Med School Hacks [1]: Medical School Study Tips!

Med School Hacks 1 - study tips


So at first, I didn’t want to talk about medicine so much because I wanted to have an outlet away from it and I didn’t want my academic life to overlap too much with my personal life. But then I realized that currently (and for the next few years) medicine will be a really large part of my life and rather than run from it I decided to embrace it. As a result I decided to start “Med School Hacks”  which is where I’ll talk all things medicine ranging from my experiences (don’t worry, no HIPAA violations here!), study tips, and overall advice and perspective from a medical student in the trenches. Keep reading for some vital medical school study tips to keep your grades on point!

I’m currently an MS2 (second year medical student) and one of my biggest takeaways is that organization and efficiency make for increased quality of studying and overall well-being. Below are my top 7 medical school hacks that allow me to feel ahead of the game when it comes to my academics.

  1. Unbind your textbooks! – I actually have not bought many books but when I do I typically go to FedEx/Kinkos to get them unbound. Sometimes I get them rebound with spirals or I get them 3 hole punched and put them in a large binder. Spiral binding is great when you want to keep the pages together, and also want to be able to fold the pages back. But 3 hole punching is great for carrying only relevant sections/ chapters that you need with you. I 3 hole punched my First Aid (aka the med school Bible) and I love this because I only carry the chapters relevant to the organ system I’m learning without lugging around the entire 400+ page book.
  2. Bind your notes  – I am a paper kind of girl, and even though I use my iPad a lot I typically like to print my notes. To keep track of all my papers I get everything spiral bound (costs about $6) so that way during my study period I have my own “textbook” of all my notes & relevant information that I need to study. This keeps me from losing papers and I also like having everything in one place.
  3. Watch things on 1.5x speed – When you have to watch lecture videos, you’d be surprised how fast you can watch them and still comprehend. After a few tries you’ll find that anything below 1.5 is painfully slow and then you’ll wonder how you ever sat in class in normal speed. You can do this via VLC app (PC, mac, and iPad). You can also use quicktime on your macbook to accelerate speed if you don’t want to download any additional software.
  4. Be detailed about your study schedule – I used to just put things like “study” into my google calendar. However, I found that I would use up that time organizing myself, figuring out what I was going to study and how I was going to do it. Now on Sundays I typically make my schedule for the week ahead of time and instead of study I’ll specifically say what I’m going to do for that time. For instance I’ll put “review lecture #1” instead of “study”. This keeps me focused and less distracted. At first you may not know how long it takes you to do a lecture. I find it takes me 1-1.5 hours when I go to class and 2-2.5 hours when I’m podcasting a lecture from home.
  5. Dr. Youtube & Wikipedia University are going to be your favorite instructors  – I hate saying this because after spending hundreds of thousands on tuition it kind of pains me to think that I’m doing a lot of my learning from these free resources. Of course you shouldn’t get all your information from here but a quick youtube search on a topic you’re weaker on can save you a lot of time. For instance I spent 12 minutes yesterday watching a video about venous pressure curves and now I’ll never forget it! Also Uptodate is great too and most schools/ hospitals have a subscription you can use for free, but I find that to be a little dense when I want a quick overview of a simple concept.
  6. Schedule protected time of yourself – Sometimes I find myself working through meals and breaks. Sometimes its necessary and I’m so focused I rather not stop what I’m doing but doing this too much causes burnout. I typically schedule about 2 hours at the end of my day just for me. This is my time to FaceTime, paint my nails, do my hair, or just watch TV.
  7. Color coding! – I love color and pretty pens. I used to use colors just based on my mood and to make my notes pretty but now I have a color coded system I typically use. After using the same colors over and over again over the past year I don’t even have to think twice about it when doing my notes. Heres the color system I use:
    1. Black = regular information/ text
    2. Red = inhibition or anything that cancels out something else
    3. Green = anything that enhances or stimulates something
    4. Blue = clinical correlation – for example if I’m writing about a drug (in black) but the lecturer says something that’s clinically relevant for a patient (like off-label uses or some other clinical relevance) then I’d write that in blue
    5. Pink = key information
    6. Grey = When I use notability (my favorite app to take notes), I put miscellaneous details in grey. I love having everything in my notes just for completion but I realize that not all of it is high yield for our exams. So I put these details in gray so that way when I’m doing my last minute studying I can ignore them easier and focus on the black & colored text that are more high yield

