Everyone knows how to study. But not everyone knows how to study effectively. I’ve always been someone who studied and probably studied less than most students but would manage to get good grades. It wasn’t until medical school, where I had to actually devise a study plan to allow me to accommodate the increased workload to be able to study smarter and not harder.
I’ve done my homework on learning how to study when you have a lot on your plate. Trust me, I’ve watched videos of Harvard students and listened to their advice and I’ve also tried and tested various study methods of my own to see which ones reigned supreme.
Below, are the top 5 tips to study like an A+ student.
1. Create a Timed Study Routine
I watched a video of an A+ student from Harvard who said the key to getting straight A’s was studying for 6 hours each day, no matter what. Whether it was one subject or numerous subjects in the 6-hour time frame, this was the golden number of study hours necessary to learn, review and crystallize material. 6 hours is 1/4 or 25% of the 24 hour day so for some, this may seem tedious, especially factoring in sleep, errands, commuting, etc. For me currently, balancing my hospital rotations have been a little tricky. During the weekdays, after commuting from New York to New Jersey, I get home, workout, have dinner and my day seems to go by so fast. I currently dedicate 3.5 hours to study on the weekdays and use the weekends to catch up on the rest of studying. On many weekends I can study for 8-12 hours depending on what time I wake up. The best advice is to set a realistic timed study period for each day.
I use the Pomodoro Technique on most days using the downloaded iPhone app called Focus Keeper and Be Focused for the Mac that has a timer for 4 sessions of 25 minutes and 5 minutes break after each session. After the final cycle, you get a 25-minute break. You can customize the study period and breaks using the app as well. This regimen helped me push through and I was able to study more efficiently throughout the weekend and get enough sleep.
2. Create A Study Environment
Choosing an ideal study location depends on where you’d like to study. Some people can study in noisy places, while others find it distracting. I have friends who enjoy studying at coffee shops because they like the sounds of the hustle and bustle of customers coming and in an out and the “vibes”. Wherever you decide, just make sure you’re in a study place that is conducive to productivity. I prefer to study at home at my study desk in my room. When my desk gets too monotonous and enclosing, I switch to my living room couch with a small table. I personally don’t like libraries or coffee shops. I like to study with headphones, using meditation and earth sounds on Apple music while reading textbooks and articles, etc. Complete silence, busy background noise of the streets or side conversations are things I find extremely distracting. I can be easily distracted so, my Apple playlist keeps me super focused.
3. Organize A Study Plan
You need a study plan which should be a daily/weekly plan of which subjects you plan to study. For instance, if you’re going to study Anatomy and Psychology today, write it down. Also, write down how many hours you intend to spend during that study session.
I started using a planner and a large blank weekday calendar on my wall to organize myself. Each day, I plan to study 2 subjects for 4 hours.
- 2 hours study Anatomy – watch 1 hour of lecture + 1-hour read textbook
- 2 hours Psychology- 1-hour textbook readings + 1-hour practice questions
- Biostatistics 4 hours – Watch 2 hours of videos including lecture videos + youtube videos for clarification + 2 hours practice problems
If you plan to study by reviewing lecture Powerpoint slides, watching videos or required textbook readings, you should have a checklist. This checklist is usually found on the course syllabus, so make sure to print it out to keep track.
4. Identify Your Weaknesses + Overcome them
If there’s some information that you don’t really understand that well or wasn’t made clear, you should write that down or highlight it somewhere in your notes. You can revisit the topic later that day and have a professor, friend or Youtube clarify it for you. A big problem that a lot of people have is studying and understanding 50-75% of the study material. After understanding only 75% of the course content, they proceed to take an exam and somehow expect to get 100% grade. Miracles happen in life, but let’s be honest, the thing that you didn’t study or understand will ALWAYS end up on your exam. If you didn’t understand it while studying, guess what, you won’t understand it on your exam.
Identifying your weaknesses early is a major KEY! I like to review all of my notes, lectures, and textbooks at least one week before the exam. At this time, I already have created a list of topics and concepts that I don’t understand. From there, I return to my textbook, Google or Youtube search, classmate friends or even ask the professor for clarification. Now is not the time to be shy. Your grades and future career depend on this! I ain’t too proud to beg! The sooner you identify your weaknesses, the sooner you make them your strengths. There’s no use in studying aimlessly on topics that you already know well. That is simply called wasting your time. Like I said before, it’s all about studying SMARTER NOT HARDER.
5. Think Positive
The most successful students have a positive mindset in the classes that they take. I found that the classes that I dread the most such as math and physics ended up being the classes that I did the worst in. Once I was able to switch my mindset from “I hate math and I’m going to fail this course”, my outlook on the class improved and I was able to get better grades. If you’re constantly telling yourself that you’re going to fail the class, or that the class is hard, you’re going to become a student who fails or does poorly, simply because all of the negativity imposed upon yourself. If you can maintain a level of confidence in the fact that you will successfully pass the class, get good grades and actively pursue being a better student in the class, you will become the A+ student you want to be.
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