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-Study Method Part I: What it takes to be an Excellent Student:

In a very basic sense, we all learn the same. We must understand the
material and then see it over and over again. In undergraduate, because of
the low volume of learning, a person can get away with all sorts of
weaknesses. However, the best students will often not have to alter their
study methods at all for medical school.
To be a good student, the intangibles are required: workethic, dedication,
and selfconfidence. 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.
!t 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.
"et this in your mind and keep it there: It is the study method that makes
the good student###
$ow, one last important point, it is most important that one reali%es that
every good study method comes down to &ust a few things. 'ou must
understand the material by translating it in your own language. 'ou must
then review the material over and over again. 'ou need to see the material
at least ( times with an optimum of at least ) times. !nd finally, you need
to review over several days. That is the best way to do it. When methods
have these simple points in them, they are good methods.
-Study Method Part II: 3 Most Common Mistakes by Medical Students:
*lease note: premed students make many of the same mistakes..
+st $, $,: -on.t oversimplify the material.. now had the chance to watch many students flunk out. /very single
one of them gave the same response. 0Well, the material was easy to
understand. It.s &ust the volume of information.1 Wrong, Wrong, Wrong2
The few times that I spoke to a student about this, I would ask them
questions about the material that they understood. !gain and again, I
would notice a superficial memori%ation process in their answers. This is
why they were overwhelmed on the questions. 3edical school and 4536/
test questions are conceptual. 'ou don.t get that many memori%ation
gimmies. 'ou need to understand the material and manipulate it in your
mind. 4nderstanding the material is not easy. It takes effort, but it is a
rewarding endeavor.
7nd $, $,: -on8t &ust read and reread the material. 'ou must take your
own notes.. seen this countless times. In almost every case the student who did
this was failing. ! good student takes their own notes and transcribes
things into their own words. This is critical because you are translating the
notes into a language that you understand. 5tudents who don.t do this will
end up failing. This is basic study strategy and it must be done.
9rd $, $,: -on.t start to review the material on the day before the test.
5tudent who are doing bad are often as tired as they can be. They stay up
all night before the test slaving. They put in incredible +: and +; hour
study days on the day before a test.. 'et they still do bad. 'ou have to
understand that the mind is a muscle in many ways. 'ou can.t work it for
+: hours straight. <eview needs to start wellbefore the day before the
test. "ive those concepts time to become entrenched within your mind. In
undergraduate, you can get away with not doing this. In medical school, it.s
a very bad idea. <emember, medical school is like the pros. 'ou need to
be better. ! good method has review built into it, such as the method that I
will present.
-How to Preiew a Method:
=inally, here is an overview of one study method that will work in medical
school. /n&oy. 6et.s begin. This method will address every defiency that
medical students make.
+st: 'ou must preview a lecture. 'ou can count this as the first time that
you seen the material. "o here for how to preview a lecture:
>efore every lecture, I preview the material. $ow, I should e?plain where
most medical students go wrong where I went wrong. *reviewing the
material 5H,46- not involve reading it for 7 hours# That is 6/!<$I$" the
*reviewing involves creating a roadmap in your head. 'ou need to develop
a feel for where the lecture is going. This will remarkably increase
comprehension. There are two methods for doing this:
3ethod +: : 5entence *rocess,riented 3ethod
6ook over the lecture. Write : general sentences e?plaining the lecture.
The : sentences need to relate as a process. 3ake sure that you leave
plenty of space between each point. The goal is to come back and fill in
the details under those : points. !lways be aware that the main point of
this is to create a roadmap in your head. 'ou need to have a feel for where
the lecture is going. Within time, you will be able to do this in a few
minutes. *lease remember that you don.t need to learn the lecture during
the preview phase# 'ou &ust need to develop a feel for where it is going.
3ethod 7: : 5entence @uestion,riented 3ethod
6ook over the lecture. Write : general questions that you have about the
lecture. The : questions need to cover multiple aspects of the lecture.
