks but you have to experiment with what's most efficient for you for nearly every particular subject.

you may have to accept that there will be some things that will not make perfect sense to you even when you get to exam time. Things that will take years before you fully understand them. It will depend on familiarity (built on years, not just a few weeks) or just seeing it in a different light. It could be that nothing will fit together until you get to rotations and see patients.

And that's okay, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, these will later help you decide what to specialize in (or generalize in) later on.

For example, if I get a biochemistry lecture it takes me about 3-4 hours to understand the concepts from that lecture. The school gives 1.) a ppt, 2.) a handout (written explanation of ppt), and 3.) lectures are posted online(watch at 2x).

Although my reading comprehension on standardized exams has always been great, I have always struggled to understand biological concepts from simply reading alone.

In undergrad, I would understand something like DNA replication way better if I saw a video of the enzymes involved compared to reading about what each enzyme does.

The issue is that this process of combining online videos with reading the material is taking me ~3 hours to understand one lecture in med school.
welcome to med school?
Painful isn't it?

There's good advice that Peach Newport's given you, by sharing what works for them. It's not necessarily going to work for everyone. However, it's a good example of how much of med school during the "first pass" simply isn't going to feel efficient. It's work. It eats up time. It sucks. But it will get better. The 2nd, 3rd or 30th pass will be easier. Eventually, it will take less time and you'll feel and be more 'efficient'. But you have to get through the first pass first. the time you spend on first pass, will cost you less time later. Medical school builds on what they initially teach you at a very fast rate.

As long as it's not all of your subjects that's using up copious amounts of time, it should be fine. Things that happen to be "easier" for you to understand, will allow you to breeze through the lecture materials (relatively), then go to questions. It shouldn't take 3 hours to pass through those things.

At least you know that reading alone doesn't help.

Find good video series that suit your learning style.
there's a heap of videos out there now. try one, if that works and minimizes your study time great. Don't use like 3 videos for every lecture.

Or try the reverse.
Go through 'review' sources or videos first. the things that break down material to the bare bones. that which makes it simple. then add meat onto it later.

For the areas I struggled on, I did review stuff first, then questions and then read the lectures last (or watched the lecture recordings at high speed). Maybe I wouldn't have time for lectures until the weekend before exams. By then, the lectures felt like 'review' and I was getting more out of them, because I understood the basics of what the lecturers were discussing. It was also much more interesting to listen to (so I had more focus and was able to absorb more), as I had more capacity to understand.

Don't beat your head over a wall. If something's not working, drop it and move on,



Our school starts us off slow for the first few weeks and then it becomes increasingly harder as the semester goes on. I've done well on quizzes so far, but obviously i cant spend 3 hours on the first pass going forward when I have ~4 lectures/day AND I need to review lectures/do ANKI from previous days.
Oh wait, are you in first year or second year?
Now I'm confused. Unless your school is opening with, we're going to make it harder later.

Make sure you allocate time for breaks in there too! if you burn out, it can knock you out for days, if not weeks.

Do you have an arts or science background?
You don't have to answer if it's prying too much.
Generally, the subjects you took courses while in undergrad (or majored in), should ideally take you less time to 'relearn' or review.

If you're an arts background, not ragging on arts major, anecdotally, it is often more of an uphill battle at the start as you're confronting a lot of 'hard' sciences as a 'course' for the first time with less foundation that someone who knows it well from years of study (Review courses for MCATs don't count).

A physiology major will find it easier to tackle physiology because they've seen it before and spent a lot of time on it for undergrad exams. So it will come more easily to them when med school feeds it to them through a firehose. Similarly, so will someone who's taken biochem before, learning the krebs cycle again isn't going to be as hard the first time.

Not equating med school with undergrad, but saying again, there will be subjects that will take less of your time. And some that will take the 3 hours first pass. Because you're catching to those with a greater command of the topic. Overall, hopefully things should balance. If not now, you will catch up eventually. You'll have to see a lot of the same things again in 2nd, 3rd, 4th year etc. etc., in different variations and forms. However, if you laid the groundwork during your first pass well, you make your future life much easier later. Maybe you won't get to reap the benefits of what you're doing now, but you'll feel it later.

It is different to undergrad. It will be work. It will cost you time to figure things out. But you'll get there. You kinda have to.

Edited for grammar and clarity.
 
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