Transitioning from high school to college is a large step, especially if you plan on taking pre-med courses. Exams in general biology and general chemistry will encompass a lot more material in a shorter period of time than your typical high school exams.
Your professor will tell you: Don’t cram for your exams! You need to study every day. This is completely true but much easier said than done. Most students will drop out of the pre-med track because they find that they’re high school cramming habits are not able to get them A’s or even B’s.
(By the way, I was one of those students before I got my act together!)
Here are 5 pre-med study habits you can develop in order to excel in your pre-med (and eventually medical school) studies.
#1 Read Before The Lecture
This is something that is stressed by probably every professor you will ever have, but most students won’t even read before the lecture at all.
I understand the temptation to not prepare for lectures. The amount of reading in college can be very overwhelming, and sometimes it seems like skipping the lecture reading can open up extra time for more efficient studying.
Although it may seem like reading beforehand is a waste of time, I promise you it isn’t.
When you read before the lecture, you may run into information that may be confusing to you. This is good because now your brain is prepared to focus on this material when you attend the lecture.
Even if none of the material is confusing, you will have seen the material twice before you begin studying for the exam which is very beneficial.
Further Reading: My Premed Story: From 2.0 to 4.0 (See where study habits for pre-med students can get you!)
#2 Study Right After the Lecture
This strategy alone helped me get an A in organic chemistry.
Lectures are full of information, most of which are potential testing material. It is important that you retain this information. Although this may not be the case with every class, studying right after the lecture is very important when it comes to committing that information to memory.
Studying right after the lecture takes up little of your time. I think I spent about 45 minutes to an hour going over my notes from organic chemistry after every class.
When you review your notes right after class, you can consolidate the jumbled mess and make a cohesive study guide. When it is time to study for the exam, your notes will be a clear representation of the corresponding lecture.
#3 Study Alternative Material
This study tip helped me with almost all my classes in undergrad. Find some sort of alternative resource that either covers or overlaps the material you need to study. The idea is to further increase your understanding of the material by engaging it from different angles.
One example of an alternative source I used was the Crash Course video series for history. These videos helped me organize boring history facts into different themes of various time periods, and ultimately made recall much easier on the exam.
During my special master’s program studying alternative material was essential. For micro, we used SketchyMedical which does an excellent job of using visually appealing videos to help nail down difficult concepts. For extra physiology problems, we would use BRS (Board Review Series). And for Histology, having 100s of Anki cards with images of tissues helped me memorize the patterns.
#4 Study Smart
Getting through college, and eventually, medical school is about learning how to study. A good work ethic is important too, but eventually you will be given more work then you have time to do.
Spend time developing study techniques that will help you excel in the variety of classes you are placed in. Figure out what the teacher emphasizes and what he/she will most likely put on the test. In addition to this, figure out which classes you need to devote more of your time to and distribute your time accordingly.
Talk to previous students, advisors, and your teachers to get a better feel of what will be on the test. This way you won’t waste time reading material that will not be covered.
#5 Make a Schedule And Stick To It
This is very important. Part of the reason why my grades dropped during my freshmen year was that I kept ignoring my schedule and acted surprised when there was an exam the next week. Every professor provides ample notification of upcoming exams, you should always be prepared.
Review your syllabus on the first day of each class and put all important dates into your phone (or find yourself a good planner if you prefer the more brick and mortar approach).
During your semester, you will be able to look at the upcoming weeks and discern whether or not you need to work ahead.
Do yourself a favor and develop these habits. Your grades will improve. Even if you are able to successfully cram before every exam, won’t your life be so much less stressful if you can go to bed on time knowing you are prepared?
With these tips, you can avoid cramming and relieve test anxiety. I honestly can’t remember the last time I studied past midnight for a science exam (even in my specials masters program!).
Stick to these 5 pre-med study tips religiously and you will excel in your pre-med studies.
I say it over and over in this blog: smart people don’t get into medical school, hard workers do. These study tips are designed to help you stay on top of things. When you are keeping up with all the necessary work, not procrastinating, and actively trying to study smarter, you can be a 4.0 GPA pre-med student.
As I wrote in my premed story, I went from being a 2.0 student to a 4.0 student following these exact tips. I got interviews with almost half of the medical schools I applied to and was accepted into my top choice. If I can do it, so can you!