Here’s How Medical Students Take Functional and Aesthetic Notes

medical students studying

In most classrooms, there are two kinds of students. One group takes very few notes (if any at all), and the other takes detailed, yet still functional and surprisingly aesthetic notes that serve as amazing study guides later. If you’re the first student but you’d rather develop awesome note-taking and study habits like the second, the following information is for you.

Get Inspired

taking notes doesn’t work well for everyone, it does work especially well for kinesthetic and visual learners. Kinesthetic learners tend to absorb more information by doing whereas visual students learn best by seeing. In either case, taking clean, aesthetic notes – perhaps even with a little color and flair – can really go a long way toward reinforcing tough information. To see some of the absolute best functional and aesthetic note-taking examples and get some inspiration, visit the #studygram hashtag on Instagram or search for “aesthetic notes” on Pinterest.

Don’t Use Too Much Color

It can be tempting to break out seven differently-colored highlighters and start marking up your notes, but there’s evidence to suggest that sticking to just one or two colors is best. Anything more can be too distracting, and it can even take away from your ability to absorb the information. Ideally, write your notes in blue or black ink, then use one or two highlighters to mark up what you’ve written. You could highlight headings in one color, underline subheadings in the same color, and then highlight key terms in the second color. This process is incredibly easy and functional, and when it comes time to study from your notes later, skimming for the right topic is a breeze.

Don’t Write Everything Down

There are two main reasons why people take notes.

  • To help get the information to stick. For kinesthetic (and some visual) learners, taking notes is one of the best ways to initially learn new information.
  • To have a customized study guide for midterms and finals. Every medical student can benefit from this. Essentially, if you take good notes and you keep them organized throughout your course, by the time you’re ready to study for a final exam or even your licensing exam, you have organized data that is personalized to your unique needs available to you.

No matter what your reason for taking notes might be, there’s one rule of thumb to follow: only write things down if you know you need to study them. If the information being discussed in the lecture or in the text is already familiar to you and you can recall it with ease, there’s no need to write it down. Save your paper (or tablet, or hard drive) real estate for concepts that you still need to work on.

These three tips can truly help you improve your note-taking skills, which can help you become a better student in turn. Though the aesthetics aren’t truly necessary, they can help to inspire you to get started. If you can keep your notes neat and clean, and if you can write down only the things that are important to you, you will be glad you did when it comes time to take your exam.

 

 

Why So Many Medical Students are Terrified of their Board Exams

USMLE Step 2 Test Prep

Medical students experience myriad emotions during their time in school. These range from sheer exhaustion and apprehension to outright fear of failure. The driving force behind fear, at least for many students, is the board exams – the very exams that provide you with the licensure you need to put medical school behind you and step out into the world as a physician. Here’s what all medical students should know about overcoming the fear of failure.

The Problems with Fear

Some fear throughout your life is perfectly normal, and in many cases, it’s even beneficial. According to an article in Psychology Today, fear is necessary for keeping you safe, but too much of it can be incredibly counterproductive. In some cases, medical students experience such fear and dread surrounding their board exams that they simply cannot study effectively, and then when exam day comes, they stare blankly at their screens, paralyzed by the fear that they will not succeed.

Why the Boards Cause Fear

The boards induce stress in medical students for a variety of reasons, but stress seems to be the most common. The boards are the culmination of years of studying, years of sleepless nights, and in many cases, years of social life put on hold to prepare for a future in medicine. In some cases, students’ parents or guardians mortgage their homes or take out massive loans to finance their educations, so the fear of letting down their loved ones is also very real. Finally, there’s a fear that failure will prove students inadequate; if they cannot pass the licensing exam, perhaps they were not meant to be doctors after all. These fears can all be overcome.

How to Put the Fear Behind You

Every medical student experiences some degree of fear related to the medical licensing exam, but the good news is that there are several ways in which you can overcome it and succeed.

