Upper Limit for Cramming

Discussion in 'Medical Students - MD' started by FutureDoc4, Dec 17, 2008.

  1. FutureDoc4

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    So, I have gone back and forth about my study methods throughout the semester... first I am unhappy, then slightly better, then unhappy again... I can't seem to find a rhythm (this DID NOT happen in undergrad)... I am not doing badly... my avgs for most of my classes sit between 85-89. I got to a P/F school so this is not as big a deal, but I am just getting frustrated I can't seem to push it a little further. I am a crammer in terms of studying.. I always have been.....I am looking for advice from people who a) were in the same position grade-wise and what they did to get that little extra b) those that are inherently also crammers and if they have found some way to study a little each day.....I have a really really really tough time with this. Because if I "skim" over the notes, I feel like I get nothing out of it. When I sit down to study for an exam, I spend a lot of time/energy on each lecture (because it is the first time I've seen it and I power through to memorize)... I really never learned how to "skim" or whatever to actually get anything out it--feels like I am learning nothing and wasting time (blah, sorry i am ranting)

    With all that said, any advice from anyone would be appreciated.
    Thanks in advance.

    P.S. I am intersted in some of the more competitive specialties and I am afriad is going to bite me in the ass later
     
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  2. Isoprop

    Isoprop Fascinating, tell me more
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    how many times do you go through the material?

    also, you're not suppose to feel like you are learning anything when you are "skimming" through notes. but it makes it easier when you do REALLY study.

    but an 85-89 is pretty hard to complain about. cramming harder will probably push you over but i don't think it'll help for the boards. spacing out your studying may decrease your test scores (or show no change) but it'll stick to your long term memory much better.
     
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  3. FutureDoc4

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    I go through the material 1x, but I really go through it slowly when studying for exam (one dense lecture may take me 3 hrs)
     
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  4. Isoprop

    Isoprop Fascinating, tell me more
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    you might want to try going through the material a few more times. it's probably the easiest way to bump your understanding. skim the material after lecture, cram maybe a day ahead then you usually do, then review before the exams.

    hopefully that works.
     
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  5. FutureDoc4

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    So, I'm not the only one that feels like they really aren't learning anything if they try and skim? That's the way it's suppose to be?--I always felt like I was doing something wrong when I've tried that
     
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  6. Isoprop

    Isoprop Fascinating, tell me more
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    yeah absolutely. with skimming, you're trying to get introduced to the material. the point is to understand. it's okay that you can't remember everything (or anything) from the last page.

    but when you are going through the material again, it should come back much easier.
     
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  7. Bartelby

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    Sounds more like reading than skimming to me.

    I don't have much advice since I'm in a similar situation gradewise and studywise. For the OP, do you (1) go to lectures/read the day's assignments as you go and then study intensely for a few days or do you (2) legitimitely sit around playing X Box until a couple of days before the exam? If it is the latter, you might want to try the former. If it is the former I haven't found a better way either.
     
  8. njbmd

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    I fear for you on USMLE Step I because the "crammers" in my class tended not to do so well on this exam. How much have you retained from your study methods? How long do you retain the information?

    My guess is that you may be less of a "crammer" than you think if you are retaining the information in your long-term memory. The good thing is that if the material is in your long-term memory, your system might work well for your USMLE Step I review and I would not change what is working for you.

    If not, you need to work on getting a good study + review system that will enable you to retain things for the long haul. You don't need to be perfect but you need enough of an understanding so that you can quickly recall things.
     
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  9. FutureDoc4

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    I would say I do go to lecture (except for one class which is worthless), and I sit and listen but do not keep up with reviewing lecture material or reading.... I might start really studying for an exam from 1.5 wks (anatomy) to 2-3 days before an exam. I am again battling the notion in the spring if attending class is worthless and if I should just be studying during the day.

    nj: I also fear for my long term memory? (I dont feel like I can recall a lot from my first anatomy exam, even though I tended to do well in the class overall). Here are my thoughts for readjustment.

    1) Stop going to class, not useful
    2) Can put lecture audios onto ipod and just listen whenever (bus/gym/lab etc).
    3) For keeping up with the material read "review" books rather than notes throughout the semester. (I cannot constantly read lectures notes beause they don't "read" and I lose attention unless I constantly force myself to focus)
    4) Try to start reviewing lecture material 2.5 wks before exams

    Any thoughts on this approach?
     
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  10. Jolie South

    Jolie South is invoking Domo. . .
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    Maybe you could try to learn more rather than just skimming during the block.

    I go to lecture and find it really helpful to go through later THAT day what we talked about. I read the relevant book chapter/pages then look over the powerpoints. The more sources that introduce me to material the longer it sticks.

    I usually start reviewing for an exam a week and a half in advance. Our exams are always on Mondays, so I start the weekend before the weekend before the test.
     
