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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Black = regular information/ text
- Red = inhibition or anything that cancels out something else
- Green = anything that enhances or stimulates something
- 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
- Pink = key information
- 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!