  • Study Often and Effectively – Whether you choose to utilize textbooks, printed materials, your own notes, or question bank software, make sure that you’re studying as much as possible, and make sure that you are utilizing different study methods to help ensure comprehension.
  • Eat and Stay Hydrated – Believe it or not, a poor diet and lack of hydration can not only make it more difficult for you to comprehend and retain information, but it can also exacerbate feelings of fear. Eat a healthy mix of proteins, complex carbs, and good-for-you fats, and make sure you’re getting your 64oz (or more!) of water each day.
  • Learn Self-Calming and Relaxation Techniques – Finally, you can actually train yourself to respond to fear in a better and more productive way through deep breathing exercises, meditation or prayer, and even progressive muscle relaxation techniques. The more you practice these, the simpler they become, and eventually you will find yourself able to relax in even the most stressful of situations.

Fear is not your enemy. In fact, it’s a perfectly normal response to stress and danger that could very well save your life at some point. It is also perfectly normal to experience some fear and apprehension related to your board exams, but it is critical that you learn to overcome it. Preparing yourself for your exams, keeping your body healthy, and learning how to relax in the face of fear can help you do just that.

 

How to Stay Motivated to Study Despite Shorter Days and Colder Weather

winter-studying

With the end of daylight savings time comes shorter days and colder weather, and that means even the most ambitious students could find themselves struggling to stay motivated. Some studies suggest that 10% to 20% of the population suffers from some sort of winter depression. Fortunately, there are a few ways for students to keep themselves motivated.

Consider Using a Light Box

Light boxes are commonly used among people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD – a condition that causes mild to severe depression that sets in like clockwork almost every single fall or winter. Even if you do not have SAD, when it gets dark outside at five o’clock in the afternoon, and when the sun doesn’t come back until seven in the morning, it can be difficult to do anything except yawn. A light box is designed to mimic the sun with a bright, warm light. If you choose to go this route, use it for about an hour, and ideally before 10 in the morning.

Get Some Sunshine

When it feels as if you’re spending all your time studying and trying to find time to sleep and eat, getting outside everyday may seem like a challenge. What’s more, experts have shown us that anyone living north of Atlanta simply cannot get their daily dose of vitamin D from the sun in the winter months because the sun simply doesn’t climb high enough in the sky. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go outside at all, though; spending 15 to 30 minutes outside in the sun – or even going out when it’s overcast – can help you feel much better.

Modify Your Diet

Eating enough as a medical student can be tough, and even when you feel as if you are getting the sustenance you need, there’s a good chance you aren’t getting the right kind of sustenance. Try adding foods to your diet that help to reduce inflammation, give you energy, and provide brain-boosting vitamins and minerals. Good options include cinnamon, which has been shown to enhance cognitive ability, and pumpkin seeds, which are known inflammation fighters. Swapping simple carbs like white rice and white bread for their complex whole-grain counterparts can also help keep you energetic throughout the day.

Simplify Your Studying

Of course, when days are shorter and temperatures are colder, going out to study groups or libraries can be difficult to say the least. Utilizing software like the excellent CanadaQBank platform is a great idea for those days when you just don’t feel like getting out – or when you only have a few minutes to study. It’s packed with features designed to help you customize your mock exam or your study session any way you’d like, and the best part is that it’s affordable enough to fit even the most frugal student’s budget.

Keeping yourself motivated to study when it seems dark more than it’s light can be difficult. In fact, as many as 20% of the entire population suffers from some sort of depression triggered by the changing weather. The tips above are sure to help you feel better throughout the day so you can stay motivated to study and pass your licensing exam with flying colors.

Auditory vs. Visual vs. Kinesthetic Learning – Which is Right for You?

medical-students-learning-types

To be successful as a medical student, you must study as effectively as possible whenever you are given the opportunity. It is helpful to understand the three main learning types – auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. Each one denotes a specific type of information delivery that resonates with students most clearly. Below, you can learn more about them, what they entail, and how to tell which one will help you get the most out of your study time.

