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Studying Biology the "right" way?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical Allopathic [ MD ]' started by The One Who Knocks, 10.29.14.

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  1. The One Who Knocks

    The One Who Knocks 2+ Year Member

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    Hi all,

    I am currently taking BIO 1500 (which is my school's version of Plant + Animal Diversity), and I really like some honest answers here!

    I know this is a horrible thing to do, but as I have been studying for Biology, I started to question "how" exactly I have been studying, and even have gone to the extent to think of how studying in medical school is like.

    I find the only real way the information sticks with me is for me to write it down and think about it as I am writing, rather than simply reading it. Sometimes I get anxious studying this way, as I feel I won't "survive" in med school if I have to resort to writing things down in order to remember them. For one, I can't seem to remember something as well if I just read it.

    Is this a bad thing? Is it normal to write while trying to memorize? Is it normal for your hand to hurt after long Bio sessions? Lol, I am kind of hysterical in thinking about this, but it has been bothering me!

    Anyways, how do you guys study for BIO classes with heavy memorization? Mind you, this method HAS been working for me (scoring 90's on all my tests), and I really don't want to mess with it, but it has me thinking, am I studying the right way?

    Thanks in advance! You guys are always great!
     
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  3. MrLogan13

    MrLogan13 2+ Year Member

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    There is no right way to study, per se. The right way is whatever works for you.
     
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  4. NoDakDok

    NoDakDok 2+ Year Member

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    Most people I know, including myself, will write while they are studying. Many also take handwritten notes, even though there has been a pretty strong switch to all-digital note taking. Writing definitely helps with retention.

    No.

    Yes.

    Depends. You could be gripping the shaft a bit too hard. If you lighten your grip it might be more comfortable and prevent potential health concerns.

    http://ankisrs.net/

    The only "right" way to study is the one that works for you.
     
  5. The One Who Knocks

    The One Who Knocks 2+ Year Member

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    I appreciate the reply, it definitely makes me feel better! I was getting a bit anxious in thinking that I would soon be overwhelmed if I continued studying this way, but it has always worked for me.

    Thanks again!
     
  6. The One Who Knocks

    The One Who Knocks 2+ Year Member

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    So, you still write while studying in med school and it hasn't gotten too overwhelming? Don't you find that it can sometimes be time consuming?
     
  7. NoDakDok

    NoDakDok 2+ Year Member

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    What do you mean by write?

    When I write I tend to just make a map of lectures. Essentially what this does is provide a concept map of the material (either in map form or in bullet form), and gives the scope required to piece together minutiae. It's a bit time consuming, but manageable. If you have a solid grasp of the material conceptually you can answer most of the questions. You can do this particularly easily if you watch lectures multiple times (putting lectures on 2x speed makes this easy).

    As for the minutiae itself, unless you have super great memory you're generally stuck with Anki to put that all together. As opposed to my undergrad, the nice part of medical school is most exams are multiple choice. Given the quantity of material this makes it much easier to "reduce" questions to the right answer. This is better than trying to memorize everything because there is simply too much material to memorize to rely on rote memorization unless you did absolutely nothing other than study.

    As has been mentioned twice already, learning is very individual. I study very differently than other medical students at my school. You do whatever works best for you. Efficiency is key, but there is enough time to do what you need to.
     
  8. Lawgiver

    Lawgiver Banned Banned Account on Hold

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    repetition till your eyes bleed.
     
  9. premedbrah

    premedbrah 2+ Year Member

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    ;):D

    And I'm taking the same course OP. Just downloaded Anki, and I must say it really does seem a more efficient than just rote memorization (reading, rewriting, reading again, etc.) which is EXACTLY what I've been doing just like you. But, give Anki a try, I just made about 200 flashcards after downloading it this morning and I've included images from my courses powerpoint slides as well. Granted the iOS version is $24, I think I might buy it.

    Also, I'll leave this here: http://www.supermemo.com/articles/20rules.htm (credit to the Anki Central thread)
     
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  10. baxt1412

    baxt1412 Liftus Maximus 2+ Year Member

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    you beat me to it.
     
