Medical students spend years of their lives devouring and digesting information coming at them from numerous sources. Of all these sources, most students agree that lectures present the most problems. Below are five helpful ways to really get the most out of your lectures and absorb more information from them, thereby improving your studies and your ability to succeed.
#1 – Read to Prepare for the Lecture
One of the absolute best things you can do to prepare for a lecture involves reading the material assigned to you prior to entering the classroom, even if the reading is technically assigned after the lecture. There are a few reasons for this, but for some students, the simple act of quickly reading over the topic that will be covered is enough to help them better comprehend what their professor is saying during the lecture. You don’t have to read every page but do take the time to skim the headings and get a feel for what the talk will be about.
#2 – Take the Correct Notes
Taking notes during a lecture is critical, but in medical school with professors providing new information with every sentence, it can be difficult to know what to write and what to let go. If you’ve prepared for your lecture in step 1, then you should already know a little about the discussion. When you write things down, write quickly and use abbreviations that you can understand. Write only the concepts that are new to you to save time and space in your notes, and if at all possible, make a note of the corresponding textbook section to go along with it for better studying later. This method is excellent for kinesthetic learners.
#3 – Record the Lecture
Sometimes no matter what you do, your professor will throw so much information at you so quickly that you simply cannot write it all down. This is not a new phenomenon, and it is exactly why most university bookstores sell handheld audio recorders – so you can record your lectures and listen to them again later. A good rule of thumb involves stocking up on storage space so that you can keep your lectures for the entirety of each course and use them as review material for midterms and finals as needed. If you’re an auditory learner, this is one of the best things you can do.
#4 – Practice the Topic on Your Time
When the lecture is over and you are about to start your study session, pull up your online question bank and filter the topics until you have only the topics you learned in your lecture selected. Go through these practice questions several times; then, go back through the questions you missed and utilize all the resources available to you – your textbook, your lecture recording, the notes you took, YouTube, and even your study group – to revise and learn. This by far one of the best things you can do for yourself.
#5 – Study with the Forgetting Curve in Mind
The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve is a mathematical formula developed in 1885 that describes the rate at which we forget newly-learned information if we don’t actively try to retain it. Unless you take the time to review material regularly, it will be lost in a matter of days, and there are studies suggesting that we forget about 50% of what we learn in the first hour after learning it – and that climbs to 70% in the first day. Fortunately, with so many excellent study tools on your hands and the ability to customize your mock tests, it’s possible to stay ahead of the forgetting curve and retain far, far more.