Auditory Learning

An auditory learner is someone who comprehends, processes, and remembers data more readily when it is delivered via sound. In other words, these students must hear new information. You may be an auditory learner if you consider yourself an excellent storyteller, if you like working in groups, or if you seem to retain information better following a classroom lecture than after reading a chapter. If this sounds familiar, your best options for learning include:

  • Participating in classroom discussions;
  • Studying with a group of people;
  • Using flash cards with a partner who reads the questions out loud;
  • Reading chapters of a textbook out loud; and
  • Recording class lectures and listening to them.

Visual Learning

A visual learner is someone who tends to fare better with new information when they can see it. Simply hearing the information being delivered to them by a professor or recording is not enough; they must be able to read the information for themselves or even see it in a video in order to truly process and understand it. If you follow directions on instinct, stay organized without much effort, and have an inherent sense of alignment and balance in your life, you are likely a visual learner. Some of your best options for information delivery include:

  • Studying written words in a book, on slides, on whiteboards, in presentations, or even from your own notes;
  • Studying software-based content, such as that provided by online question banks;
  • Utilizing diagrams and handouts to make connections between different pieces of information;
  • Following study guides; and
  • Studying alone rather than with a group to prevent distractions.

Kinesthetic Learning

Kinesthetic learners are the epitome of “hands-on” learning. They don’t learn best by seeing or hearing; instead, they learn best by actually doing. You might be a kinesthetic learner if you naturally have great hand-eye coordination, if you are energetic, if you tend to pick up on new concepts quickly, and if you tend to participate in things like art and sports instead of just watching. Some of the best techniques you can use to learn include:

  • Studying while on a treadmill or stationary bicycle;
  • Sketching during lectures;
  • Role-playing situations related to the information you are covering; or
  • Studying while also playing a sport.

Auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners are people who learn best in different situations and with different forms of information delivery. Most people are not purely auditory or purely kinesthetic learners, though, and that is why teachers and professors are always incorporating new teaching methods designed to touch upon each of these learning methods.

The Best Advice for Acing the USMLE

MCCQE Examination

If you’re like many students who will be taking the USMLE later this year, there’s a very good chance you’ve spent several hours reading blog posts, scouring forums, and looking for the best possible advice available for acing it. Though there’s no one magic recipe that works for everyone, there are a few things you can do that will drastically improve your chances of not only passing but doing so with flying colors.

Study Religiously

Everyone who’s ever scored a 99 on the USMLE will tell you the same thing: the key to acing the exam is studying. Though there are a few exceptions out there, most people can’t simply sit down at a computer and fly through the questions with a perfect score without putting in an incredible number of study hours. No matter how busy your schedule between school and work, you must set aside some time every single day for studying – no exceptions. This is the only way to ensure the information is ingrained in your mind in such a way that when test day comes, you have no trouble at all recalling answers.

Use the Right Study Materials

It is also important to remember that no two people learn the same way, so you’ll need to make certain that you’ve tried various study methods. Whether you respond better to lecture-style learning, quiet reading, using flash cards, or like many other students, online question banks, try to discover which of these methods gets you the best results and then stick with that. Of course, you should use the other methods to your advantage as well, but if question banks seem to help you memorize information better than textbooks, try to schedule most of your study time around the question banks.

Learn More about the Exam Itself

Though a lot of students spend a great deal of time learning the material that will be on the exam, they fail to spend much time learning about the exam itself. Via the USMLE website, you can find out everything you need to know, including how the exam works, how to apply, the fees you can expect to pay, and even get access to your scores and transcripts after you’ve taken the exam. It’s always a great idea to check the USMLE website often for information, and reading the FAQs can help you familiarize yourself with many different aspects of the site and the test itself.

Keep Calm and Prepare Yourself

It may seem tough to stop thinking negatively at times, especially when you come across specific topics or material that seem intimidating or difficult. In these cases, rather than worrying about your ability to learn the material, continue to go over it in different ways using different methods. If it still seems too difficult, reach out to professors at your school or ask about mentors and tutors who may be able to provide you with the insight you need. Allowing anxiety to take over will only make it more difficult for you to learn.

Though acing the USMLE is a great feeling, it’s important to remember that you don’t need a perfect score – you only need a passing score. You should always do your very best but be careful about allowing your desire to achieve perfection hinder your ability to properly study. Above all else, know you can do it, and be sure that you put in the time to study the right materials.

