Powered by Blogger.

Memorisation Hacks For Med School

Personally, I think that when it comes to doing well in med school, memorisation is a large percentage of how you get that grade. I found it surprisingly easy to memorise certain concepts but found it just as easy to forget what I thought I knew a week later. I then had to put in more work to get all that info into my long-term memory so I could recall it once exam season came knocking.

When I think back to my anatomy lab exams, the reason I did well was because I had a good system in place of how to memorise names and locations of nerves, veins, muscles, ridges on bones (yes, even those have names!) and everything else I needed to know. When it came to my written exams, the same systems tweaked slightly helped me out immensely too.

I'm not posting this because I'm a perfect student (whatever that means to you), because I didn't do as well as I would have hoped in certain subjects like histology, but that's not important. I just want to share my tips because overall, I did do pretty darn great! I don't have an amazing memory to begin with, so I truly think these tips can help someone out there if you're like me and have to put some extra effort in memorising certain concepts. And if you're not a medical student, don't worry! I think these tips can definitely be changed up a little to fit whatever degree you're pursuing.

If you want to see a real-life "day in the life" of a medical student in China, be sure to check out my YouTube channel!

You cannot cannot cannot try to memorise something without having an understanding of the concept, no matter how general, in the first place. Here's what I mean; if I'm sat in a lecture about the 12 cranial nerves and my lecturer is explaining where each one is located, what each one innervates, what the consequence of damage to the nerve would mean etc, I can't then go back to dorm and start stuffing all that info in my brain if I didn't understand what was going on in lecture in the first place! I need to first go through the lecture and have a general understanding of the concept before I start with my memorisation routine. 

Actually, this very first step of having an understanding of the concept will make memorising it later on much easier! You're starting to build connections that can be strengthened, rather than trying to build those connections from nothing.

After I study the lecture and I have my understanding, I will then spend a couple of days going over it, just re-reading before bed or on the way to class on the bus. I do this again, to make the process of memorising easier.

My first tip is to use images and diagrams! If you've studied anatomy before, this is probably the first thing you turn to. I use diagrams whenever I'm making lecture notes, and even when using Anki (which I'll talk about later). I physically handwrite all of my notes - which is another memorisation hack, but I'll have a whole blog post up about this at a later date! - and the thing I love about handwriting so much is that I can draw a diagram easily. 

When you're trying to recall information later on, you're definitely more likely to recall an image rather than a bunch of text, so I utilise pictures whenever I can. When I was trying to remember the locations of all the carpal and tarsal bones right at the beginning of the semester, I drew out individual hands and feet and their bones (which made lab so much easier too!). 

Your hand-drawn images don't have to be great because my certainly weren't. They just have to be functional and useful for you! If you're looking for beautiful anatomy diagrams though, you've got to check out Bana Vu's Instagram page for the most dreamy studygram ever!

My next tip is to use a lot of mnemonics. I'm sure this is something we all use regardless of what degree we're pursuing, so I won't go on about it too much. I found them especially useful in anatomy for things that couldn't necessarily be learned per se, just memorised. Things like the cranials or branches of the external carotid artery all had their own mnemonics. They should be easy to recognise and as wacky as you can make them so you're more likely to recall what they actually represent!

Writing and re-writing is something that may seem redundant for some, but it is what personally helped me through sixth form, my first year of uni when I was learning Chinese, and now my first year of med school. Just the act of re-writing information and strengthening those connections is what will help you recall info if you're ever randomly asked by someone (which is something I like to do to my friends when they least expect it haha!).

This time around in med school though, I only use this for studying for my lab exams. The content for the written exams was much too extensive to spend time writing it all out again, which would have made this tip seriously redundant. 

A couple of weeks before a lab exam, I would get a big pad of paper and write down absolutely everything I needed to know over and over again everyday leading up to the exam, going over it on the bus to class or before I started studying my regular lecture notes. I'd also draw small images to help me out and once in the exam, it all just came jumping out at me and I was able to get full marks. I didn't find it time consuming at all, again because the content for lab vs theory was significantly less, and it seriously paid off!

Explaining concepts to someone is another thing I'm sure we all know and use, so it's not one I'll delve into. I do prefer to study by myself, but sometimes I would study with my friends and we'd help each other out by explaining concepts that we were really comfortable with to the others. It really helped out because it tests whether or not you know what you're talking about.  *flashbacks to GCSE Spanish when I would practise phrases on my dad in the car*

Piggybacking off of this point is to talk out loud to yourself! I love this even though it makes me look a little crazy haha. One thing I've noticed about Chinese students is they all seem to really utilise this point. Our campus library has sections for quiet study, where you'll get stared down if you make noise just flipping a page in your textbook, and entire sections for people to walk around with their notebooks in hand speaking entire essays out into the room. I've been using this point since my A-Level days, so I can 100% back this up!

Lastly, and I think the most important tip is to use spaced repetition and active recall. There are more than enough videos on YouTube and scientific studies explaining what this is and how to use it effectively and why it works, and I don't think I'll add anything new to the table, so I'll only explain how I use it here. If you do want to know more about it, you can check out Ali Abdaal's video on what the concept is because he is in my opinion the king of spaced repetiton!

I use is Anki, which is free to download even in China which I was so happy about. I have individual decks for each subject I'm taking and I add flashcards to those decks a few days after I do the whole understand the general concept thing I mentioned above. Each deck can have as little as 50 cards to as many as 200 sometimes. The best thing about the software is it will rate how well you know the card and decide when next to show it to you again, which is the spaced repetition element. You can make basic flashcards which have a front and back, cloze captions which make you recall a specific part of a sentence, and image occlusion which are the basic cards in picture form. I love the image occlusion cards especially for anatomy, and I add images to the basic cards too, whether I copy them from Google or screenshot the entire Powerpoint slide and stick it on a flashcard.

The user interface for Anki isn't very user friendly in my opinion, so it took a while to get into the swing of using it. The add-ons for Anki make it much better to use too. I use the mobile app as well as the desktop version, and sync my decks after every time I go through them. I try to get through each deck everyday, but sometimes it's impossible, and the thought of going through 400 cards everyday is certainly off-putting, but it's so so helpful! I usually go through them on the bus to and from class, in between class breaks, lunch time, and when I'm chilling before starting a study session. Just to throw this out there, this isn't sponsored by Anki, but if someone from Anki happens to be reading this right now.....

So those are all my tips for how I memorise info in med school! They're very different compared to just last year, let alone sixth form, and they've been so vital in maintaining my grades - not just my major but for Chinese language which I still take.

I hope you all found them useful, and even if you don't study medicine, can tweak them around to suit you!

Comment below your own tips for how you memorise things in uni. I'd love to try them out!

Related Post: 6 Studying Essentials

No comments

Leave a reply!