Here's How I Got A 3.9 GPA In Med School [Most Effecive Study Strategies]

Here’s How I Got A 3.9 GPA In Med School [Most Effective Study Strategies]

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In med school, I went from 10 hours a day to 5 hours a day studying. Here are the exact study techniques that help me do just that and how I got a 3.9 GPA in med School.

I’m going to do a complete breakdown of every study method that I used in medical school to show you which ones helped me crush med school in less time.

And then I’m gonna break down all of the study techniques that fall within those categories, and also give them a grade based on retention, time, review potential, as well as my personal experience.

And if you want all of this in one place, I’ve created a FREE Excel document. Here, you can see all the study techniques, the grades that I gave each one, as well as different resources, where you can learn how to master each technique.

So if you want access to that absolutely free document, click this link to the Study Techniques Sheet.

Bonus: Want to learn how I got a 3.9 GPA in med school using a simple-to-follow study strategy? Get access to my exact study method from med school for free here. 

Wait a minute! If you want this post in a video format, you can check out my YouTube video below! Make sure to subscribe for weekly content and leave a comment if you enjoy this one!

Category #1 Learning

Let’s get into category number one, which is learning the information for the first time.

Learning Method #1 QA Note-Taking

Now, the first technique that we’ll be talking about in this category is note-taking, specifically QA.

I went into a lot more detail on how to use a QA method in this blog post: How Do You Take Notes For Med School? [Step-By-Step]

In the QA method, instead of looking at your notes and thinking of how you can document things in your own words, or how you can highlight and annotate things that we do often, you take information and change it into the form of questions that you could use later to quiz yourself.

So if I was in one of my medical school lectures and I was learning how to treat somebody with high blood pressure, then instead of just writing down all the medications and the doses, I may just write the different questions.

For example, what are the different meds that I could use to treat somebody with high blood pressure? That may be one question. And then to answer that question, I would write anything from the slides or something that the professor mentioned.

Here's How I Got a 3.9 GPA in Med School - Note taking

And I would continue to do this throughout the lecture. For example, what are the side effects of this medication? And then I would put the answer.

In this way, when I go home, I can easily just look at the questions and ask myself, do you remember this from the lecture before you even look at the answers? And then if I don’t, I can review the material and repeat the process.

In my personal experience, by transitioning from a typical note-taking strategy to the QA method, I was able to cut down my study hours to about three to four hours a day, because I was easily able to streamline the rest of the process.

Now we’ll be grading this method on a scale of 1 to 10.

First, we’ll have to talk about retention. In this case, the QA note-taking method gets a 9 out of 10.

In terms of the amount of time that it takes to think about your questions, it takes a little bit longer, so it gets about 6 out of 10.

In terms of review potential, because you’re creating your questions from your lecture, it’s a 9 out of 10.

And the overall grade is A.

And again, if you want a full breakdown as well as examples, here’s the article on the QA method: How Do You Take Notes For Med School? [Step-By-Step]

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Learning Method #2 High-Yield Resources

Now, study method number two is using high-yield resources.

For any busy student, the most important question we ask is how do I know it’s high-yield? Basically, it contains what can show up on a quiz or a test.

In medical school, where you’re having 3-5 hours of lectures a day for 4-5 days a week, you really need to know what’s important. And one of the best ways to do that is to use a high-yield resource.

My strategy was to look at what the lecture is going to be about. And then a day prior, I would set aside about an hour and a  half and go to some high-yield resource that I paid for or something on YouTube where there are short videos on the topic. It may take 5 to 15 minutes to do this per lecture.

Bonus: Want better grades with more free time (and less stress)? Get access to our free 3-step study system here to see what other top students do that you may not be doing!

But when I go to the lecture the next day, it becomes easier. From the high-yield resource, I had already have an idea about the topic, I hear the professor say it, and it’s in my syllabus.

In addition, it’s also really useful whenever I find myself behind in class. I could just go to the high-yield resource and either skip the lecture or watch the lecture at 2-3x the speed, just to review quicker.

In terms of grading using high-yield resources, on retention, it gets a 9 out of 10.

In terms of time, depending on what video or resource you choose to use, it gets 8 out of 10.

For review potential, it is much harder to use a high-yield resource unless it comes with questions. So I give it a 5 out of 10.

And the overall grade is A.

Study Faster through Speed Listening

Learning Method #3 Speed Listening

Now, about watching the lecture faster, technique number three that I love using is speed listening.

When I first started medical school, I listened to most of my lectures at 1.5 to 2 times the speed. And I thought that was good enough because you were watching three hours of lecture in an hour and a half. That’s a pretty good deal. I was able to increase that to 2.75 to 3 times and really expedited this process.

If you are interested in how that works, here’s a blog post on How To Study Faster With Speed Listening.