 

5 Things to Look For when Choosing Question Banks for a Medical Licensing Exam

USMLE Step 2 Test Prep

Thanks to the internet and improvements in technology, you have your choice when it comes to question banks for medical licensing exams. There are dozens of them available, but not all of them are cut from the same cloth, so to speak. Here are five things you should look for when choosing the question bank platform that is right for you.

#1 – Plenty of Questions

When choosing a question bank, it is critical that you find a provider that offers you more than just a few hundred questions. In fact, look for question banks with thousands of questions that allow you to take mock exams numerous times without seeing the same question twice. Better still, make sure that those questions are broken down into categories and topics for easy referencing later.

#2 – Customization Features

Customizing your question bank will give you more study opportunities than ever before. For example, if you understand pharmaceuticals but you struggle with anatomy, you should have the ability to customize your questions to show you only those that you need help with. Similarly, you should be able to choose only questions you haven’t answered, and you should also be able to study in various modes. A timed mode makes your session feel like a real exam while a study or tutor mode is more relaxed.

#3 – Accurate Questions with Answers and Explanations

No question bank will help you pass your medical licensing examination if the questions aren’t broad in scope and accurate. In fact, if you choose a less-than-reputable provider that is not known for its accuracy, you may actually be harming yourself more than helping yourself. Ensuring that each of the thousands of questions available to you has an answer and an explanation will also help drive comprehension and make it easier for you to retain information on test day.

#4 – Accessibility & Community Features

The platform you choose should be highly accessible, and it should also give you access to an entire community of medical students and professionals who want to help each other succeed. Make sure the platform you choose is available not only on your desktop or laptop, but also on your mobile device and/or tablet so you can get some quick studying in from anywhere. You should also look for things like Facebook groups and even YouTube channels that provide you with access to a community.

#5 – Affordable Pricing

Medical students sometimes struggle to maintain their finances throughout school. Even though many have jobs, the amount of time they can work is limited by their need to study. Too many question bank providers require a massive one-time purchase that is well out of many students’ budgets, but others offer budget-friendly subscription options with monthly payments and no long-term contracts. This means you can use the platform only as long as you need it without fear of overpaying.

Choosing a question bank platform may seem overwhelming, but when you take the time to look for these important features, you can rest assured that you are making the right choice. CanadaQBank offers all of these and more to help medical students around the globe succeed.

The Benefits of Timed and Tutor Modes in Test Prep Software

Test Prep Software

Since the internet became widespread, medical students have relied on mock exams and question banks to help them study for their exams. However, while simply answering questions can help students to a degree, the ability to switch back and forth between timed and tutor modes in test prep software is ideal. Here’s what you should know.

Timed vs. Tutor Mode: What’s the Difference?

A “timed” mode is like a sudden death challenge. It requires you to answer as many questions as you can correctly within a very specific amount of time. This puts the pressure on and requires you to think quickly and make snap decisions, which is a great way to prepare yourself not only for a medical exam, but for a medical career in general. With timed modes, you can even compete and challenge yourself against others, then see how you performed when compared to your competitors.

“Tutor” mode, on the other hand, allows you the opportunity to answer questions at your own pace. You can study up to 50 topics at once, or you can focus on only one topic. During tutor mode, you can take your own notes, save questions to come back to later, and simply use the question banks as you see fit with no pressure, no competition, and access to a variety of helpful features.

When to Use Timed Mode

Timed mode is best reserved for topics and areas that you feel comfortable with. You can really challenge yourself with this mode. Often, students who believe they have mastered the content within a topic or group of topics find that they maybe could have spent a little more time studying. Because the timed mode gives you access to the questions you missed, you can go back and study any areas that seem to be giving you trouble, and you can see how other people fared when they answered the same number of questions as you within the same timeframe.

