Over the years, I’ve had to change my study habits many times. In high school, I hardly had to study in order to get straight A’s (why couldn’t I have kept this up!?). I could do well on tests just by paying attention in class. I didn’t start essays until the day before they were due. Now that I think about it, I wasn’t all that hard of a worker. Things came pretty naturally to me, and I can’t believe how lucky I was.
When I got to college, things changed. I had to adjust to different professors’ teaching styles and be more of an independent learner. I couldn’t just glance over a few pages of notes and be ready for an exam. Eventually I adapted a pretty simple and effective studying/work style for myself:
- Complete the assignments
- Start papers/lab reports ahead of time
- Start studying for exams a week in advance
- Go to extra help, review sessions, office hours when needed
Once I developed my new style of learning, things went pretty smoothly. Don’t get me wrong, I had my fair share of all-nighters and stress induced breakdowns but most of the time I was able to maintain a pretty balanced life.
Fast forward a few years to medical school and once again, I’m re-learning how to learn. The tactics I used in college just aren’t cutting it. Medical school is nothing like undergrad in that it’s about 100 times more volume. It’s not hard (a lot of the material I’m learning is not entirely new, just building upon foundational sciences), but it’s A LOT. I was taught half a semester’s worth of undergrad genetics in three 50-minute medical school lectures. I’ve already dissected a cadaver’s superficial and deep back, thorax, and abdomen along with all the muscles, organs, vessels, and nerves that they contain. I need a mnemonic to keep track of all the mnemonics! It’s been said time and time again, but going to medical school really is like trying to drink water from a fire hydrant.
After surviving my first week of exams, I definitely see some room for improvement. I definitely need to start studying in the anatomy lab more often and previewing/reviewing new material each and every day. I also thought my time management skills were pretty good, but apparently not. In the week leading up to my exams, I found myself cramming, stressing out about cramming, and ultimately not being as prepared as I could have been.
Like I said, medical school is not difficult (so far… knock on wood!). It just takes an extreme amount of commitment and time. Now that I’ve experienced the sheer panic and distress of studying for my first comprehensive exam, I’m so much more motivated to work even harder. It feels good to know that I’ve made it this far in my journey to becoming a physician, and the only thing that can hold me back is me.