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  11. NoDakDok

    NoDakDok 2+ Year Member

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    :uhno:

    Real mature, guys.

    ;)

    Anki is great, though! I got the Anki app for my phone for free, too. Is it really $24 currently in the app store?

    If that's the case and it's too expensive for you, I'd keep an eye out for deals. I've gotten some pretty random, very helpful things for free, such as anatomy apps. Having it on your phone makes studying way too easy.
     
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  12. The One Who Knocks

    The One Who Knocks 2+ Year Member

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    Thanks guys! I'll give Anki a try in the near future.

    My method of studying now is effective, but I feel it is more time consuming than it should be. Reading, writing, rewriting... I am a little hesitant in trying to change anything in my study patterns considering I have been successful thus far, but I won't know until I try!

    Thanks again.
     
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  13. Czarcasm

    Czarcasm Hakuna matata, no worries. 2+ Year Member

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    I thought I would chime in since in Undergrad, Biology use to be a significant struggle for me. Until recently however, I've adopted new study habits in pursuit of a post-bac that have allowed me to excel in all my classes. I've been approached by a few teachers who commended me on doing so well and asked me to tutor other students. I've seen all sorts of study techniques from people writing an elaborate set of notes, to fancy shmancy flash cards, to listening to lecture recordings, to taking notes while writing, to reading and reading again and again, etcetera. The truth is, successful students learn to be very fluid in terms of how they study in order to make the most efficient use of their time. What I mean is, you really need to understand your instructor's teaching style and adapt to it. For the first exam, since you are often unfamiliar with the instructors teaching style, it's often the most time consuming and difficult to prepare for. After receiving your exam grade, really compare your teachers teaching style and how the exam was written to your studying approach. Did you overstudy? Was there something you could have done better or avoided entirely? That right there is the ultimate key to success. Spending elaborate hours studying and reading, and studying again without evaluating your approach can not only prove to be an incredible misuse of your time, but extremely exhausting and counter-productive.

    Thinking back on some classes I've taken this year and how I approached them:

    I had one professor who gave excellent lectures outing the chapters within the book. He was notoriously difficult and the amount of material we covered was just ridiculous. For the first test, I read all the chapters. I always read chapters twice: once leisurely to understand what the heck is going on, don't sweat the details (typically before lecture) and then sometime after lecture in greater detail, focusing on understanding concepts, bolded words, chapter titles and subtopics to help categorize things mentally in a way I could easily recall (every successful student does this; some don't realize it). I attended all the lectures: recording lectures and taking detailed notes. At some point, I'd find the time to listen to the lecture; then I'd re-read the chapter and finish off my studying by reviewing my class notes (if I had any time). My studying was quite extensive and this is how I approach most of my classes on the first go. I know it's over the top, but I also realize what the first exam entails. So after taking the exam, I restructured my studying approach. For starters, reading the book was an incredible waste of time. This particular teacher only held us responsible for lecture content presented in class and not all the other nitty gritty details mentioned in the book. So from there on, I focused primarily on my notes and the lecture recordings and this saved me a considerable amount of time. Obviously, I was only able to do this because this particular teacher was very clear with their teaching so I did not have to resort to the book for clarification. By doing this, I was able to achieve a perfect exam grade on each exam, despite the class average being only 53. I've seen people do some insane things, rewriting this extremely detailed notes with pictures and diagrams, yadda ya ...and I could not help but think of how pointless all that was. Many of those people still struggled to do well, despite their efforts.

    In another class, I have a teacher who literally rambles on and on. I literally cannot understand half the things that come out of her mouth because she mumbles nonstop. Attending lectures are completely useless to me, but they are mandatory. Occasionally though, they can be insightful. For this class, I do a lot of independent studying. After the first exam, I restructured my time to focus on her powerpoints and her own personal notes as opposed to reading the book, working on practice exams and making sure I really understand how to approach all the different scenarios presented since these were things that she emphasized on her exams.

    Some classes, reading the book is unavoidable, especially when the material is so foreign to you. Organic chemistry for instance is one class that can take a great deal of time and where reading and writing out things can help you immensely. Some teachers use testbank questions which are attained from the book publisher, so reading the book for details is probably more so important than the lecture itself.

