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.