Figuring out HOW to study is one of the best things you can do on your premed journey. By understanding the material at its core, you have a better chance of succeeding than just trying to memorize things.
As a premed, I struggled to find study techniques that actually worked for me. When I got to medical school that changed:
I went from a 2.9 science GPA in undergrad to a 3.8 GPA in medical school!
Below are my top ten study tips to improve your memory and concentration, feel confident, and ace that quiz or test (or even the MCAT!). I’m not saying these methods will all work for you, but take whichever ones you want. Let’s begin.
Before you begin studying:
1) Before you even start diving into your material, clean up your study area. Put away anything that you won’t need while studying, like notes for other classes. Switch your phone over to silent mode and tuck it away – out of sight, out of mind! Exit out of any tabs on your laptop that you won’t need while studying. And turn off the TV! It won’t help you study your best, but some light background music could help.
2) If you’re studying at home, let whoever you live with know that you’ll be studying to avoid distractions. If you’re studying in a library or other location, try to find a quiet and comfortable spot where you can best focus. Don’t forget to pack a pair of headphones if listening to music helps you concentrate!
3) While reading your textbook, summarize the content in the margins. Writing activates a different part of your brain that is shown to reinforce your memorization of the material!
A lot of students struggle with reading quickly while also comprehending the material. In my program, Future Doctor Formula, I offer a free bonus on How To Study for the MCAT. One of my students, Angelyn, went from reading 21 lines per minute to 27 lines per minute after completing this module – that’s a 29% increase in reading speed! Because of that, she finally broke her plateau and scored 512 on her practice test.
4) Color-code your notes but don’t go overboard with colors. Just pick two important colors that will stick out to you. When I was in school, I used red for mnemonics and green for most common test questions that I called “GTQ” AKA “Guaranteed Test Question.”
Also, avoid excessive highlighting, whether in your textbook or your notes. I know it can feel like everything is important while you’re reading! Try to just highlight the most important information or concepts that you’re having difficulty remembering.
5) To cut down on the time it takes to make full flashcards, use sticky notes in your textbook instead. Write the question on the front of the sticky note, then place it over the answer in your textbook. This will save you time by not having to write down the answer. Plus, you’ll have a quick reference if you need further clarification on that topic while studying!
6) Review the material you learned in class each night. Cramming is not the way to commit the material to memory, so avoid that last-minute panic by looking over your notes after class. You’ll feel less overwhelmed once it’s time to actually start studying for a quiz or test.
7) Take regular breaks throughout your study session. It’s recommended to take a 5- to 15- minute break at least every hour, and a 30-minute break every two to four hours. Go on a walk, grab a snack, and decompress. This will give you time to recharge and can also improve memorization!
8) Yes, go to class! It’s your first step to success. I know o-chem isn’t the most fascinating subject to listen to a long lecture about, but it’s so important to helping you learn the material. Listen carefully and take detailed notes. If you find that your note-taking during class is a bit messy, it may be helpful to rewrite your notes after class so they’re clear and organized. Plus, this repetition of the material will help you with memorization! You can also use that time to create visuals related to the topic that may help you while studying.
9) Ask questions if you have them – other students definitely have the same question as you so don’t feel embarrassed! If you’re not a fan of asking questions in front of 200 of your fellow classmates, ask the professor after class or go to office hours. Remember, your professor and any teaching assistants are there to help you succeed, so don’t be afraid to approach them.
Bonus! Visiting professors during office hours is a great way to build a rapport and start developing a relationship with them. This can help you in the future with finding research opportunities, getting letters of rec, and gaining further connections in the medical community. As an assistant professor of clinical medicine myself, I really enjoy interacting with students and getting updates on how they’ve been doing. You’re NOT annoying us.
10) Participate in in-class activities and get to know your classmates. In-class activities created by your professor are a great way to see how other students ask questions and the type of questions they ask. You’ll get more comfortable with their wording and style, which makes quiz or test time less daunting.
This is also an excellent way to form a study group if that helps you, and you’ll have the opportunity to learn from those around you. Make sure to grab their phone numbers or email so you can reach out if you have questions or need help later on.
BONUS tip! My absolute favorite study book during medical school was Rapid Review Pathology by Dr. Edward Goljan, 5th edition. It’s an amazing resource to have on hand. Click HERE to buy it!
Cheat Sheet: My Top 10 Study Tips
- Clean up your study area and put away anything that you won’t need while studying.
- Let whoever you live with know that you’ll be studying to avoid distractions.
- Summarize content in the margins of your textbook.
- Color-code your notes with two important colors that will stick out to you.
- Use sticky notes in your textbook instead of writing out flashcards.
- Review the material you learned in class each night.
- Take regular breaks throughout your study session.
- Go to class!
- Ask questions if you have them and go to office hours.
- Participate in in-class activities and get to know your classmates.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. Comment below with your own best study tips!