3ake sure that you leave plenty of space between each question. The goal
is to come back and fill in the answers under those questions. !gain, be
aware that the main point of this is to create a roadmap in your head. 'ou
need to have a feel for where the lecture is going. Within time, you will be
able to preview within a few minutes. *lease remember that you don.t
need to learn the lecture during the preview phase# 'ou &ust need to
develop a feel for where it is going.
$ow, let.s do a brief tab. 5o far, you have seen the material one time for
preview. 'ou only went over it for a few minutes, but those were an
essential few minutes as you will now come to see.
-!ettin" Somethin" #ut o$ %ecture: the &ctual %ecture Itsel$:
This part is relatively simple if you engaged in the previewing method.
'ou need to bring your : or +A sentence list to class. !s the professor
lectures, check each point that you feel the professor has covered as the
professor lectures over it. 'ou may still take notes on another sheet of
paper. >ut use the Bchecklist.B It takes two seconds to check a sentence.
Whenever the professor has not touched something, put a question mark
by it.
4se the question mark if you donCt understand something also. Write it
down and then put a question mark by it.
I3*,<T!$T: it is e?tremely important that you put a question mark by
anything that you donCt understand and I33/-I!T/6' see the professor
about it#
$ow, after class is over or during class, ask questions about everything
that you donCt understand. -onCt be embarassed. Dust tell the professor
that you didnCt understand it.
-erivation 7: Write down each point that you don.t understand on a
separate sheet of paper. "o see the *rofessor about it.
$ow, there is a *art II to getting something out of lecture. If the professor
initally e?plains something and you still donCt understand it go to the
professor8s office hours. !sk the professor to e?plain it again while politely
telling him or her that you didnCt get it. If you still donCt understand it, ask
the professor again but this time try to be more specific in determining
what aspect of the professors e?planation is causing problems.
If you donCt understand it for a third time, go home.. pull out a book. <ead
it. Eome back the ne?t day and ask the professor to e?plain it again. 'ou
will most likely get it.
It is important to understand that you can still do well in medical school
without going to lecture. It.s &ust that you will have to study a lot longer and
harder than if you learn how to retain information from lecture. It.s
advantageous to use a proven method, such as this one, that will help you
utili%e things like lectures.
I3*,<T!$T ,*TI,$!6 -/<IF!TI,$: 3any learning psyschologist
maintain that you should do an additional step. 'ou should take +A+G
minutes immediately after the lecture to reread the material. I will
personally do this, but it is optional. 5upposedly, studies have shown that it
greatly increases comprehension.
Time for a Tally. 'ou have seen the material one time for *review. 'ou
have also seen the information + time in lecture. That is two times. If you
do the ,ptional -erivation, then you have seen the material 9 times# >ut
lets assume that you don.t do the optional derivation. ' at two times
right now. It.s time to learn how to cover a lecture..
Coerin" the Material:
$ow, we enter the ne?t stage of learning.
This should be the third time that you see the material within 7( hours
Hpossibly fourthI# When you finish covering the lecture, you should have
everything entered into memory, save a concept or two that you will need
to ask the professor about for clarification.
'ou must learn to become a transcriber. This means that you must get
used to transcribing the notes or books that you have been reading into
your own, concise words.
This needs to be in an organi%ed format. 5omething that naturally flows
within your own mental construct. What.s important is that you learn to
word your notes in a clear, concise fashion.
5econd, and this is e?tremely, e?tremely, e?tremely important. 'ou must
diagram. $ow, you might find yourself copying diagrams and pathways.
That.s okay. 'ou need to do that. >ut challenge yourself to try and create
your own diagrams and drawings also.
The process of learning and memory works like this. 6earning something is
a skill.. That is, you understand something as a process and you are able
to master the process within your mind. !fterwards, you form logical
representations within your mind of various relationships. This is what
enters the information into longterm memory.
' a thinker suddenly. 'our thinking through your information as you
study it. ' finding relationships, and it enters memory. That is the
whole key to learning# 'ou have to form relationships.
Think about this.. What is a mnemonic.. ! mnemonic is simply a
relationship that links words to a simple concept. In essence, you are
forming a primitive relationship of the scientific material so that it enters
memory. $ow, imagine the power of forming your own relationships. 'ou
will remember things longer and faster.
