What if I told you that your study system is broken? Do you know that there is a more efficient way to study?
Let me show you an easier and more efficient way to study, as a resident.
A More Efficient Way to Study
I want you to know that yes, I get your emails and I read your comments all the time. And this is a topic that always comes up.
I received emails and comments saying,
“My studying is in trouble. I need help. I have a test in eight days. Help. Help me!”
And I totally get it. I used to be in your shoes.
But this is most likely because your study system is broken, guys. Mine was.
And it’s hard to identify because you’re naturally taught to study like this.
But in med school, as a pre-med and definitely in residency, this kind of study system doesn’t work.
So, what is a more efficient way to study? Let’s get into it.
Why is Your Study System Broken?
First, let’s talk about why your study system is likely broken and no one likes to hear that. It’s almost like hearing your baby’s ugly.
But, if you are not getting the results you need, I promise you guys, you’re probably studying in an incorrect, or at least, inefficient way.
I know that because I was.
That’s why I want to help any of you guys that are doing the same thing.
There is No Flow
Now, the main issue that we have is that we don’t study with a flow.
What that means is that you’re likely doing 101 different things at the start, middle and end of your study system.
You can be:
- trying to read a syllabus chapter.
- watching a lecture and audio lecture.
- reviewing, writing down notes, doing flashcards, and doing some practice questions.
There’s just so much.
The problem is you are kind of going back and forth between all of them. And then you start to get confused and say,
“Crap, I really don’t know what’s going on”.
“I don’t understand the topic and I have a test in eight days. Help me.”
Those are the emails I usually get.
But today is your day, guys. I’m going to give you a system is frictionless and effortless.
What you must learn is that when you do something, there’s nothing else that matters except that kind of tasks.
And I’ll give you an example later.
There’s Just So Much Going On
I’ll tell you one more time, your current study system has you bullied back and forth from lectures to audios, to reading or reviewing, to flashcards.
If you don’t have a good flow of switching back and forth between the two, you’ll just end up like an IKEA furniture. You’ll end up like the ones I just made, which probably just looked like a total mess.
Instead, you want to be like a factory.
You want to be a factory where step one is required to move on to step two.
And you can’t even worry about step 10 right now. You’re just at step one.
And now, let’s talk about a more efficient way to study!
Four Steps to an Efficient Study System
There are four things that you really need to be in the flow of studying more efficiently. There are four steps.
These are the steps that you need to do. So, let me break them down really quickly.
When you’re learning a topic for the first time, you’re going through a book. I’m going to give you an example in a while.
As you read your book, you want to be able to quickly identify
- What do I not know
- What do I know but still is important
Once you get those two things, that’s enough for you to jot down things in your notes or whatever you’re using to record things.
Step number two is to be able to gain that information.
Once you identify something or distinguish the important points you need to pay attention to. Make sure you learn this.
And you do that by jotting them down on your notes or somewhere.
You can do it in any way.
What’s important is you need to have a process of gaining that information.
Then, step three is retaining.
This is where you review. You can make flashcards or outlines. Or maybe do group study.
This is how you make sure the information you learned remains in your head before the test date.
Finally, the last step is to master. Now, this obviously requires some repetition.
It even happens after you’ve taken the exam. When you’re going into your rotations, you’re a resident and your doctor, you will still be mastering these topics.
Mastery is a long-term process.
So those are the four basic steps that you should follow in your studying – distinguish, gain, retain and master.
Now, let’s apply this to our study system.
How do you make sure you’re distinguishing first before you even get into the retaining or the mastery step?
Here’s my study method.
Example of My Study Method
To be able to help you guys understand how to study efficiently we’re going to just use one of my residency books.
This is what I’m using currently to study for my internal medicine residency.
This book is actually nothing different from a lot of your syllabus chapters – it’s bulky. There’s a lot of paragraphs and it can become intimidating.
Now, in your current study method, the natural flow again is to read a chapter and say, “Crap, I don’t understand that.”
“Maybe I should make a flashcard may be to take notes.”
“Maybe I should highlight.”
And that switching back and forth between one task and another would just confuse you more. Your brain just doesn’t do well with that.
Instead, you need to have a process where you can read without worrying about jotting down notes.
Here’s how I do it. Let me pick a heavy paragraph and show you.
This page is talking about the definition of syncope. I’m about to be on a neuro clinic pretty soon so this is perfect. So, let’s go over our steps.
When I’m reading this versus trying to focus on taking notes, all I’m doing guys is I’m reading. I’m just actively trying to pay attention to what I know as well as what is unknown to me.
I don’t try to understand them all at once. I’m just simply reading.
Now, as I’m going through it, I just leave a little mark on the line of that particular fact or near that paragraph.
Basically, what I’m doing is I’m telling myself, “Hey, go through the whole thing, then go back and find your markings.”
You just have to find all of the lines or paragraphs that you marked that you consider as important. That’s how you distinguish them.
Hopefully, that makes sense.
Just go through your syllabus chapters or your PowerPoint and somehow jot just pieces of facts that you plan on taking notes on. But don’t take notes just yet.
This way you can read and actively retain information without trying to transition between different tasks.
Now, step two is gain.
What you have to do now is to try to gain that information.
This may be taking everything that I put as I’m working into a flashcard or putting that in my outlines.
So, what I do is I would go back and look at all the things in that I marked. Then, I make Anki cards because I love making flashcards.
If you want to learn how to make flashcards, you can check out this free video course which includes how to make flashcards.
If not flashcards, you can pick whatever system you want to go in and like learn the material for the first time.
As for me, I love using flashcards. That’s what seems to work best for my system.
FYI. You might want to check out this post on how to review Anki cards more efficiently and effectively.
The next step is to retain the information you gained.
For retaining, again, I found flashcard to be very easy and effective. Anki gives you a nice schedule that you can use to review.
But if you think that won’t work for you, then create some kind of review system.
You can either be reviewing on the weekends or reviewing something you learn a week before.
For example, if you’re reviewing Monday’s lectures, do Monday’s lectures plus review Monday’s lectures from the week before.
Have that kind of review schedule that’s personalized to you.
And, finally, master. This is all about repetition.
What you need to do is make sure that you’re somehow creating a system to repeat and review.
Focus on One Thing at a Time
Now I know I rushed through those last few steps, but I did that on purpose.
And that’s because most of us, including myself, have flaws and issues at the start of our study system, but not so much at the end.
What usually happens is at the distinguishing and gaining phase, we try to transition between them, back and forth.
It then becomes really muddy and we become overwhelmed.
So, I want to make sure you guys understand.
Focus on, you’re distinguishing, first before going into your gaining phase.
So, that’s it, guys.
You can check out other blog posts and try my free video courses in case you want to learn how to review and study for exams.
But again guys, it’s super-efficient to be able to focus on one thing at a time.
You’re going to be a factory where step one is going to be basically where you know nothing.
And the final step is we’re going to be a competent student that all understand that fact and that topic.