Remembering how to study- 10 tips

Can one forget how to study?

Its slowly coming back to me, but my brain feels as if its done 1000 push-ups.  I feel like I’m stu-DYING. How did I pass Med school?

10 Tips which help me get back into studying:

1. Sit upright at a table with good lighting.  (At Varsity I used to be able to lie on my bed, lie next to the pool, sit on an exercise ball and be a passenger in a car while studying- this does not work for me anymore.  I have tried. If I lie on the coach within 2 pages an overwhelmingly irresistible need to sleep comes upon me.  I think if your brain is well trained and in “study mode” it is probably easier to concentrate anywhere.)

2. Know what you need to study.  Ask people who have done the same exam as you what is important.  Have a general idea of what you are studying before you start.  You need to know what you need to know. (if that makes sense?) For example for the exam I’m writing I know I need to basically know everything in “Textbook of Psychiatry for SA”, Pharmacology of anti-psychotics and anti-depressants is important and I need to know about the Mental Health Act.  Although I don’t know details yet, I know what I will need to know.

3. Do Past Exam Papers.  (If they are available) These will give you an idea how the questions are asked.

4. Become actively involved.  Highlight while reading, write down important things, draw pictures and diagrams, use colour to make the pages look less boring.  This stops the mind from wandering and helps to stay focused.  Ask questions- ask your professor,your teacher or colleagues.  Try to really understand your work instead of just memorizing it. Also, tell other people about what you are studying- even if they are in a totally different field. (If they are willing to listen!)  My Quantity Surveyor husband has heard so much about medicine and psychiatry he could open his own practice!

5. 45 min – 1 hour sessions.  It is difficult to concentrate for much longer.  I have a chart/piece of paper on which I give myself a “tick” for every session done. (Sort of like a star chart for a good child)  Seeing the number of ticks makes me feel better because I can see how much I have done and then not feel so guilty to take some time off.  For my final medical exams (those were tough times) I limited myself to 8 ticks a day.  This kept me sane. There was so much work one could study non-stop.

6. Breaks between sessions – make food, eat, go for a jog, do sit-ups, push-ups, do stuff on your “To Do” list.  Before studying I make a quick “to do” list otherwise I think about these things while I’m studying.  If I do think about something I need to do while studying I add it to the list.  Avoid becoming too distracted during your break- going on 9 Gag or Facebook during a short break might end up being a very long break if you don’t have the self-control.  I usually take a 15 min break between 2 sessions, then my next break might be a bit longer.

7. Snacks while studying–  I like having fruit, carrots, nuts, popcorn, chewing gum and yoghurt.  These are healthy snacks that I have between study sessions and meals.  I also drink lots of water.  I love chocolate and junk food but too much is not good for the brain and sustaining energy levels.  Having food in the house is a good idea- so you don’t need to spend time buying food.

8. Music – I sometimes put the radio on softly so that I can hear the music but not hear the presenters speaking.  Background noise does not bother me too much so I can listen to almost any music.  But I think for most other people instrumental music is best.

9.Summarize– Its good to make summaries well in advance so that the day before the time it is easier to read through your summaries.  If you have left everything to the last day-it makes it more difficult! Then maybe try get your hands on someone else’s summaries…

10. Balanced Lifestyle – Healthy eating, enough exercise, some socializing and enough sleep will help that you don’t get totally exhausted from studying.  What is really difficult for me is working full time and trying to study!  How do people do it?? One needs to have very good Time Management skills and self-discipline.  When I get home from work I’m so tired but need to force myself to at least do 1 session of studying.  It’s tough- so one needs to focus on the goal!



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4 Responses to Remembering how to study- 10 tips

  1. martindevink says:

    Hi Janny! Thanks for the useful tips! Especially number 1,2&4 will be really applicable to me. I like the practical applications you gave in tip 4. Do you think making diagrams, drawing picuters, etc. are useful for all courses or just some specific courses/subjects? In my mind motivation is also a really important thing to learn more efficiently. I’ve written a blog about it (see link below). And I provided in some more tips as well. What do you think about motivation? Important or isn’t it necessary?

    I’d like to hear your opinion!:)

  2. GREAT advice! I’m studying for my primaries now and I actually think I have forgotten how to study. Your post has helped to motivate me again!

    • jam says:

      Eish, when I was studying for my diploma I had to write that to help motivate myself! I had no idea how I got through med school! All the best for your primaries! Urology?surgery?

      • Ja, for someone who despises studying as much as I do I really didn’t choose the best profession. I’m going to do my primaries in Surgery, the urology primaries might help later along the line but are complete overkill for now, way too much work

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