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  11. Vonsmack

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    The first time you are introduced to material via lecture you should really only worry about getting the big picture. I personally like to pre-read before lecture a text book or a review book just so I know what the prof is talking about. I don't take notes, I don't highlight, I just read and take it in. If you feel like you have an understanding of the concepts, you can dive into the details and minutiae later on in your studies closer to the exam. It personally takes me 2-3 reviews of the material before I really have down the details, which varies of course.

    For example, lets say you have a pharm lecture on autonomic drugs. It is a very good idea to really hit home what the classes of drugs are, what receptors they agonize/antagonize and the effect it has because you will see that again and again. Then later on during your cramming session you memorize specific names, side effects, etc..

    The reality is you aren't going to remember any of those small details anyway long term but it's important you have a firm understanding of the concepts of medicine. Once you review for boards you can rememorize those needed details, but you will want a solid foundation. Keep in mind you will hear 30 different study methods from 30 different students, so you got find what works best for you. I was a crammer myself in undergrad, so I still get to "cram" but I stay ahead of the game.
     
  12. njbmd

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    Here's something you might want to try: If you are an auditory learner (meaning that you learn more by actually hearing the info rather than seeing or reading the info) then stop taking notes. Purchase a digital recorder and record your own summaries of the material after you have heard the lecture. When you are reviewing, review from your recorded notes.

    In terms of notes, just write down the big headings so that you have a list of the major concepts from each lecture. Reading review books is likely not going to be enough material for actually learning the material. You can't review what you haven't mastered in the first place.

    If you stop concentrating on trying to take every single note down and then memorizing your notes, try to focus on how each professor delivers the material. You have a syllabus that should give you the topics/concepts for each lecture. See how those concepts are delivered; don't take copious notes (especially if the prof rehashes what's in your text) and summarize each lecture in your own words on your tape recorder. Load these lecture summary files onto your handouts or powerpoints. If your school has note service, then subscribe to it and use it only to fill in any gaps.

    Review your summary tapes from the previous lecture before you prepare and study the current lecture material. In short, get away from those long hours of staring at a paper. Review the previous week's material on one of the weekend days. After that, you can use your review books because you should have a knowledge base to review.

    When you learn something, you can link it to your knowledge base. If you don't already have a knowledge base, you can't make the links. This is why cramming might be a problem over the long haul.

    The other thing that you never want to do is attend any lecture unprepared. This means skimming the syllabus and/or text for the big picture before you hear the lecture. By doing this, you get an idea of what you already have in your grasp and you get an idea of what to listen for in the lecture.

    Again, I suspect that you are not as much of a "crammer" as you are just not a person who learns by reading tons of things off of a printed page. In medicine, you have to master several types of learning but you can utilize those learning types to your advantage and to supplement how you learn best.

    I would also recommend that you study at least twice a week with a study group who is dynamic enough to encompass your learning style. This means that you come to the group prepared (aurally and as necessary) and that you get assistance from them in terms of honing your knowledge as you explain the material to each other.The twice a week meeting makes you keep up with the work and helps you you get used to study on a regular basis.

    Studying in medical school is kind of like preparing for football season in the off season. You can do nothing but the best way to be prepared for the season is to do some regular drilling and strength training. After a week or two, you actually look forward to your prep and when the season starts, you are strong, sharp and ready. You can't expect to keep things in your long term memory if you don't give them a shot at getting there in the first place.

    See what happens with adding the audio summaries to your work.
     
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  13. Isoprop

    Isoprop Fascinating, tell me more
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    i really really believe that the common denominator of all successful study techniques is repetition. how much repetition is up to the individual, but really try to get exposed to the material on at least more than one occasion.

    but i mean if you are getting upper 80s on your exams, it's really hard to argue that whatever method you are using isn't working. you probably are retaining more than you think. try picking up a review book from an earlier block and flip through a chapter for a few minutes and do some problems. if you are able to answer more 1/3 to 1/2, you are probably doing okay.
     
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  14. montessori2md

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    I agree w/ most of the above, but especially isoprop. Whatever you can do to get another round of repetition.

    I'm also a big picture/integrate it kind of person, so I like to study one week's of a given subject at once (for me, usually Sun AM when I get up I'll sit and read the week's lectures over coffee).

    I don't know how many questions you have/exam, but once you get into the upper 80s, early 90s, you're to a point where it's possible that you had weak spots (ie, there were 1-2 lectures you just didn't absorb, focus on). Have you looked at your exams to see if there is a pattern? Was it reading the question wrong, were they a specific type of question.....

    I believe I studied about the same for all of my anatomy exams, and my scores were all over the place. I was explaining this to a friend -it's really frustrating because walking into an exam I have no idea how I'll do, b/c how prepared I think I am didn't correlate to my scores. This has been the only time in my life where I felt this to be the case (our other blocks I basically knew where I was, no surprises).
     
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  15. montessori2md

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    Oh, and wanted to add -for anatomy "cramming" sort of helped w/ head and neck for me, b/c you just couldn't integrate all the info till you had all the info (where all those nerves were coming/going and what they did and why). I think you could argue similarly for other areas (easier to understand nerves of the lower limb once you had done the whole lower limb, same w/ vessels, even muscles).
     
