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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Feedback: 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.