If I gain an extra hour and a half or two hours where I can actually jump into the review, my retention is going to improve.

So in terms of grading speed listening from a retention standpoint, it gets a 6 out of 10.

From a time standpoint, because it’s so efficient, it gets a 10 out of 10.

For review potential, it’s hard to review audio lectures, so it gets a 5 out of 10.

And the overall grade is B+.

Bonus: Want to learn how I got a 3.9 GPA in med school using a simple-to-follow study strategy? Get access to my exact study method from med school for free here. 

Learning Method #4 Reading Syllabus

Now, the last study method that we’ll talk about in the learning category is simply reading your syllabus or your class material.

This is the quickest thing that I let go of in medical school, including also going to class because I realized that it took way too long and my overall retention was really poor.

If you are somebody who really enjoys reading from the text or your school happens to ask a lot of questions from syllabus readings, and you want to understand how to improve your reading technique to better prepare for the exam, check out this article: How To Remember What You Read In Med School

You’ll learn how to remember everything that you read using a step-by-step and easy-to-follow system.

After my first semester of medical school, I just stopped reading the syllabus altogether.

So my grade for reading the syllabus or class material in terms of retention is 4 out of 10.

In terms of time, it just takes forever, that’s a 3 out of 10.

In terms of review potential, it’s just really hard to review overall, so it gets a 3 out of 10.

And the overall grade is one big fat red F.

Get The Exact 8-Steps I Used To Get A 3.9 GPA In Med School For Free Below!

Category #2 Reviewing

Next, we’ll talk about the study methods that I use to help me review the material that I learned. Hopefully, you can do the same.

Review Method #1 Spaced Repetition

We’ll start with spaced repetition.

Most students are familiar with spaced repetition through various software, whether it be Anki, Quizlet, or by using spaced repetition themselves.

In spaced repetition, you’re essentially saying, show me the information in one day, two days, or three days, and then show me the information I suck at more than the information I’m really good at.

If there’s one technique that not necessarily saved me time but just streamlined the entire process, this was it. I can literally do this from start to finish and be prepared for the exam.

Bonus: Want to learn how I got a 3.9 GPA in med school using a simple-to-follow study strategy? Get access to my exact study method from med school for free here. 

In fact, if you want to see my entire streamlined approach of how I used one of the spaced repetition tools called Anki to get that 3.9 GPA, then check out this article: How To Use Anki Like A Pro [Full Step-by-Step Walkthrough]

In that blog post, I showed how I used a spaced repetition tool to understand and take my notes for the first phase, review them, and then use them for both the test as well as for long-term retention. So there’s just one strategy for all of it.

In terms of grading, spaced repetition on the retention scale gets a 9 out of 10.

In terms of time, it gets an 8 out of 10.

For review potential, because it’s so built around it, it gets 10 out of 10.

And the overall grade is A+.

Here's How I got a 3.9 GPA in Med School - Outlines

Review Method #2 Outlines

Method number two within the review phase is making outlines.

This is a technique that I did a lot in college and it worked. But it was one of those things that didn’t work in medical school. It just took me way too much time.

I was making what I thought was a big hit list that was 20 or 30 pages for every test or quiz. And I said that if I knew all of then I’m golden. Unfortunately, I just never had enough time to go through my outlines.

Interestingly enough, if I had switched to making my outlines using the QA method that we talked about earlier, then this would be much more effective. Unfortunately, I didn’t do so.

Bonus: Want better grades with more free time (and less stress)? Get access to our free 3-step study system here to see what other top students do that you may not be doing!

So based on my personal experience in making outlines, on the retention scale it gets a 6 out of 10.

On the time scale, it takes so long, so that’s 3 out of 10.

For review potential, 4 out of 10.

And the overall grade is C.

Now, this had the potential of being a B- or B+ study method, not as great as the spaced repetition tool, but it could have been so much more effective.

So again, if you love making outlines, definitely check out that QA article here.

Want Better Grades In Med School In Less Time Using Just 3 Steps?

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Picmonic

Now, before we get back to the review methods, let’s take a quick break to talk about our sponsor, which is Picmonic.

If you’re not familiar with Picmonic and you’re on your medical journey, you should know that they have hundreds of videos for literally any class or material that you may need.

For example, in microbiology, you can click on any video. For example, a video about staph aureus.

The videos are very short. This staph aureus video is about 1 minute and 54 seconds. Essentially, it will break down the most high-yield components you have to know about staph aureus. This has a very nice story format that uses images.

Picmonic - Staph Aureus 1

A nice Oreo cookie image is used to link important concepts for higher retention. You may find the same memorable images included in other related videos.