When to Use Tutor Mode

Whereas timed mode is best for students who feel as if they have mastered a topic, tutor mode is for students who are familiarizing themselves with the content and who want to learn more. There are no time limits here, so you can feel free to study at your very own pace, even if one question leads to hours of research in books and videos. Tutor mode allows you to take your own notes, so if you need a reminder as to the context of a question or the definition of a word, you can feel free to leave it in the notes. What’s more, you can choose which questions you want to answer and which you want to avoid, allowing you to completely customize your experience.

Using timed and tutor modes appropriately in test prep software can make a huge difference in the amount of information you can learn, master, and ultimately recall when your examination date comes around. Be sure that you switch back and forth in these modes as appropriate whether you study on your computer or a mobile device.

The Benefits of Academic Coaching for US Medical Students

academic-coaching

Most people associate the idea of coaching with athletes. Those athletes determined to be “coachable” tend towards having the most success in their pursuits. Why?

The idea is very simple. Through the art of coaching, a naturally talented athlete can refine their skills and work on their weaknesses. The same premise can be applied to medical students.

Why Medical Students Need Coaching

Medical students who seek out academic coaching opportunities show a strong, innate desire to improve themselves. This self-improving eagerness shows dedication towards their chosen field of study, which most often translates towards a more skilled physician.

Those students who do not pursue academic coaching opportunities while in medical school, however, would not benefit from the experience anyway. Coaching is a “program” of sorts, which requires absolute want. If a student does not want coaching, they will not dedicate themselves in such a manner as to make it beneficial.

The Benefits of Medical Coaching

There are numerous benefits associated with medical coaching. Below we look at some of the biggest benefits.

Achieving Goals: Students who participate in academic coaching are advised to create both long- and short-term goals. This gives the coaching a direction and ensures that those goals are met. The coach will help align studies, extra curriculars, and activities towards achieving those goals students set.

Improve Test Scores: Medical coaching can help significantly improve test scores, which are vital in the quest to become a licensed physician. While many students and coaches warn not to set benchmarks on tests, the results are the same. Students who took advantage of academic coaching opportunities while in medical school saw higher test results.

Create Higher Self-Confidence: A coach is not like a teacher or mentor. They will not tell you exactly what you should do, nor will they lay out some grandmaster scheme which aligns all their pupils on the same path. The true key in coaching is the creation of higher self-confidence and a better realization of what needs to be done. This is vital, as it equips students with vital self-regulation skills necessary for the workplace after schooling.

Understanding and Developing Strengths: Each person is a unique individual possessing specific strengths. A person’s strength, for example, may lay in an ability to ace tests. Alternatively, a person may do amazing at studying but has testing fears that lower their scores. One student may excel in textbook studies while another does better in hands-on clinicals. Coaching can help students understand and develop these strengths, so they become the most beneficial.

Understanding and Mitigating Weaknesses: Just as everyone has their own unique strengths so do they have weaknesses. While it is never possible to entirely do away with weakness, it is possible to mitigate them. By understand where a person’s weaknesses lay, it is possible to hone them to be the least disruptive. For example, if someone suffers testing fear than learning coping techniques would be highly beneficial.

Study Session Preparation and Advice from Doctors and Surgeons

medical-students-studying

For every single student just starting medical school or getting ready to take their medical licensing exam or boards, there are dozens of doctors out in the big, wide world who have been in those shoes. Below are some of the best tips and hints for getting the most out of your study sessions from surgeons and doctors around the world.

Classical Music is a Good Study Aid

Though it may seem as if you need perfect quiet to really concentrate on what you’re learning, there are actually studies and articles showing that classical music can help you absorb, retain, and recall more information if you play it at a low to moderate level while studying. Even if you don’t like classical music, think about using Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, or another streaming music service to curate a playlist for you for your next few sessions. You might be surprised by the results.

Eat Before You Study

Other studies and articles have shown that your memory is not as sharp as it should be when you are hungry. Just as you might not remember your fourth grade teacher’s name when your stomach is rumbling, you probably won’t retain or absorb as much information during your study session if you spend much of it wishing you had a taco.  Hunger is triggered by a hormone called ghrelin, and like any other hormone, ghrelin needs a receptor to trigger in order to make you feel those pangs of hunger. Some scientists believe that the ghrelin receptors in your brain exist to augment how your memories work rather than play a metabolic role. Eat before you study if you want to retain more of what you learn.

