Archive for October, 2010

Path of least resistance

October 28, 2010

or “How to easily climb a hill”…

I have been climbing hills the wrong way. I’ve been trying to sprint up the highest points because that path looked the quickest, but it ends up being in full sun where I get horribly sunburnt and out of breath in no time with a hideous red face (uh, hills in this case being exams).

No more.

It seems paradoxical that the ‘easy’ path of least resistance is to study every day but it is. There is less stress. I’m not trying to cram things. By taking time to try and understand each concept I’m no longer having anxiety-filled sleepless nights. Its taking longer and requiring more rest stops, but its nicer. Climbing the hill, slowly and steadily but without breaking into a sweat.

Although that’s not to say I look beautifully calm and peaceful.

Au contraire.
I look homeless.
(But maybe leaning towards a homeless buddhist…)

The lightbulb moment

October 25, 2010

I recently had a change of study technique. My study methods up until now have been blatantly copying other students. I’m that chick who accosts you in the library and says “soooo what are you doing with that highlighter there, aye? ahhh you highlight your notes, huh? cool…”

I used flashcards because I saw someone doing it. I used a folder with tabs and bound notes because I saw someone do it. I handwrote my notes because someone told me it sticks better in your brain when you’re forced to write it (It kind of does, especially if you’re a fast typist). I bought books that people even half heartedly recommended.

But I still borderlined failed the neuro/psych/msk exam. Which made me cry. In a heap. In the shower. A lot. I was so down about it and felt like there was nothing I could do, because clearly my brain didn’t work the same way that other people’s did, as they all read the questions correctly and I was still reading them a completely different way. And forgetting stuff that I’d known when we did it in PBL.

But then in one moment the emo clouds disappeared and I realised that just because I was going through the motions of ‘studying’ like my friends it didn’t mean that I knew what I was doing. So, I googled “How to learn medicine”. Which is almost full circle from when I googled “how to get into medicine” in early 2008. I couldn’t believe it took THIS long for it to occur to me to actually research how you acquire large volumes of knowledge. Psychologists STUDY that kind of shit and here I was thinking I could just, like, do it by watching other people and buying some pretty stationary?

The results were amazing. On an overseas med student forum I found this gold:

To be a good student, the intangibles are required: work-ethic, dedication, and self-confidence.

However, in medical school, you will discover that almost everyone has that. The filtering process of undergraduate has removed most of those that lacked these intangibles. At this point it comes down to study method. The students who have the best methods are called geniuses. The students who have the worst methods flunk out or barely pass.

Good study method comes down to just a few things.

  1. You must understand the material by translating it in your own language.
  2. You must then review the material over and over again.
  3. You need to see the material at least 4 times with an optimum of at least 6 times.
  4. And finally, you need to review over several days.”

The most common mistakes made by medical students

1. Over-simplifying the material

2. Just reading and rereading the material. You must make your own notes in your own words and your own diagrams

3. Don’t review the material the week before the test. You must do it over the whole block.

Once I tentatively talked to a few people about it, it turns out a lot of students do this. Make sure they review a topic once every day for a few days to get it to stick. I’d just been reading it once, then waiting until study week (because that’s when you study, right?) and “reviewing” it and wondering why I wasn’t remembering stuff.


But now through trial and error I know what works for me. I think.

1. Pre-reading before a lecture.

2. Reading immediately after a lecture.

3. Writing in my owns word, turning the concept into a dirty story/poem or a song.

4. Painting and drawing for anatomy

5. Typing during a lecture, then reading over it to edit the grammar, then reading again to format the document. So by the end I’ve read the notes three times and have an easy to read formatted document.

6. writing one page per concept in a book. then condense hard to remember stuff on flashcards.

I hope this works. We’ll find out in three weeks.

Putting in the hours.

October 25, 2010

A pearl of wisdom found in this post from “The long road to medical school”

there is this myth that you have to be “smart” to do well in hard science classes. The truth is that they just require more solid knowledge and practice than social science/humanities classes and leave very little room for BS. But in the end, I think hard science classes are easier in a way because you won’t get a B+ if your professor disagrees with your interpretation of the text. You either know the material or you don’t, and that is completely within your control.


You just have to put in the hours.

I haven’t been posting much because I’ve been putting in the hours. Neuro, psych and musculoskeletal hit me for six. Despite putting in the hours I had to sit a supp.

So, I put in more hours.

(passed the supp)

Now, we have three weeks until our last exams for the year. There is a computer chair in the library with the exact impression of my butt from the hours I’ve been putting in.

Last year I had no concept of the hours required to learn this volume of information.I think emotions and a sense of entitlement to some form of creative-god-given-freedom hindered my ability to be a solid studier last year. I would get upset about the idea of spending all weekend in the library. It was unthinkable. Torture. A huge sacrifice.

I even printed off Albert Einstein’s quote “Never regard study as a duty, but as an enviable opportunity to learn” in an attempt to boost my productivity. But it was only recently that I “got” it. It isn’t a duty at all. It is awesome to study this stuff. It’s amazing I was able to dissect a body part this semester. It’s incredible that in two years this “torture” and “sacrifice” has turned me  from someone who couldn’t stand blood into someone who strokes non-med friend’s hands at dinner and says hypnotically “you have great veins…I’d really like to practice cannulation on veins like that”

Last year I was fearful of exams, anxious about results and full of self doubt. I felt like I’d scraped through to second year without deserving it. This year with this weird enthusiasm that’s started to bubble up, I feel like I want to put in more. Study more. Spend weekends reviewing. It makes me feel a little more in control and less likely to periodically fall in a heap.

I just can’t believe it took nearly two years to realise what my mum has been telling me for years.

Just go to the library. And then study. Repeat.