For example, the green poison jar represents food poisoning. Any bacteria that may cause food poisoning may have this image on their videos. So it’s easy to remember all the different bacteria that cause food poisoning.

Picmonic - Staph Aureus 2

Whenever you feel comfortable with the information you got from the short video, you can easily go into the Review and Quiz tabs and test yourself about the various high-yield components.

Picmonic - Review

Picmonic - Quiz

In addition to having a very unique and easy way to remember information for your quizzes and tests, you can also add all of the videos you’re watching into a playlist. So if you’re studying for a microbiology class, you can go ahead and add the related videos to a playlist.

Picmonic - Add to playlist

And then whenever it’s time, you can come back to your individual playlist and either watch those individual videos again or ask specific quiz questions related to the videos.

Picmonic - Playlist

And that’s just scratching the surface in terms of features that Picmonic has to help you on your medical journey.

Other cool things include having a weakness guide so you can see which topics you’re the weakest in.

Picmonic - Weakest

They also have a study scheduler, so you can include the topics that you need to know, and plot your test day. And then Picmonic will give you a study schedule based on that.

Picmonic - Study Scheduler

So if you’re looking for an all-in-one resource for your medical journey, I definitely recommend checking out Picmonic.

Picmonic has been nice enough to include a 20% discount if you use the code “TheMDJourney” at checkout.

As always, thanks to Picmonic for being our sponsor!

Get The Exact 8-Steps I Used To Get A 3.9 GPA In Med School For Free Below!

Review Method #3 Notion Method

Review method number three is the Notion or Excel method.

Given all of the information you’re learning in the lecture, you can actually put all that into a database and see what’s left to be mastered for any quiz or test.

If I have everything checked off, then that means I’m golden. I’ve done all my reviews, I’ve done all my first and second passes, and I’m ready for the test.

And I can also sort based on my weaknesses. So that’s essentially where the Notion method comes from.

This is the database that we’ve created for both our coaching students, as well as students within our Level Up Your Studying course.

Notion Method

You can break down all of the information from your lectures. So if you’re on a cardiology block, you may have a topic on hypertension or arrhythmias. If you’re struggling with one thing, you can always come back and watch those specific videos.

This database adds other fancier nuances, like difficulty scores. So when you have to review, you might want to start with the topics that are the hardest to do and then move down the line. Before a test, you can also check if you feel confident about every single topic that you have added to your database.

In medical school, whenever I wasn’t able to use a spaced repetition tool like flashcards, this is the study method that I ended up using.

Bonus: Want better grades with more free time (and less stress)? Get access to our free 3-step study system here to see what other top students do that you may not be doing!

Instead of making the effort to learn a syllabus or to learn a slide, it was really nice to incorporate all the information I learned in Notion and just have to learn through this database. You don’t have to go back and forth between the slides and the lectures unless you really need to.

And then if you know everything here, you’re golden.

In terms of grading the database method, for retention, it gets a 9 out of 10.

For time, since it doesn’t take too long, it’s about 8 out of 10.

For review potential, it’s super effective, so that’s 9 out of 10.

And the overall grade is an A.

And again, if you’re interested in learning more about the Notion method, getting the template, or any of the other study strategies we teach our students, check out the Level Up Your Studying course.

Category #3 Test Preparation And Long-Term Retention

Next, we’re going to transition to our final category which is test preparation as well as long-term retention.

This is arguably the most important phase. And again, if you want to know how I used spaced repetition to do this, then go ahead and check out this article: How To Use Anki Like A Pro In Medical School

Bonus: Want to learn how I got a 3.9 GPA in med school using a simple-to-follow study strategy? Get access to my exact study method from med school for free here. 

Method #1 Practice Questions

The first study technique that we’ll talk about within this phase is going to be the use of practice questions.

Every student has their own way of using practice questions. Most people tend to use it as they get closer to a quiz or a test.

Personally, in medical school, practice questions are part of my daily or at least weekly routine. So if it was a really busy class, I would say commit two days in a week where you just try to do 20 or 40 questions from a question bank that you paid for or something you find online.

And if it was a lighter class I would try to do 5 questions a day.

Essentially, what I was trying to do is to identify topics that I had learned that I wasn’t good at. This is a way that they’ve connected two different ideas that I’ve learned over two lectures, or here is what’s high yield, I’ve heard my professors say it, I’ve seen it in the syllabus, and here’s a practice question on it.

Here's how I got a 3.9 GPA in Med School - Practice questions

This must be fair game for any test that shows up for boards as well as an upcoming test.

And so if I missed a practice question during my cardiology block, I would add it to those relevant notes. And so when an upcoming quiz or test comes around, I made sure not only did I understand the information from the lecture, but also I also use the practice questions.

So in terms of grading practice questions, on the retention scale, it gets a 9 out of 10.

