For me, studying in college was never particularly taxing. It was something I could do largely in a night or two before an exam, with weeks in between these intensive study sessions where I could pursue other interests. Medical school, on the other hand, has been a completely different experience.
Although I had read many stories about the demands of medical school, I was still unprepared for the reality that I would really need to study every day. And moreover, simply studying every day is rarely enough—it should be efficient studying. Within the first few weeks and months of medical school, everyone begins to develop a preferred study method (and pattern of class attendance, since most classes at AMC are recorded and not mandatory).
For me, what emerged as a working method was attending class and typing notes. In college I had been a staunch believer in handwritten notes, however, the pace of medical school lectures was far too fast to permit me to continue. My typed notes were essentially a transcript of the professor’s lecture, and then if I missed parts I would go back and listen to the lecture again, adding details and information directly off the lecture slides. The transcript format has some amusing consequences…oftentimes I will include the lecturer’s jokes and when I study I find them and they give me another laugh.
My favorite study method, though, is a gigantic whiteboard. It takes up an entire wall of my apartment. Usually whiteboards are expensive, but I was able to procure an 8′ x 4′ whiteboard at low cost. My father has recently switched careers and become a teacher, and it was on his suggestion that I purchased a sheet of whiteboard at a hardware store, and for less than twenty dollars I now have an incredible study resource.
On the day before an exam, I take classic, memory-bolstering, handwritten notes and emphasize the most important points from each lecture. Then, on the morning of the exam, I write these important facts on my whiteboard as one final review. This has become vaguely superstitious for me, since I can often correlate how much I fill the whiteboard with my test performance. Also, in the case of a test that felt unfair, I can look at the whiteboard afterward and see how much of the information I thought was important was actually tested.
Because we have a theme-based curriculum at AMC, each theme can feel like it requires new study tactics. It took most of my first year to feel like I had a reliable system, but I now that I am starting second year I feel like I have laid a good framework and method. And since our first exam is this Friday, we’ll see how it works in the faster pace of second year! Wish me luck!