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The 10 Best Study Tips for Medical Students to Succeed in Medical School

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by Yousmle Staff in Top 10

You will come across many exams and projects while in medical school. The three steps of the USMLE are the most important exams you’ll complete. You might also complete more open-ended exams like oral exams where you write an essay on a specific topic. Practical exams where you’ll illustrate your clinical skills and how well you can assess patients will also be a part of your work. Final exams at the end of a course are also challenging, as they are comprehensive over everything you’ve studied.

You can succeed in any exam you take while in med school if you study well. But studying entails more than reviewing your notes and everything you’ve learned during the year. It also involves knowing how to manage your content.

We have found ten helpful tips you can use when studying in medical school. These tips will help you manage your knowledge better while improving your chances of succeeding in your tests. Many of these tips involve knowing how to organize your content, while others relate to strategies necessary for helping you thrive.

1. Use spaced repetition when reviewing your content.

Reviewing your studies and notes is critical, but you also have to space everything out. Spaced repetition can help you remember things better.

Spaced repetition, such as Anki, involves retrieving memories many times while progressively spacing those points out over a few weeks or months. You can revisit what you’ve learned after a few days and space out the time you spend reviewing it after you get the hang of what you understand. You’ll keep adding more time between sessions, eventually getting to where your memory of something will be easier to recall for your exam.

The timing necessary to make this work will vary by student. You will have more control over your content if you can grasp it well enough the first time. See how Anki and spaced repitition can transform your study strategy and save TONS of time.

2. Think more broadly while studying across topics

Interleaving is one concept to use when studying. Interleaving involves mixing multiple topics in one study session. You can improve your cognitive thinking when you combine different medical topics, as you can create patterns and connections between these segments. You’ll have an easier time recalling your info when you can get more of these thoughts together.

The ability to apply concepts is one of the most important skills for the USMLE, which is why it is so challenging and makes it different from any test you’ve taken before!

3. Create visual representations of what you’re studying.

You can make better connections with your study content when you create charts, graphs, maps, tables, or other visual representations of your work. You can link different ideas together to figure out what works best. This strategy works well when you’re managing extensive amounts of data on one topic and trying to differentiate between concepts.

4. Join a study group.

It’s often easier to recall and remember content when you have someone else to help. You can join a study group at your school to help you learn more about your work and share notes and ideas with other students. You can discuss these points with your classmates and feel more encouraged and ready to manage the content. You can also clear up doubts about other bits of content.

The partnerships you make with other students can be the best parts of these study groups. You can feel more confident when you have others there to help you study.

5. Write more things down while organizing everything.

Writing down what you learn and find critical can help you recognize what’s essential for your exam. You can write as many things about your studies as necessary, but look at how well you’re organizing the content. You can arrange your content based on subject matter, procedure, or anything else you wish to analyze. Keeping your notes in check while knowing how they work will be vital to helping you go further with your studies.

6. Mnemonics can also help you recall things.

While not always a great tool to rely on, mnemonics are helpful in how they help simplify different concepts. The “Roy G. Biv” mnemonic is a good example, as that covers the seven colors of the rainbow from one end to the other. You can create other things of interest as long as they relate to what you are studying.

You can create mnemonics out of anything you find, but the content should be simple enough to where everything can connect in some way. The items in your mnemonic should also make sense.

7. Listening to audio recordings can also work.

Audio recordings can also be useful if you’re trying to recall what you learn. Sometimes people might learn a little better from audio recordings of lectures or reports on the subject matter. You can find many recordings about medical topics online, plus your instructors might upload their lectures online for students to review at any point.

Listening to what you need to remember can help you recall things well, since you’re focusing on that one point and not on several things like what a single textbook might cover. Make sure you consider this step if you’re trying to focus on precise concepts.

8. Check on practice exams.

Practice exams are among the most useful resources for your studies. A practice exam on something like Step 1 can help you review content that may appear on an exam. You can test yourself to see how well you understand the content.

But not all practice exams are alike. Look for an exam that provides explanations for the correct and incorrect answers. You can use these details to understand why something is right or wrong, thus providing more review details you can utilize.

Be sure the content in the exam you read is also updated. Many exam review books offer new editions yearly with unique content based on industry changes.

9. Getting enough sleep is essential.

Sleeping might not sound like a study tip, but it’s a vital one. When you get seven or more hours of sleep a night, you’ll improve how well you can recall information. Your brain will be sharp and less sluggish, helping you identify data sooner.

10. Talk with your instructor for help.

The last thing you can do when studying is to talk with your instructors if you have further questions about the subject matter. Sometimes there might be one topic that you’re hung up on, and you don’t understand it much. Talking with your instructor about this point can help, as you can learn a little more about something of value.

Your instructor will probably have office hours where you can communicate with that person as necessary. Having a one-on-one conversation with your instructor during those hours can help, but you might have to schedule an appointment first.

A Final Word

These are tips you can use when studying in medical school, but they are also important for your whole medical career. Studying is vital for your success, but knowing how to study the right way is even more important than you may recognize. Make sure you look at how you’re studying and that you have a smart plan ready for how you will recall what you’ve learned. You may find everything you study to be easier to follow than you expect. 

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Want FREE Cardiology Flashcards?

Cardiology is key for impressive USMLE scores. Master cardiology from a Harvard-trained anesthesiologist who scored USMLE 270 with these 130+ high-yield flash cards. You’ll be begging for cardio questions - even if vitals make you queasy.