Train yourself how to think through material. 3any medical students never
master that and they pass. >ut they never become e?cellent at mastering
the scientific material. 'ou can, but you have to work hard to learn how to
do this..
$ow, I can e?plain why the diagram and drawing is so important. The
diagram that you make represents interconnecting relationships that you
have made yourself. !t least that is the case when you make your own
diagrams. 4se drawings, use bo?es, use learning trees ect.. Try to
understand the process.
Ehallenge yourself to make at least G diagrams per a lecture at the
beginning. !fter that, you will naturally find how many you need for the
information to enter memory.
=inally, make sure that you understand everything. If there is word that you
don.t know know, look it up# If there is something that you don.t
understand, ask for help. 'ou need to understand these concepts to form
I3*,<T!$T### There is a common question that should be addressed.
*eople often ask how to diagram and how they should ask their questions.
That is a very good question, and it is easy to answer. The best way to
learn how to word your own notes is to look at the professor.s lectures.
Take a look. 'ou will notice plenty of diagrams along with concise,
interconnecting points.
When you get done with covering the material, your information should
look like a lecture that you prepared. Imagine yourself getting ready to
present it in front of the class. Imagine having to answer questions about
the material. That.s the key to covering this stuff.
!fter you finish going through all the trouble to make your own notes, make
sure that you organi%e them in a folder. 'ou will use these for the review
It is time to take a Tally. 'ou have now seen the material 9 times H( times if
you do the optional wayI. 'ou know it HmostlyI.
$ow, it is essential that you review like a madman or manwoman. This is
where the difference between a highpass and honors student takes place.
-'he (eiew Phase:
If you don.t remember anything else, remember this: The <eview *hase
3ust Happen ,ver Time########## 6et me say it again. The <eview *hase
3ust Happen ,ver Time##### The best method of review is to do it over
time, not all in one day.
<eview +: This occurs the day after lecture. 5pend no more than +A+G
minutes reviewing a particular sub&ect each day. >ut there is an art to
reviewing also. 3ost students make the often repeated mistake that I used
to make. They simply scan over the material and call it review.. Hell
This is how you review. <ead over your previous notes J the ones you
made the day before. 'ou.ll be able to do this in about G to +A minutes
after you get a little bit of practice.
However, while doing this, you will need to do something else. 'ou will
need to do something that I haven.t seen mentioned anywhere else on the
web. 'ou need to challenge yourself to add at least G sentences to your
$ow, in these G sentences, you should be able to link concepts to
something else. Write down the relationship in a brief sentence. 'ou will
become so good at this that you will be able to do this in +A minutes.. It is
essential that you link your notes to e?isting concepts within your mind.
This is how things stay in longterm memory.
It.s time for the second review.
7nd <eview.. $ow, you need to see the material a Gth time. This time
spend G minutes skimming over the lecture J mainly looking at the ma&or
points of your concise, diagrammed, lecture notes. Try to add at least 7
sentences to it. It should take no more than G minutes.
!t this point, you are done with the material for one day.. 5o, let.s recap
really quickly.
In review, you spent +A+G minutes going over the previous days lecture.
'ou added G sentences to your previous notes linking them to e?isting
concepts within your mind. -uring the other G minutes Hyou need to spend
7A minutes reviewingI, you went over the material that you reviewed
before J adding 7 sentences to it. ,nce again, you are linking it to an
e?isting concept within your mind. Eoncept building is the key to learning.
,kay, so by now.. ' seen the material G times in K7 hours## '
probably saying enough already.. >ut it is not over yet.
)th.. -uring the weekend, you must do a master review. 'ou need to re
read over all the material that you were given. 'ou can skim through it, but
you need to go over it for around 7 and a half hours. !nd guess what.. 'ou
need to add more sentences. Try to add G to +A sentences over the entire
week of information. This will be the )th time that you see the information.
In fact, spend every weekend reviewing the material for that entire unit##
5o, that you never forget it.
Kth.. =inally, let.s fastfoward. The day before the test. 5pend ( or G hours
reading through all of your concise notes and sentences that you added.