    Also, one more important thing worth mentioning: the brain has a remarkable capacity to store information so your ability to succeed is most definitely not limited by what you remember but rather, how you choose to remember it. As I eluded to earlier, learning to integrate ideas in an organized way and to make important connections where ever possible is a proven way to retain information.

    I kinda rambled on here, but I hope this helps. And if not, it's okay... I'll show myself out.
     
    Last edited: 10.30.14
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  14. The One Who Knocks

    The One Who Knocks 2+ Year Member

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    I thoroughly enjoyed the response! That seems exactly right, as each class is different and requires different study habits/techniques.

    In essence, I find I need to put my pencil to a piece of paper in order for me to organize ideas, and I was hoping that I was not the only one doing so, as several other people I know do not do this.

    Thanks again for the response!
     
  15. Gurby

    Gurby 2+ Year Member

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    This is not a horrible thing to do - it's something everyone needs to do if they want to be successful.
     
  16. Catalystik

    Catalystik Providing herd protection SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

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    Besides following NoDakDok's advice, it helps some folks to use one of those larger diameter ergonomic pens with a soft grip.
    upload_2014-10-30_10-14-39.jpeg
     

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    Last edited: 10.30.14
  17. The One Who Knocks

    The One Who Knocks 2+ Year Member

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    Yeah, I've always used a normal pencil, which is probably why my hand starts to hurt after long hours of writing and mapping ideas.

    Also, NoDakDok, I don't think I was as clear as I should have been.

    My study method for BIO is as follows: I print out slides, go to lecture, rewrite slides in my own notes (because I find it easier to read and remember my own writing), and then I delve into a deeper study.

    By this, I mean I read, and write the note again, but as I do so, I try to reproduce the note without looking at it (other than things like headings to give me an idea of what I should be thinking about). In other words, I am re-making my note, but I am trying to redo it on my own. Not only am I trying to reproduce concepts, but I am also organizing my thoughts on paper.

    I find that when I am in the exam, I remember not only the concepts, but where exactly those concepts were located on my paper (because I rewrote countless times).

    Does this sound ridiculous? I am a little sensitive on this, as it has been working, but I want to make sure that it is a plausible method, and won't get too overwhelming in the future if I continue this.

    Please let me know what you think!
     
  18. Catalystik

    Catalystik Providing herd protection SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

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    They make fatter pencils, too.
     
  19. Derivations

    Derivations 2+ Year Member

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    I hand write probably anywhere from 75-90% of lecture slides and I'm in medical school. I'm like you OP, that is the only way I can remember and keep the lectures straight in my head. It definitely takes forever, but it works as a great first pass through all the material. I think it saves me time in the long run because then when I go back and review my hand written notes the studying becomes cake and I can memorize it all within maybe half a day or a day, depending on the amount of material. It's been working for me so far, though I'm still a first year.
     
  20. Flippinski

    Flippinski

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    I'm in the same boat with my class. Did well in cell and molecular biology, but had an amazing professor. Don't have too great of a professor this semester, and I'm struggling. Hardest part, he teaches strictly from power point, reads slides in class, and that is the extent of teaching. Your grade is mainly 4 tests, 45 multiple choice one long answer. It is straight memorization off of the slide. We're talking about 130 or so slides per test...a lot of information. I found that the people who do well, just memorize the slides. It takes about reviewing each chapter about 10 times over the course of 4 weeks. I'm hoping next go around on the test I'll do better. Good luck.
     
  21. optimistic3

    optimistic3 2+ Year Member

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    OP, I'm in the same exact boat. I have to handwrite my notes or else I won't learn well. It does work but I feel as if it is inefficient (too time-consuming). I got into trouble with this method in undergrad when I was taking a full courseload of all difficult science classes and couldn't keep up with the workload. I did still pass all my classes decently but it was my worst semester, GPA-wise (no A's at all). It is something that does worry me about if I get into med school - I'm always afraid that I won't be able to keep up with the volume of material.

