Updated: Jan 12
It’s a new semester. Maybe you did great the first semester. Maybe you didn’t. Whatever the case, you could probably stand to study smarter rather than harder. So, what does that mean?
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Studying smarter and studying harder could be the difference between succeeding and not succeeding. See, when you study hard, that usually means that you're cramming information, not getting enough sleep, and not taking breaks. Studying hard is a quick fix method to passing a test. It does not necessarily help with information retention.
So, when the time comes to take a midterm exam or a final exam or a standardized exam like the MCAT, someone who studies hard will find themselves having to relearn the information . In other words, no knowledge is acquired from studying hard.
Studying smarter on the other hand is a more efficient way to acquire knowledge and understanding material but you need to learn. Studying smarter usually is the opposite studying harder. Smart studiers (is that even a word?) tend to be more deliberate and strategic.
They study over a longer period of time, take break when they study, and tend to get more sleep. They actually develop healthy study habits that allowed them to retain information. Midterm exams, final exams, and even the MCAT are opportunities to review, not to relearn for those who study smarter.
You may be saying to yourself, “So what? Why is studying smarter so important?” Well there are several reasons.
Efficiency is a major reason to study smarter. Relearning takes much more time and energy than reviewing. Why waste your time relearning when you don't have to?
If you’ve taken all the requirements to sit for the MCAT, why not learn the information as you go? The MCAT is more than just about the information. It’s also about being able to take the exam in a timely manner. The more time you spend relearning information, the less time you’ll have to take timed MCAT practice exams, which is a very important strategy to scoring high on the MCAT.
Understanding rather just memorizing information will make you a better student and an even better doctor. Who wants a doctor who can memorize a book, but can’t understand a complex medical problem that a patient might be having?
STRATEGIES FOR STUDYING SMARTER
Here are just a few strategies to get you started with becoming a smarter studier.
Repetition is key in helping you to understand and retain information.Go over your notes and and textbook readings within 24 hours from sitting in class. This will help you to solidify the information. Review all of your class notes again at the end of the week.
Take breaks and get sleep. Your brain is not a machine. It's an organ and it needs rest like all the rest of your organs for optimal functioning.
Teach someone else the information that you’ve learned. If you can explain it, then you understand it. Perhaps, you can tutor someone who is having trouble or get a study partner and take turns teaching each other.
Ask for help on any and every piece of information that you don’t understand. Why? Because in the sciences, if you don’t understand the foundation, then the rest of the information is pretty much down the drain. Talk with your professor or teaching assistant or consider a tutor.
5. Make test questions of your own. When I was in medical school, I would fold my notebook paper in half. On one half, I’d write a test question that I think could appear on the test. On the other half, I’d write the answer and the explanation. You’d be surprised at how many of these questions actually appeared on my exams!
Hope this post was helpful. I actually cover this in my 2017 Pre-med Periscope series. Click the pic to check it out!
Leave me your comments and questions, so I can cover them in another post or live stream video.