Building strong habits is one of the ways that can make us more productive in our lives. The trouble is that it is really hard to form habits and actually stick to them. Knowing how to do this is key but even more so is knowing which habits you want to try and form in the first place.
We may have stuck to studying habits for lots of reasons and a lot of them weren’t because they were the best habits to stick to. We’ve all done this you know sometimes we follow how our friends are studying even if it’s not ideal for us or we might even do things like revising topics that we already know because it makes us feel good. There’s all kinds of habits that we do for the wrong reasons.
It can take a lot of time to figure out which habits you want to stick to when it comes to studying, so to save you some of that time here are top six habits that can positively improve your studying life.
1. Make Use of Past Paper Questions
You might not know this but medical schools are notorious for examining students in completely different ways. One university miight want you to learn the anatomy of the whole body in your first year but in less detail than another university which might want you to learn every aspect of the upper body in your first year.
Some universities like to test students in completely different ways than others. W have got multiple choice questions, short answers, full-on essays and everything in between. Some are more clinically applied and some are more theory based. The list goes on all of.
This is important to remember because ideally you want to tailor your own studying strategy to the specific exam questions and content that are being taught at your university, on the course that you’re on. This of course helps us score as best as we can. One way to do this is to be guided by past paper questions.
Instead of learning all of the material from the lectures and tutorials then using past paper questions in the last couple of weeks to figure out what your exam is going to look like, it’s a good habit to check what your past paper questions look like early on in your studying.
Looking at them will not only show you what the questions are going to be like but more importantly it shows you the patterns of the types of content and questions that are going to be asked. This means that you can start to tailor your revision by spending more time on those high-yield topics that your professors and your university love to ask you on.
If you can get to the point where you have a clear understanding of the things your school want you to know and how they are going to test you from past paper exams then you are setting yourself up for success. It is always a good habit to get into early on whatever the course you are doing.
2. Working With Friends
Studies done by employers show that their employees are 50% more satisfied when they are working with others and the quality of the work produced increases as well. This is similar when it comes to studying for exams.
It is really beneficial to work with other people. It is so tempting not to make the effort and to decide that you’re going to follow your own timetable and that you don’t want to be potentially distracted by others but honestly there is so much benefit from working with other students.
You are in a supportive environment and this usually leads to feeling more empowered to do your own best work. Being with friends means that you’re fully engaged in the task that’s in front of you because you’re all working on the same thing at the same time.
On top of that the feeling of working towards a common goal with a group is a really good one and it helps to push you and keep you going sometimes even when you might be finding studying very hard. It also helps you get that start initially which a lot of people have difficulty with because if you are all there forcing yourself to start you are going to start.
Another great thing about group studying is that you can get realtime feedback from your friends and they can share all the resources they have or have created with you. There’s definitely something that we can learn from everyone around us and we really see this when you work in a group with other people around you.
3. Speak to Your Seniors
It is so important to use every resource you have available when it comes to studying for exams. One thing that people often forget about is that older years at your university or college have gone through exactly what it is that you are doing right now just a year or two before. They can give you tips on how to get ready for these exams, how to manage stress and what techniques to use.
They can also provide you with resources like their own notes and past paper questions. You can also use the mistakes that they have made as lessons going forward. They will probably have really good insights on what is going on at your school and they are likely to understand what they test on what’s the high yield material.
A lot of university also have societies where older years share their resources, their notes, their past paper exam questions and they offer tutorials and peer-to-peer teaching. It is really useful to get involved in those things as well. It helps you feel like you’re not going into your exams completely clueless if you know how other students have found those exams and studied for them the years before. It means that you’re going in as prepared as you can.
One of the worries about using a method like this is approaching the older years and asking them for resources or about their experiences. In most cases, anyone you talk to or message is going to be more than willing to help. They really want to help pass on their knowledge and their information to the younger years. They want to help and make sure you are as successful as possible.
Joining your medical school societies or asking about tutorials and peer-to-peer learning from older year students is a good way to meet those people build relationships with them and then ask them for the information or the help that you need when the time comes. Joining Whatsapp groups or Facebook groups is also a really good way to get into those circles. Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to the older years, 90% of them just want to help.
4. Stop Handwriting Notes
Handwriting notes can be a good way to stay active during your lectures but all of the evidence on studying tells us that note taking is one of the least efficient ways to retain and recall information for exams.
It is okay if your current or main method of studying is just taking notes. It can be a strategy that works, just that it takes a lot of time and effort and isn’t the best way to be doing things according to research. Instead, increasing the the amount of active recall you are doing is the better and more efficient way to study.
Changing your study method that you have had for such a long period of time can be really difficult but just consider trying something new and you can always see if it works better or it doesn’t then you can go back. There’s a good chance that if you are just handwriting notes, there’s probably a better and more efficient way of studying that will help you save time, help you remember information better and hopefully perform better on your exams as well.
Finding specific information from your handwritten notes at a glance is quite difficult and may result in you not revisiting these notes whereas with digital note taking you can just find any word you want in your huge expansive notes and documents that you have and so that makes it a lot easier to go back to old notes. It is worth exploring other options before you just stick to the route of going down endlessly writing handwritten notes.
It is also worth taking the time out to really think about whether your current study methods are actually working for you in the best way or if you’re just continuing on with them because they have worked in the past and you’re worried about changing them going forward.
5. Use To-Do Lists
Having a to-do list, either a digital to-do list or the traditional pen and paper, keeps you accountable and reminds you of what you need to do. It requires you to spend a few minutes at the start of your day to think of your plans and activities for the day and note them down.
A satisfying feel comes with striking off something on your to-do list or taking it off knowing that it’s done. If you use a digital to-do list or app and you’re not looking at it as often as you would like or it’s not serving its purpose as much as you think it should then it is highly recommend that you just ditch it and go back to a traditional pen and paper.
It does not matter whether you use a digital to-do list or you use pen and paper, it’s all about what works for you so check which one you find more helpful and which one keeps you accountable and use that one.
6. Remembering The Ultimate Goal
It is so easy to get lost in the thought that you hate a particular module that you have to study and you can’t really see the point of getting it done. It is important to remember that that particular module is just a step towards the wider goal that you might have going forward.
Being clear about your goals and using them to motivate you instead of being tunnel visioned on directly what’s in front of you can really help with motivation and studying over a long period of time.
If you can reflect on what it is you want and why you are in the journey in the first place then you will feel like you have gone a long way in terms of reframing the tasks that you’ve set for yourself for that day or for that week.
One thing you can do to help is to keep a visual reminder on your desk or somewhere in your room that you can glance at a couple of times a day or once a day to remind you of the bigger purpose of what you are doing.
In the case of medical school, this could be a stethoscope or a photograph of when you got into medical school, the day you got accepted and how happy you were that day or something along those lines. Just something to help you remember how far you have come and where you have always wanted to be.
There you have it, six quality study habits that will increase your productivity in medical school. If you have any studying habits that have personally changed your life or made a big or significant impact on you then please do share them in the comments down below.