Dehydration has a Tremendous Effect on Your Brain

If you feel thirsty, then you’re already at least partially dehydrated, and that’s bad news for your brain. Per a study out of the Georgia Institute of Technology, being dehydrated for as little as two hours can have a huge impact on your ability to concentrate, thus rendering your study session useless. The best way to combat this is the same thing you’ve heard since childhood – try your best to remember to drink roughly 64 ounces of water each day – more if you feel thirsty or perspire due to strenuous activity, and less if you are in a humid environment performing sedentary tasks.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff & Move On

Every single medical student since the beginning of time has struggled to understand a specific concept, topic, or group of topics. The reasons for this are many, but despite what your brain might try to tell you, it isn’t because you are incapable of learning. In fact, when you’re really struggling with something at least semi-specific, you may just need to see it from a different perspective. Don’t get upset if you find that you cannot understand a concept during your study session; instead, flag that concept and set a reminder on your phone to ask a professor, mentor, tutor, or fellow student – or to perform a Google search later to peruse forums. All of these are great ideas.

At one point, every licensed surgeon and doctor in the world today – even the most successful ones – were in your shoes, and they were able to pass their exams and go on to enjoy the careers they dreamed of. Whether you try classical music during your study time, make sure to eat a good meal and drink some water beforehand, or do your very best to move on when you’re “stuck” on a topic, each of these things will make your sessions far more productive.

 

Using Video to Reinforce Ideas while Studying for Your Medical Exam

video studying

Medical licensing exams are difficult, and they are packed with content that takes years of education to understand. For some students, simply listening to lectures and reading textbooks is not enough to help them reach the level of comprehension they need to succeed. That’s why using video to reinforce ideas while studying for your medical exam is so very beneficial.

How Popular is Video in the Classroom?

Across all grade levels – from kindergarten all the way through medical school – teachers and professors utilize video as a powerful learning tool. In fact, research shows that some 94% of all teachers have effectively used videos during any given academic year and found it effective. Some believe it is even more effective than traditional learning via textbooks and lectures, too.

Reasons to Consider Using Video as a Medical Exam Study Aid

The reasons to use video as a study aid while preparing for your medical exams are many, but you can find some of the most important ones below.

  • Video triggers the visual processing center in your brain. Though the human brain is certainly capable of absorbing the information we read and hear, it is far better equipped to learn by processing information (other than just words) that we see with our eyes. It’s faster than reading, and our brains retain the information we learn through video for a longer period, too.
  • Video is powerful self-study. Reading words in a textbook or answering multiple-choice questions is a great way to reinforce your knowledge, but when it comes to learning in the first place, visual learning is best. That makes video a powerful means of self-study and by far the best way to learn new things.
  • Videos offer context. Textbooks often attempt to put things into context, but when it comes to complicated diseases or pharmaceutical contraindications, context can be hard to understand. In a video, it is possible to combine demonstrations and information in such a way that the context becomes clear.
  • Videos are like illustrations, but better. Finally, if you rely on illustrations in books to help you better understand concepts, you will find video to be one of your most relied-upon tools. There is no better way to illustrate than with a moving picture.

Video and Critical Thinking

Finally, it is important to note that video is one of the most powerful ways to promote critical thinking in both children and adults. The connection between visual cues, the processes of forming memories, and the ability to recall new knowledge is very strong, and above all else, it gives students the ability to learn how to think critically and infer outcomes. Over time, students who use video to learn more about medical topics come to understand those topics more thoroughly – and able to recall them more quickly and accurately – than students who did not use video.

As you can see, video is a powerful tool in any medical student’s arsenal, and it’s one that can help students who might otherwise struggle with comprehension, context, and recollection succeed. Whether you watch documentaries, videos that come along with your medical school courses, or even YouTube videos from reputable sources, you are sure to find videos a great addition to your study sessions.