Hopefully you found 1 or 2 tips that can help you! Even if you’re not in medicine, some of these tips could be useful for any student or even in the corporate world. Are you in medical school or pre-med? If so how do you keep yourself organized and ahead of the curve? Let me know below!

xo, Trisha



  1. February 25, 2016 / 3:22 pm

    I used to have my First Aid unbinded but I hated it so much I upgraded to a newer version. Yes, it was nice removing one system at a time, but the pages are so thin they would rip and generally annoy the heck out of me. So, I have my current edition and I just focused on annotating or referencing page numbers to other books (like BRS or MMRS) and adding in sticky notes for paragraphs of information. I definitely like it better that way, but to each their own!

    I definitely agree with have a specific study task. I use my planner to input lectures and I won’t cross them off till I make the notes for it. Then I’ll add it which review books & what chapters to do out of them so I know exactly where to focus.

    Nice to ride along on this journey with you! I’m taking Step June 10th. WBU?!

    • February 25, 2016 / 4:20 pm

      Hi Cherish!

      I add sticky notes for information too! I agree with the thin pages though. I ripped some of the first few intro pages in the beginning which is when I decided I would just use the binder for storage and not actually reading. I love the post-it idea & I do that as well. I wish there was wider margins for notes though 🙁

      I actually haven’t scheduled my test yet. Its likely going to be around May 5th but I can’t decide if I want to study back home in NY or just stay in LA 🙁 I should probably do that soon though before spots fill up though.

  2. February 28, 2016 / 5:06 am

    Hello! I’m Jully and I’m currently a post-bacc students at Cornell. It’s so nice to follow you on this journey and I look forward to more of your stethoscope series.


    • February 28, 2016 / 6:46 pm

      Hi Jully, thanks so much for the kind words! I will definitely post more Stethoscope Series in the near future, so definitely check back soon. Or you can subscribe/ follow me on Bloglovin’ to get automatic updates. If there’s anything in particular you’d like me to write about you’re welcome to mention it here or use the comment box in the “about” section. Thanks again for stoping by! -xo, Trisha

  3. Jenna-Marie
    October 31, 2016 / 10:23 pm

    Hi, Im Jenna-Marie! I just found out about your blog and Med Series😁 Since Im planning to be a doctor(pediactrician, specializing in:skin) also I wanted tell you that Id be adding into the minoriry of Black doctors☺ ALL your tips are so helpful! And with picking schools and everything! Odd enough I even took weather into consideration when picking which med school I was passionate about-i love the school’s location weather. However Med school is 4 years away for me😂😅😂but its sooooo interesting reading about others experiences😍😍😍🏥🏥🏥

    • November 1, 2016 / 7:38 am

      Hi Jenna-Marie! Thank you so much for stopping by and for leaving a comment! I’m so glad that my tips are helpful 🙂 And yes when making a list consider all the factors that may influence your well-being (weather included lol). Of course when it comes down to making a choice you can prioritize which factors are the most important to you. It’s okay that med school is 4 years away… it’s never too early to start thinking and planning! My biggest advice to you is to try to keep your GPA as high as possible and to ensure you do as well as possible in your pre-med courses (they calculate the pre-med GPA made of science and math courses separately along with a total GPA for your application). Good luck and thank you again for reading! We need more black doctors (especially black female doctors). ALso I was definitely interested in pediatric dermatology at some point too… Great minds think alike lol. I’m getting back into blogging regularly (~2x/ week) so I hope that you find more useful posts from my blog <3 xo, Trisha

  4. Erica
    December 29, 2016 / 3:46 pm

    I’m a Med student in Ghana, Africa… And Ur post has really been helpful

    • December 29, 2016 / 6:48 pm

      Thanks so much Erica! I’m glad I was able to help! Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to see on the blog for medical students! -Trisha 🙂

  5. Jenny
    September 11, 2017 / 9:24 am

    I am currently a first year medical student and I loved your post. I too am a paper person, so I was wondering how often you print your notes and have them spiral bound? Thanks!

    • September 11, 2017 / 12:32 pm

      I didn’t always do it during first year but by year 2, I did it for almost every block. I like having my notes in one place so I would wait until the end of the block to get my notes bound. However one of my classmates bound her notes weekly every Friday. It’s completely up to you! 🙂

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