At Caribbean medical schools, the only time life is a breeze is when you are on the beach. Are you beating yourself up after Block One? Saying, “should ‘a, could ‘a, would ‘a done better …BUT … if only ________ (fill in the blank)”. What is your excuse?
(Photo, inset right) UMHS students shun the beach until after exams. Photo: UMHS archives
Maybe it is time to reassess your study habits?
- Time: “But I don’t have enough time!” Take the test and see where your time really goes? How much time do you spend on your cell phone, texting, and checking your email? How motivated are you to study? “Deep motive correlated with time on assignments. Students who were less certain they wanted to work as a doctor undertook less study activity and spent less time with patients.” Yet, more time studying is not better if your problem is inefficient study habits! (Wilkinson, 2007) Which leads to the next issue …
- Focusing: But there is so much going on, I have trouble blocking out the distractions? Use ear plugs, try the study carrels in the library, close out Facebook, turn off you cell phone, do what it takes! To quote KevinMD from his blog article “9 Essential Tips for new Medical Students” ~ “When you study, focus on studying.”
- Location: Research shows that studying a certain piece of information repeatedly is good, but that studying it repeatedly in different surroundings is even better (Sasanow, 2010). So review that lecture power point in the LRC , then read it over again while studying in the library, then of course learn it during the lecture, then review it again at home. If you are fortunate enough to have decided to attend a Caribbean medical school like UMHS, St. Kitts , you have an edge: You can study in beautiful surroundings. The research shows that if you learn something in multiple settings it will stick with you better as your mind is not connecting that piece of information with only one particular location or environment.
- Multitasking: “But I went to all the lectures!” That is very good because research has shown those who attend live lectures score 3% higher than those who rely on even recorded lectures. (Wenger, 2012) BUT what were you doing during the lectures? Research shows that only 5% of people can multitask effectively (Weimer, 2012). Do you honestly believe you are in that 5%? Note the following quotes: “…students who did not text (during the lecture) scored significantly higher (on a post-lecture quiz) (Ellis, 2010).” “Students who tried to listen to the lecture while using … distractive windows (on their laptops ~ such as games, pictures, email, instant messaging, and web surfing) had significantly lower scores … (Kraushaar, 2010).” “The level of laptop use negatively correlated with how much attention students paid to lectures, the clarity of the lectures and how well they understood the lecture material (Fried, 2008).” “Their multitasking was significantly related to lower GPA … (Barak. 2012).”
- Practice Review: “But I read the textbook!” But you didn’t really get it did you? While you were reading did you periodically stop and think about what you just learned? How did it relate to what you already know? Write down the key points and concepts you managed to extract from what you just read and then try to explain them, teach them, to yourself. Then go back and re-read the section again, refine your notes then meditate some more on the points. “…high-achievers spent significantly more hours/week on self-study (…and) scored higher on 3 factors which measured aspects of deliberate practice – planning, study style and motivation.” (Moulaert, 2004) The Moulaert study also showed that high achieving students owned more books and read more articles! So make good use of our library resources and our online medical literature databases.
- Concept mapping: “But I memorized all the facts!” So after you have done your reading, got your notes, got your points, try ‘concept mapping’. In other words draw a diagram of what you just learned. Generally speaking, most educators are big on this as they believe “…having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning …forces students to make connections among facts.” However according to recent research you need to take this a step further…
- Practice questions:“I am sure I got that now, I will remember that!” Now you need to test yourself so you are sure you own the material! Research reports that students who stop at point #5 can harbor “the illusion that they know the material better than they do” ( Belluck, 2011 ). It also shows a further significant benefit to learning through testing, and the use of practice questions, even when students get the questions wrong. Note this reader’s comments: “During medical school we were also encouraged to "do questions" to prepare for both our institutional exams, as well as for the national licensing exams. In fact, there are large on-line 'question banks' and 'question books' that are available for purchase and everyone knows you need to do those to pass. The conventional wisdom is that if you do all the questions from the past 5 years of books, you'll pass the exam. I don't know why it works, but it does. These are NOT questions that you will see again on the exam so it's not a case of just memorizing the right answer.“ “While students have many different ways to study, which includes reading the text book, students can perform well on examinations using high yield review books and practice exam questions as resources. Students who used practice clinical vignette-type questions on average scored 5 points higher than the class average.” (Wenger, 2012). Have you started using Exam Master yet, or the many review books available to you in the Anne Ross Library?
- Test Taking Strategies:Learn key test-taking strategies and the anatomy of multiple choice exams, by attending the study skills lecture to be given by Prof. Sue Simon,in the UMHS Auditorium on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 12:30 pm. Also take note of these “Tips for Success: Mastering Multiple-Choice Tests”.
- Manage Stress: “But I am feeling so tired!” Research demonstrates that “stress symptoms, such as fatigue, sleeping problems, anxiety, irritability and depression, were common (during undergraduate medical training).” Some other common symptoms of stress to watch out for are abdominal pain, nervousness, headache, dizziness, and pain in the neck, shoulders, or lower back. (Niemi, 2006) Learning to manage your stress early on will prevent more serious problems later, such as possible burnout. “Burnout is a psychological syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and impaired personal accomplishment induced by repeated workplace stressors. Current research suggests that physician burnout may have its origins in medical school.” (Mazurkiewicz, 2012) Amongst Caribbean medical schools, UMHS prides itself on helping students manage stress so they can succeed. Don’t hold back from availing yourself of the UMHS campus counseling service for any extra support you may need to help get your stress level under control!
I hope you have been able to take something away from your read of these 9 points ~ and ‘all the best’ for an improved block 2 and your continued success at medical school! To quote UMHS-St. Kitts Dean, Dr. Zenaido Camacho’s motto,
“Never give up, never give up!”
(Top photo) The Anne Ross Library: A favorite study spot for UMHS students. Photo: UMHS archives
Built in the tradition of the best US universities, the University of Medicine and Health Sciences focuses on individual student attention, maintaining small class sizes and recruiting high-quality faculty. We call this unique approach, “personalized medical education,” and it’s what has led to our unprecedented 96% student retention rate, and outstanding residency placements across the US and Canada. UMHS is challenging everything you thought you knew about Caribbean medical schools.
Ann Celestine, M.L.S., B.A., A.H.I.P. is Director of Library & Educational Applications, Professor of Library Research. Professor Celestine oversees all daily library and exam center operations at the Anne Ross Library at UMHS.