Strategies and Study Tips for Medical Students from TrueLearn Academic Success
The transition into medical school can be challenging in many areas particularly in academics. Many students apply study tips and strategies used during undergrad and find it difficult to retain the amount of content presented in the curriculum. While there are similarities in how material is delivered, the expectation is for students to take the knowledge and apply it to various ways. Additionally, the curriculum builds upon each other meaning you will likely draw from material you learned in your first course in your first year of medical school and apply it to content during your last course of your second year. This expectation urges students to shift the rote memorization technique that was often the all nighters or cram sessions to more active learning techniques such as testing and peer teaching.
Study Strategies from TrueLearn Academic Success
Keep in mind that strategies are specific to the learner. What works for somebody else, may not necessarily work for you. Review, try, and stick with what works for you. Remember that learning requires memory to be useful and it is an acquired skill that sometimes may seem counterintuitive at times.
Here are the top 5 study strategies to get you started:
1. Practice Retrieval
Practice retrieval is the most powerful learning tool. It is the act of trying to recall information without having it in front of you. The mental effort of recalling information strengthens your memory. Some examples include testing, free writing, reflection, mind maps, and brain dumps. Often, students re-read or highlight texts and while this may feel like you are retaining information, the benefits do not always last over the long term.
TrueLearn Challenge: After your next didactic, write 3-5 board style questions related to what you just learned. Pass it to a peer to test what they have retained.
2. Spaced Practice
Also known as spatial repetition, is the process of consolidating information over a period of time. This process usually unfolds over hours or several days. The use of spaced repetition has been proven to increase the rate of learning. Because retention decays over time, interrupting that decline (a.k.a. “The Forgetting Curve”) through repeated exposure solidifies memory mastery. TrueLearn Activity: One way to include spaced practice into your studying is through Interleaving. Unlike massed practice, interleaving or mixing up the material/topics you are studying can feel slow, but the mastery and long-term retention are much stronger. In your next TrueLearn test, select categories from the last 3 courses you have completed.
TrueLearn Challenge: Incorporate 1-2 days of testing that combine several weaker topic areas and track your progress.
3. Illusion of Knowing
An important concept to be mindful of is, repeated exposure may make material feel familiar despite actually learning the material. This Illusion of Competency, can cause learners to feel overly confident and confuse memorized vs learned knowledge. To combat this illusion, learners must develop an awareness and understanding through metacognition. Learn to calibrate this gauge to become a self-regulated learner!
TrueLearn Challenge: Before beginning your next test, estimate how well you will do. Then take the test and before you see your score, estimate how well you did after seeing the questions. Then compare your estimations and your actual results. This will push you to study much more efficiently.
4. Desired Difficulty
When learning is harder, your memory is stronger and lasts longer. Making learning too easy and straightforward can cause a misleading boost in retrieval strength or an “illusion of competency”. Have you ever found yourself saying, “this is hard” and assuming you are not learning the material? Don’t give up! The effort into using practice retrieval strategies (e.g., quizzing, teaching, writing) will produce greater long term learning gains by making information much more accessible.
TrueLearn Challenge: Write down topics that you have identified as difficult. With half of those topics, create a TrueLearn Timed test and with the other half, review lecture material. In 3-5 days, create a test with all the topics and see which you remember.
An important component of metacognition. Feedback includes information about whether you got something correct or incorrect. The more elaborate the feedback, the better. Use feedback to help make studying and learning more efficient. It is very common to want to review the feedback immediately after you take the test; however, there is a growing body of research that suggests delayed feedback plays a part in long-term retention.
TrueLearn Challenge: Reflect on this question: How are you using the feedback? Is it to understand why you are getting it right OR wrong which can refine your metacognition (or your ability to pinpoint what you know or do not know) or is reviewing feedback to learn the material.
Using these strategies will increase the likelihood that you will successfully retain information and be successful during your next exam, and more importantly, become a more efficient and effective lifelong learner.
Top 8 Studying Myths Debunked, Plus Tips for What You Should Do
Let’s examine some of the most popular myths about studying and learn how to develop better study habits.
1. Re-reading and Highlighting
The most common method to study. Research shows that this is relatively ineffective. Passively reading the same text may be helpful if spaced out but could also be detrimental if the wrong information is selected.
Did you know? TrueLearn bolds keywords within the answer explanations to highlight important topics to review.
2. Learning Styles
There is little to no evidence to support the idea that matching the instructional method to a learning style is more effective.
Did you know? TrueLearn provides robust answer explanations and increasing tables and images to solidify the important concepts.
3. The 10,000 Hour Rule
Unfortunately, there is no magic number of hours that will turn you into an expert. Studies found that deliberate practice is the best predictor of success in specific fields.
Did you know? Applying effective study strategies throughout your education will help you study smarter and not harder. Utilizing features like SmartCards, SmartTexts, and SmartAnalytics will aid in focusing your study time and assist with integrating your learning into your schedule.
4. Go with your Gut
Reconsider this theory as research shows, on average, people who change their answers score higher on tests than those who don’t. This is especially true as you become more metacognitive, or aware of your own competency. Turn your intuition into knowledge.
Did you know? After taking TrueLearn tests, review the responses where you changed your answers. Did you get more correct or incorrect? What made you doubt your choice?
5. Intelligence is Fixed
Carol Dweck, PhD, Psychology Professor at Stanford University, shows that our beliefs about intelligence can actually affect our effort, and in turn, our performance. A “growth mindset”, on the other hand, thrives on challenges and sees failures as opportunities to build upon. Believe in yourself and turn learning into a passion.
Did you know? A great way to empower yourself is by adding the word “yet” on the end of thoughts where you use the word “can’t”. For example, “I am not a great standardized test taker…yet.” “Yet” brings hope and ignites a more positive growth mindset.
6. Shortcuts to Learning
Despite learning fads like brain training games and exercises, learning is and will always be a process. It requires time and effort. Researchers have found that participants who engaged in brain-training games showed improvements in IQ, but only if they believed the games would benefit them. The effects of these games seem less to do with the content, and more to do with what users tell themselves will happen after the session.
Did you know? Reviewing correct and incorrect feedback is beneficial to long term memory. If you are short on time, review the list of questions in TrueLearn’s Recently Incorrect Topics to interrupt that forgetting curve!
7. Planning is a waste of time
Build a disciplined approach to avoid cramming and stress. Studies have demonstrated that self-discipline is key to academic success. Learners with high self-discipline generally outperform those with low self-discipline – even if they are all of the same intellectual ability. Utilize a study schedule or workbook by outlining a realistic approach specific to how you study best.
Did you know? Track your progress across multiple dimensions to determine broad and specific areas of strengths and weaknesses.
8. Memorize Enough to Pass
Cramming is a trade-off; you trade a strong memory now for weak memory later. Learners who spend hours memorizing as much of the material as possible in a short period of time, will struggle with recalling the information. Deeper learning occurs when effort is applied; however, do not equate effort with stress. Stress has a negative effect on concentration which impacts learning and focus. Say farewell to late night cram sessions and set a realistic study schedule to space out your studying and balance your well-being.
Did you know? Snoozing strengthens memories and helps link memories to earlier ones. Research suggests that the lack of sleep can cut learning ability by up to 40% and memories won’t be strengthened with 4 hours or less of nighttime sleep. Test, review, and sleep on it!