Studying for medical exams can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. To make the most of your study time, it’s important to create an effective study schedule and stick to it as closely as possible. This guide will walk you through how to structure your time wisely, so you can keep your study sessions focused and productive instead of scattered and ineffective. By using the tips in this guide, you’ll have everything you need to ace any exam—no matter how tough!
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Studying for medical exams is one of the most important components of a medical student’s career. We are expected to know certain things about different diseases, their causes, their symptoms and much more. Now there is a lot of material that needs to be learned throughout our years in school and sometimes it seems like there isn’t enough time in a day to study everything we need to learn. So if you want help on how to study for medical exams then here are 8 tips that may help you along your way.
1. Make a schedule
As a med student, you’re probably always busy. It can be tempting to study when it’s convenient—after work, on weekends and in between classes. While it might seem like a smart idea at first, spreading your studying out over time can actually make it harder for you to learn. Start by making a schedule that includes time specifically set aside to study—then stick with it.
One way to stay motivated is to stop looking at how much material there is left to cover. Instead, focus on the progress you’ve made so far! When you look back on all the knowledge you have acquired already, the task ahead of you will seem less daunting. Make sure to take breaks throughout the day (or week) so that your brain has a chance to process what it just learned and retain information better. But don’t forget to schedule some fun too! If you don’t allow yourself a break every now and then, you could get burned out or exhausted.
Another tip: do not cram the night before an exam. Cramming can lead to forgetting more than you actually retained while studying.
2. Eliminate distractions
It’s easy to let procrastination get in your way when you’re studying. If you want your study time to be more productive, be sure you eliminate distractions. Turn off your cell phone and internet connection so that it can’t interrupt you while you’re trying to review material. It also helps if there is someone else around (family members or roommates) who can help hold yourself accountable and keep you on task. For example, an app like StayFocused will block access to distracting websites for a predetermined amount of time. Once you feel like the allotted time has passed, the website will be available again.
3. Know what’s in store
You can’t get through a tough exam by simply studying hard. The weeks and months leading up to an exam are critical, as well. Don’t just cram at the last minute—start taking detailed notes early on, so you don’t forget important information when it comes time to study. Don’t wait until you need a break from schoolwork; start now, while your mind is still fresh! You should be constantly reviewing old material to make sure that you know everything that’s expected of you. Bring snacks: Staying awake throughout the day (or night) is difficult, especially when it means skipping meals or doing without caffeine. Bring snacks that will keep your brain alert and healthy (think nuts or dried fruit).
4. Listen to music without lyrics
There’s a lot of conflicting information about whether or not music with lyrics can help you study. But one thing is certain: if you’re studying a subject that requires knowledge of terms, facts, and other pieces of information, don’t listen to anything with lyrics. The next time you need to memorize an especially long list of things (DNA components, anyone?), pop in your favourite instrumental album or download some songs without words on Spotify. You’ll be more focused on the task at hand and less likely to get distracted by lyrics in the background.
5. Studying with friends
If you’re someone who learns better when you learn with others, try studying in a group. Not only will you encourage each other to study regularly and provide each other with outside motivation (you don’t want your friend to kick your butt in that anatomy exam, do you?), but it will also give you an opportunity to learn more. If they know something that helps explain something confusing or difficult, then all of a sudden, a new door of understanding opens up.
6. Keep up with notes
Notes are one of those things that are incredibly useful, but also easy to put off until later. One way that students can keep up with their notes is by setting reminders on an online calendar so they don’t forget a due date or assignment. Another way to help them maintain a high level of note retention is by taking periodic review quizzes in order to test what they have learned and ensure that the information has been retained. They should also make sure not to study right before bed as this will make it difficult for them to fall asleep and have higher chances of forgetting everything the next day.
7. Take breaks
Most medical students are in school 12-16 hours a day, 6 days a week. Most medical students need to study at least twice as long as they’re actually spending studying (i.e., if you’re spending 3 hours studying each night, try planning on studying 6). Planning small breaks during your studies will keep you fresh and help you retain information better. Taking walks outside or meditating are great ways to recharge your mind and body!
8. Ask for help when you need it
If you’re struggling with an aspect of your studies, don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers and professors. They’re not just there to give you answers, they are there to help you in your learning process and find a way around what seems like an impossible problem. And while it may seem easier not to seek assistance, remember that some problems aren’t meant to be solved alone; sometimes a second perspective is all that stands between success and failure.
The best way to improve your chances of passing a medical exam is by familiarizing yourself with its contents. Learn what you can about potential topics and stay organized! In addition, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, and eat well so that you’re in top form before sitting down for an exam. Best of luck!