' ready to make close to a +AAL on the test. <eread through the
original lecture notes also.
,ne special note.. 'ou will reali%e that you will see the material multiple,
multiple, multiple times. >ut each time that you see it, you add something
to it. In essence, you never get behind.
$ow, I once had a question that you may have right now. I reali%ed that
you would see the material several times for older information. >ut what
about the new information. <emember, that by the third time that you see
the material, you should know everything. 5o, it will be fresh in your mind
by test time. *lus, you do a master review on the day before the test. 5o,
you will see everything at least ( times. 3ost things, however, you will see
at least K times#
Think about it.. >y K times, you will probably be sick of the material###
-In Summary:
,h, what I would have given for someone to have given this to me before
medical school. *lease remember that there are a variety of different
methods that will work in medical school, but the best methods are the
same. They all involve understanding the material and reviewing it like
cra%y. 5eeing the information multiple times is the key.
!s an afternote, I am including two other methods that I have seen
successful students use. I want to emphasi%e that the method that I gave
is very good. It.s turned many poor students into top students. It.s turned
good students into better students. >ut, it.s good to see other methods.
$otice one common thing. !ll of the good methods involve the same basic
principle. 'ou must understand the material and then see it over and over
Here is a footnote that allows you to examine two additional
methods. I wrote these on my blogs. I'm copying and pasting
them as the final part of the guide. Examine these methods and
notice what they have in common. This will help you greatly.
Now I wanted to tal! about the top student in our class. He
scored close to "##$ in both %natomy and &iochemistry. I've
discussed the situation with failing students enough. It's
important to see what students do who are on the other side --
the side that everyone wants to be on.
He never did brag. He's actually a very nice guy. His methods
were almost perfect when it came to studying.
'ithin time other students reali(ed that he really !new what he
was doing. )oon they began to follow him. 'hen he changed
study places they changed to where he was studying. 'hile he
was studying they sat next to him. They followed him li!e
chic!ens attached to a rooster. *ou'll notice that humans exhibit
a remar!able herd instinct. +edical school is no different. 'hen
the true alpha-student emerges many students will follow that
student in an ama(ingly subservient way.
+y purpose in discussing the top student is to tell what made him
the top student in the class and how he became that way..
)tudents called him a genius. They were ama(ed. &ut I noticed
more within time.. He had perfectionate study methods with only
a couple of wea!nesses that I could see.
Here is what he did.
,review- He read the chapter before every lecture or unit ta!ing
notes and diagramming things.
.ecture- He then went to lecture ma!ing sure to ta!e perfect
)tudy )ession- %fterwards he reviewed the lecture for that
night. 'ithin the next two days he would go see the professor
about anything that he was unclear on. He would see the
professors at least / times a wee! in both %natomy and
&iochemistry. %lso he made his own notes being careful to draw
out and diagram everything. He also wrote down any 0uestions
that he had on a seperate sheet of paper. He would then go into
the professor's office with those 0uestions.
1eview"- He always reviewed what he covered the previous day.
1eview2- He always reviewed what he covered for the wee! on
that wee!end..
1eview /- He always did a master review on the day before the
3verall he made sure that he seen the material at least 4 or 5
times before the test. )ome material he seen 6 or 7 times.
The method wor!ed ama(ingly. He was the top student in the
class overall for the first semester. The students who attempted
to sponge off him never tried to figure out what he was doing.
They simply thought that by staying around him they would
become a top student also.
He had not ta!en the sub8ects previously also. He 8ust had very
good methods. 3verall I did wonder how he developed these
methods on his own. There was a part of me that wondered how
he learned this on his own. I had to be taught how to study.
&ut I noticed something else. He did the same thing that all
honor's students do. The difference between an honor's student
and a high passing student is how many times a person sees the
9irst you have to understand the material. +any medical
students never get past this. It ta!es effort to truly understand
this stuff. 3nce you understand it you have to see it over and
over again. That's the secret with high volume learning.