    For me, I like to read the book and basically outline it into a notebook. Depending on the class, I may or may not do this with the lecture slides as well. Then I do problems and continue to read my notes and kind of take notes from my notes on what I don't have memorized/learned yet and some key problems that I found tricky (if applicable). That second set of notes becomes my "cheat sheet" to which I refer mostly when I need to for that chapter. When I have a cheat sheet for every chapter on the exam, it becomes my study guide.

    Like I said, when I am able to successfully complete my study method as above, it works well for me. My issue is that it takes me so long that I am not always able to do it well enough for every class and that gets me in trouble. Right now during my post-bac and MCAT studying I'm trying to learn some different methods but I haven't found anything else better for me.

    I do still worry....maybe I should keep trying more things.
     
    Last edited: 10.31.14
  22. frosted_flake

    frosted_flake waaahmbulance attendant Gold Donor 2+ Year Member

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  23. The One Who Knocks

    The One Who Knocks 2+ Year Member

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    Hey Derivations, thanks for the response!

    I really like to hear from people who are actually in medical school, as my questions are geared more towards whether or not handwriting is plausible with the high workload that med school brings about. Essentially, I want to figure this out now before it gets too late and I am starting to shift study methods during med school!

    So, has it gotten at all overwhelming handwriting your notes? How exactly do you study from your handwritten notes once you've finished them? Do you read them over, write parts out that are giving you trouble, etc?

    Just trying to pick the brain of a fellow "writer".

    Thanks again!
     
  24. cluelessM1

    cluelessM1 2+ Year Member

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    I'm still trying to figure this out. What's been working for me so far - I've been handwriting outlines from lecture slides and books, focusing on the main concepts. Handwriting every single detail into these notes (as I used to do in undergrad) is just not efficient anymore, so nitty gritty details go into Anki.

    I also have a mini whiteboard that I use to write stuff out again and again and again, especially pathways. I take pics of my whiteboard notes to flip through on my phone.
     
  25. The One Who Knocks

    The One Who Knocks 2+ Year Member

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    That sounds like a great method to go about it. As of now, I am in that Undergrad Biology stage where I simply go to lecture, rewrite my notes at home on lined paper, and then simply write, rewrite, and write again until the information sinks in. It has been effective, but extremely time consuming, and so I have been having doubts!

    What would you suggest?
     
  26. cluelessM1

    cluelessM1 2+ Year Member

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    Do you have a flash card app? Lots of people, including me, recommend Anki - it's kind of a b**** making the slides (very time consuming) but details really stick in your head if you are diligent about keeping up with it. The time investment pays off eventually, plus if you keep up with it you'll be that much more cool for the MCAT.

    Does your prof give objectives for lectures? If so, that's a good way to make focused notes. I usually make a
    page or so per objective and try to aggregate info from various sources onto each topical page. You could probably use your textbook or just your brain to divide things into reasonable topics.

    Also - when you rewrite stuff, try to NOT LOOK at any source. Force yourself to recreate your notes from your head as much as you possibly can. I find I can totally trick myself into thinking I know stuff if I'm tempted to "cheat" and glance at my notes.

    Hope this is helpful - is there any other kind of specific advice you were looking for?
     
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  27. The One Who Knocks

    The One Who Knocks 2+ Year Member

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    That's great advice. As of now I am just finding myself writing ALOT during my studying, and I was hoping that this isn't detrimental. I have never used the flash card idea as a study method, but maybe I should start? Never really heard of Anki, but maybe I should check it out.
     
  28. Boolean

    Boolean

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    Anki is not simply effective due to the flashcard nature, but due to the fact it is spaced repetition software. A cursory Google search on the topic will yield some interesting results.
     
  29. premedbrah

    premedbrah 2+ Year Member

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    Just youtube Anki Medical School and you'll get a ton of vids on how to make flash cards specifically for Sciences, Anatomy, Physio, etc.
    It's pretty self intuitive the program, search for the Anki central thread on here. Lots of good advice and instruction on how to use it
     
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  30. freemontie

    freemontie Banned Banned

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    If it's diagram/process-heavy then it helps to watch several videos explaining the same topic. i.e. from khanacademymedicine, bozeman science, mit opencourseware, berkeley lectures etc. If you have something explained to you 4 times from 4 different people it tends to stick without much effort on your part.
     
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