Study Smarter, Not Harder

Last Updated on June 26, 2022 by Laura Turner

Occasionally when I am browsing the online forums on SDN, I come across an unfortunate statement like this: “I studied so hard for my chemistry final and did horrible.” I’ve come across this problem for classes other than chemistry as well. A lot of people say they studied hard, but did they really? Until I really understood the other principles of studying, I didn’t realize that there is a lot more than just the act itself.
Some of the variables I’ve been able to come up with that impact studying are sometimes things we don’t analyze. A couple examples are sleep patterns, intrinsic motivation, breaks, contacting your professor, repetitive intervals, studying like it’s your job, remembering the ultimate goal and of course having fun when your not studying. I personally have to constantly remind myself to remain vigilant of everything I do and how it will impact my studying. Just remember that every test counts, so make the best possible outcome for yourself by following some of these tips.
Sleeping and Time Management
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five should receive at least seven to nine hours of sleep. From past experience, I know it is tempting to put things off until the last minute and then panic begins to set in when the reality of your situation hits you. A study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health said that “Daytime sleepiness, sleep deprivation, and irregular sleep schedules are highly prevalent among college students, as 50% report daytime sleepiness and 70% attain insufficient sleep.”
This can’t be assumed for absolutely every college student because it’s only an average. However, this should be used as a reference point. Approximately 70% of college students are receiving insufficient sleep. This can lead to academic compromise and the potential increased risk of academic failure all together.
Time management is an invaluable skill to obtain. It’s not easy, but once mastered it can be imperative to academic success. I do not consider myself to be a perfect student, but after choosing to manage my time more wisely, I have found that my overall grade point average has increased significantly. Sometimes it’s more important to drop an activity, instead of scoring poorly in a class.
Intrinsic Motivation: Your Secret Weapon
Do you ever sit and think to yourself why you are truly doing something? This happens to me a lot. I’m deeply fascinated by emergency medicine, occasionally I think why can’t I just become a paramedic instead of an emergency room physician? I believe for me, the real key lies in the hospital setting where a more thorough routine and treatment can be conducted. It sounds so much easier to get my associate’s degree in two-years, than spending ten to twelve years out of my life in a highly competitive industry that I may or may not succeed in.
When you’re sitting in class truly questioning your reasoning for being here, it’s helpful to remember what you plan on becoming someday. My personal example: I want to become an emergency doctor someday and complete a fellowship in pediatric or critical care so that I can save lives and make a difference in my community. You may have to do some soul searching to find out what it is in the medical field that inspires you to take on this challenging career.
If you plan on achieving a PhD, one of your goals may be to discover a disease. Although some of these goals might seem far fetched, the reality is they can be accomplished with the proper amount of hard work. Discovering your intrinsic motivation is an advantage not everyone thinks of. Any advantage in the world of competitive medicine is a leg up. Next time you think that you can’t do this, think about the positives that can come out of your hard work.
Types of Studying; Passive, Active, Repetitive
There are many forms of studying, but I decided to break them up into a few different tactics. From what I have seen, the most common form of studying is passive studying, which isn’t as effective as active studying. Examples of passive studying include reading and listening to lectures. Even flash cards can be considered as passive.
I classify active studying as a few different things. Examples include teaching the lesson out loud and copying as much information as you can onto a white board or sheet of paper. Make a list of everything you have to know for the test. Anything you can’t teach from memory or write down is what you need to study. It’s not bad to keep going over the stuff you have already learned, but the weak areas are the ones you want to tackle.
This is something I am still in the process of developing, but it has made a huge impact on my studying. Passive studying isn’t bad, it’s just not as effective as it could be. I write important things I need to know down on notecards. I put one on my TV before I watch it, one on different weights when I work out, one on my door, my shower, my front door, my mirror, my tooth brush, my hair brush. Assuming my test is a whole week away, I’ve read the facts a minimum of 7 times; all together one-hundred and ninety three times.
Combine that with active studying and you’ve got yourself in a pretty good position to not just pass the test, but to excel.
Your Job
It’s important to keep in mind college isn’t a game. You should have fun, but the point behind it is to get an education. College can be some of the best years of your life, while at the same time giving you an effective education. When I want to go hang out with friends, but I have a test tomorrow, I have the ability to decline it.
Part of your job as a student is using good judgment. Determine whether or not you can make up your study time. If you can’t, don’t go out. If you put it off and never do it, there’s no point in being a student unless you want to just want to cut by with minimal passing grades. Take a second to observe your current status; are you a responsible learner?
Determine this, then make your decision on whether or not this is a good idea. Your job as a student is also to “NOT” get into trouble. A misdemeanor can be incredibly detrimental to your medical school application, especially if you are caught lying about it. Drunk and disorderly is not doctor-like; think twice before you go out to a party.
Ultimate Goal
Keep perspective when attending college. It’s important to have fun and enjoy your life, and implementation of the previous advice will serve you well. Remember that effective time-management can be the difference between a successful academic career and one destined to failure.
Next time you decide to go out, remember what exactly is on the line. If am going to skydiving and I accept the risk involved, the odds are everything will be okay. It’s a judgment decision that I have made and accept. I find adventurous activities more entertaining than going out to a party and drinking.
Intrinsic motivation isn’t something you can acquire immediately. Effectively using this article to your advantage will take some work. If you are doing everything above already, congratulations to you–you are one leap ahead of the competition. If you want something bad enough, you will do whatever you can to get it. Good luck to the members of SDN.