3!ay I want to give you one more method so that you can see
the similarities. I've told you that all the honors students use
very similar methods. 'hen you loo! at them they are all the
same.. ". :nderstand the material 2. )ee it over and over again..
Everything should be seen at least 4 times. 3!ay here is another
method demonstrated by a 5th semester honor's student here.
%ctually she was one of the top students in the class and was
!ic!ing tail all over the practice :)+.E's on the ;aplan review
". ,review- )he loo!ed over every lecture for a few minutes
before going to class.
2. .ecture- )he came to every lecture ta!ing notes on things
that she didn't understand.
/. )tudy )ession- He made her own notes and diagrammed
everything. )he went to the professors and as!ed for help on
things that she did not understand. &ut there was an interesting
derivation on her end. )he made sure that she covered all of the
material at least / days before the test. )o she was actually
ahead of the pace of the lecture.
1eview"- with / days before test she would spend the study
session reviewing all of the material. )he had seen it all in one
session. )he would also ma!e sure that she understood
1eview 2- with 2 days before the test she would do another
master review. %gain she would review all of the material.
1eview /- 3n the day before the test she did her final master
Test- )he nearly aced every one of them.
:nder her method all material was seen at least < times. " time
for preview " time for lecture " time for study session and /
times for review=
'hat's important is that you again notice that the top students
have remar!ably similar study methods. They all see the material
over and over again.

Now there is one exception. The students who have already
ta!en the material can avoid this. &ut still even they are not
really exception. They also have seen the material many many
times. They 8ust saw it in a previous lecture. +any of those
students do very bad when they reach courses that they haven't
)o what was my reason for writing this post.. 'ell I've tal!ed in
depth about what the students did who failed. It's also important
to see what the students did who honored their classes. *ou need
to learn how to review 0uic!ly and efficiently to be good at
medical school. *ou need to strive to see the material at least 4
times with an average of < times for a lecture being ideal. %nd
you need to see! help on anything that you don't understand.
That's the !ey to it all.
Question: )o as I'm transcribing the notes should I be trying to do it
from memory after I've read a section> 3r 8ust re-organi(ing it as I
read along ?i.e. not from memory@. This is where I'm confused. %m I
memori(ing along the way or not>
I used to study with notecards but it didn't stic! long term. %re you
saying that the act of transcribing and reviewing over time is what
gets it stuc! in the mind> %nd that you don't actually memori(e the
info per se> I really want to get this. 9orgive me if I'm a little slow=
Answer: To answer the 0uestions-
Ahmd2b as!ed a wonderful 0uestion. Transcribe as you go along.
Bon't try to transcribe from memory. Transcribe as if you are
preparing to give a presentation. Imagine that someone will be loo!ing
at your notes and as!ing you 0uestions. This is where your speed will
develop.. Transcribe to understand not memori(e.
Now a funny thing will open. %fter you finish transcribing you will
notice that you are able to recall a certain percentage of your notes. It
will ama(e you because it will seem li!e you weren't even trying to
memori(e. Buring the next day you will review over the notes that
you made. *ou will be able to recall even more of the lecture. Buring
the next day you will review over those notes that you made again.
This time you will feel li!e you !now nearly everything if not
The review is where everything enters into memory. .i!ewise this is
where speed develops. If you transcribe your notes as if you are trying
to memori(e them it will be slow. It will ta!e lots of time. If you
transcribe your notes to understand them -- as in presentation form --
you will begin to memori(e naturally.
'e all memori(e the same way -- by seeing things over and over
again. If you do this over time you will see the best results.
Now today or tomorrow I will start writing in the diaries. I'm hoping
to ma!e my first entry tonight. Cust wait till I discuss the difference
this semester from my earlier plights. %slo I've had the chance to
watch first semesters ma!e so many mista!es -- mista!es that have
them staying up all night ma!ing poor grades and doing the other
bad things because of wea! study methods. I'll discuss that all over
*ou may notice something. Eventually you will get so fast with
transcribing that things will seem easy. It will happen over time. Cust
reali(e that you are transcribing to understand. .et your notes capture
all of the important points and ma!e sure that you throw some
diagrams in there.