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  16. coldweatherblue

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    when I'm going over the notes before a test, I write down every word/concept that I either don't know or am sketchy on in a notebook. Just the word. After I read a chapter I have like 20 words written, so I go over those twenty and "access" the part of my brain where I put that knowledge. Then after the next chapter I have 20 more words (40 total) and I go over ALL the concepts again, so everything gets repeated after each new chapter. You have to really concentrate but it helped me learn 400+ random facts for our last cell test...
     
  17. HPSPpayissue

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    I agree with isoprop and montessori2md... I usually go through the material 3 or 4 times. By the 4th time, I retain over 90% of figures, words and pictures without much trying or effort. But try to understand the big pictures and concepts first. I know way too many that memorize and know everything but can't truly 'understand' what is happening. I think most Biology majors are like that....
    Those type of people usually do well in Anatomy and micro, but struggle in biochem, path, physiology, etc. And trust me, the latter parts are more important for your boards!
    For anatomy, memorize all the bones first. It will make memorizing muscles so much easier (ie attachments, functions, etc). If you know where the muscles are, then you can easily trace where the blood vessels and nerves course. Finally, try memorizing important landmarks first (ie obturator internus that separate superior gluteal nuerovesicular from inferior gluteal neurovesicular).
     
  18. themudphud

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    I don't know dude--I think to take it to the next level you might have to add a little long-term studying to your cramming. Cramming can be effective if you are that kind of learner but I agree with you that it may come back to bite you on the ass. I mean, do you plan on cramming for your boards? Probably not. If for no other reason: at some point you will no longer have exams to worry about but will have to nonetheless "study" just for professional development.
     
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  19. shreypete

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    I read the material about 3-4 times. The first time, I make notes from the book (or if I got the notes from someone else, I just add extra stuff to it from textbooks). The second time, I just read the stuff again and try to understand it (from the notes that I made) The third time, I read the entire material verbatim and aloud...and the third time, I try and reciting it. For some reason, reciting the entire stuff aloud and verbatim really helps me understand better and remember for a longer period of time (I don't know if this is somehow correlated to left handed people because I'm one of them many of my other left handed friends are just like me when it comes to studying). And I again revise the entire stuff once before an exam or a test (this time, only the points I remember...which is usually pretty much everything included in the notes).

    Many a times, I feel that I've forgotten the stuff but during exam time, it all just kicks in and I remember such minute details with precision. It's quite shocking. And what's even more shocking is that I can remember the stuff for more than a year (of course not all the very minute details but in general).

    But I'm worried if this something like cramming?? Will this effect me in the years to come? (ie. the clinical years?? and subjects like pathology, micro etc??) Is this an effective approach?
     
  20. SpookyDoc

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    Answer this question... if this was cramming, how would you describe 'studying'?

    Cramming is doing everything in the shortest time period allowable RIGHT before the test. As in cramming in everything before the test hits.

    Cramming does not mean 'studying alot' which you're doing, and which is fine.
     
  21. LadyWolverine

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    I love it when people start threads like this just to brag about how great they think they are, under the guise of asking a legitimate question. If you want to toot your own horn, dude, I suggest coming up with some new material.
     
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  22. FrickenhugeMD

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    I think its funny that he replied about how he was average in another thread the other day and then comes up with this.

    anyhoo, that is in no way cramming. Cramming happens within 48 hrs of a test.... with little to nothing before that. What you are doing sounds like it would take alot longer than that, so no it isn't cramming
     
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  23. Tiger26

    Tiger26 Senior Member
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    If you really have the time to type out that long of a question (or anything at all . . . . ) then you can't really consider it cramming--it sounds from the sentence that I read that you're looking for us to tell you how bad***** you are
     
  24. Dirt

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    This is cramming!





    [​IMG]
     
  25. turkeyjerky

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    It's not cramming, but I hope you study by yourself at home, because people would definitely think you're a wierdo if they saw you reading aloud to yourself
     
  26. Turtle01

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    reading aloud to yourself is an interesting technique, but apparently it works for you. congrats. this is not cramming.
     
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  27. shreypete

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    Well first of all, I do study quite in advance. I'm not bragging because every time I use this technique, I just strongly feel that I'm cramming stuff because my friends find it very strange that I'm able to recite the entire page verbatim and this just freaks me out. My parents think I'm just cramming and after many people having said this, I just don't know what to think.

    And the thing is that this approach does not help me give a good grade in every test (most of the tests, I just end up passing which is quite depressing but this is the only technique that seems to work out for me).

    Anyways thank you guys for clarifying that for me. It's been bothering me quite lately since many people have been asking me how I study and then they just end up saying that I'm cramming but not realizing it.
     
  28. dnslay

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    For me, more than a week of material is un-crammable. And if there is a lot of stuff with mechanisms that have more than 10 steps, then the un-crammability factor increases two-fold for each of those things.

    Basically I don't cram no more, except for the last-minute review of 5 or 10 rare genetic diseases that are inevitably shoved into the bulk of the material for each test.
     
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