On the time scale, you can argue depending on how long it takes, it gets a 7 out of 10.

But for review potential, it is one of the most effective tools, thus getting a 9 out of 10.

And the overall grade is an A

Get The Exact 8-Steps I Used To Get A 3.9 GPA In Med School For Free Below!

Method #2 Brain Dump Feynman Technique

Next, we’ll be talking about the brain dump or the Feynman technique.

This is probably my personal favorite technique that I’ve used all the way back from my college days. It is the best of just saying, you’re completely BS-ing yourself, you think you know this but you actually don’t.

This is how it works. Imagine you had a plain piece of paper and you told yourself that you have memorized everything from a lecture. Go ahead and scribble everything that you remember on a piece of paper. And you’re going to quickly find out that there are things you won’t remember.

Those are great opportunities. Those are the gaps in your knowledge. Mark them on a piece of paper. And then go back to your lecture, your syllabus, your notes, and your slides, and check what you missed.

Bonus: Want to learn how I got a 3.9 GPA in med school using a simple-to-follow study strategy? Get access to my exact study method from med school for free here. 

Fill in the holes and then do it again. This technique, in my opinion, is one of the best ones you can use to prepare for the test.

You can tell if you don’t really know a certain topic or you don’t feel very confident. If you couldn’t do it, then you need to review it.

So in terms of grading, the brain dump or the Feynman technique gets a 10 out of 10 on the retention scale.

On the time scale, a 10 out of 10 too, because it’s so quick.

For review potential, you have to force yourself to do this and it needs to be a predictable schedule, so it gets a 7 out of 10.

And the overall grade is A+.

Here's How I Got a 3.9 GPA in Med School - Group study

Method #3 Group Studying

The next step in studying for exams is group studying.

The utility of group studying depends so much on the group because often it just turns to socializing.

But it definitely has the potential of being strategic, especially if you combine it with a lot of the techniques that we’ve talked about so far.

Come to your group setting with a list of questions, ask them to your classmates, and have them ask you whatever they have on their list. And then you can compile these into a worksheet or Excel document.

Bonus: Want better grades with more free time (and less stress)? Get access to our free 3-step study system here to see what other top students do that you may not be doing!

Try to see if you can answer every single question that you and your group mates have created.

If not, you can use your group session to ask, “Can you go ahead and explain this question to me? I don’t really understand the answer.”

In my opinion, that is the optimal way of using group studying. But unfortunately, it’s not that typical.

So in terms of grading on a retention scale, group studying gets a 6 out of 10.

In terms of time, since you have to set out time for it, it’s 5 out of 10.

For review potential, it’s a 7 out of 10. But it could be more depending on how you use it.

And so the overall grade is a C.

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Click Below To Get FREE Access To Our Study Course To Discover The 3-Steps Hundreds Of Med Students Have Used To Increase Their Grades & Efficiency While Studying Less

Method #4 Review Sessions and Office Hours

Next, we’re going to talk about review sessions and using office hours to prepare for your tests and long-term retention.

In medical school, we had TA review sessions very often before a quiz or test. But I realized quickly that showing up to the sessions wasn’t that helpful.

More so, the actual slides and the questions that the TA came up with were much more helpful. So I saved myself some time and used review sessions strategically by using the slides or whatever information they gave me. 

I check what’s in there that I haven’t put in my database or in my spaced repetition tool, add them, and try to master them. Whether they are practice questions or a slide, or they emphasize a topic that I really haven’t given any attention to during my review, that’s really helpful.

Bonus: Want better grades with more free time (and less stress)? Get access to our free 3-step study system here to see what other top students do that you may not be doing!

The quality is really dependent on who’s teaching as well as the topic itself. And I wasn’t really an auditory learner. So that’s not something that I use very often.

In terms of grading for retention, because it is already very close to the test, this method gets an 8 out of 10.

For time, because you have to set aside time to actually show up to these or actually go through the review slides, it gets a 5 out of 10.

For review potential, it gets a 6 out of 10.

And the overall grade is B.

Whenever you’re ready, there are 4 ways I can help you:

1. The Med School Handbook:  Join thousands of other students who have taken advantage of the hundreds of FREE tips & strategies I wish I were given on the first day of medical school to crush it with less stress. 

2. The Med School BlueprintJoin the hundreds of students who have used our A-Z blueprint and playbook for EVERY phase of the medical journey so you can start to see grades like these. 

3. Med Ignite Study ProgramGet personalized help to create the perfect study system for yourself so you can see better grades ASAP on your medical journey & see results like these. 

4. Learn the one study strategy that saved my grades in medical school here (viewed by more than a million students like you). 

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out the other informative articles here:

Thanks for being a part of my journey. Hopefully, I was little help to you on yours.

Until the next one, my friend…

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