Author: Krsna M.
Fourth Year Medical Student
So, school has been shut, many assessments cancelled or on hold. Yet, some others continue online, or have been postponed to a later date. Whatever you’re revising for or will be revising for in future, if you need some motivation and study tips, here at Medical Projects we’ve got you covered.
- Use the time to fully understand what you’re learning.
For the first time, you don’t need to cram for an upcoming exam, so give yourself the opportunity to actually ‘get it’, enjoy what you’re doing and you will remember it a lot more.
- Make a long-term plan.
Nothing is fixed at the moment, circumstances are changing every day, and uncertainty is difficult to handle – but your plan can provide even a fraction of normality and stability. Schedule tasks that define and focus on what you would like to accomplish over the next few weeks.
- Make a short-term plan.
To avoid the whole day seeming like one unstructured ‘blob’, mentally schedule in when you’ll have meals, exercise, time for hobbies and relaxation or even a specific time for shifting to a new study space or a new topic. Make sure you stick to them, these small accomplishments will give you a sense of achievement and will boost your energy again.
- Set the scene.
Find a quiet, well-lit space (easier said than done, I know) or play light music to avoid it being ‘too quiet’. Keep everything you need at hand and let any other household members know you’ll be busy for the next two hours or so to avoid being distracted.
- Dress the part.
Try to avoid staying in your pyjamas (yes, you!)
- Embrace YouTube.
Learning without face-to-face teaching can certainly be difficult, that’s something we can all agree on. Even if your school is not holding online lectures, there are some excellent YouTube videos out there and more being made, which combine both dynamic visual and auditory explanations and are a powerful learning tool. Before fully committing to a video, make sure it is the right level for your learning and syllabus.
- Get yourself some flashcards.
Flashcards can be a fabulous friend. Compressing concepts into small, manageable, flashcard-sized chunks can help you take them in. There are also web-based programmes like ‘Anki’ that uses spaced repetition to help your memory, with ready-made flashcards or ones that you make yourself.
- Frequency frequency frequency
Frequency can go a long way (as I hope the above proved). As a medical student, you will be learning new medical terms all the time. If there are certain words you just can’t bring yourself to remember, write them down on a sticky-note and stick them at sites you will regularly pass, like your shelves or wardrobe…or even the fridge! Simply seeing them frequently will improve retention.
- Learn how you work
Are you a morning person? A night-owl? Suffer from post-lunch sleepiness? I have had friends who would rise at 3am to revise, what she called, her ‘best time’ (in no way suggesting this is what you should do!) Either way, figure out your body clock and adjust your study habits to it.
- Make it your own
Whether you’re learning new concepts or revising old ones, take time to personalise your study material. Write it down, draw it out, colour code or voice record. Your future-self will thank you.
- Take regular breaks
…and don’t feel guilty when you do. Pick up your dusty guitar or watch that new series you’ve been waiting for. Even aspiring medical students are human!
- Test yourself
Test yourself regularly as the exam gets closer. And what’s more, make a list of questions you’ve gotten wrong. Doing them again later will help you see how much you have improved.
- Use a clock
Having an indefinite period of time ahead can ease stress and be relaxing…but, it can also mean you spend a lot longer on simple tasks. Place a clock in front of you, to make sure you complete a task within its designated hour and don’t spend ages staring at a single page (guilty as charged!)
- Social media
Try to steer clear of social media during your allocated study time. It is almost too easy to be pulled away from your studies when a new notification that pops up and there have also been several intense headlines on the news which can be overwhelming, especially when you are trying to keep a clear head.
- Ask away
Don’t shy away from asking questions. Whilst quarantine can make us feel distant from our teachers and tutors (because we really are distant), this doesn’t mean they won’t be happy to help. Reach out via email or other online platforms and don’t be surprised if they send a long, helpful reply to ensure you understand.
- Even whilst staying home…
Get as much of that sunshine, fresh air and exercise, open a window, do home-workouts or take your recommended walk a day if this is possible.
- Be the teacher
When you feel you’re getting a bit sluggish, try explaining material out loud, as if you were explaining it to someone else. Research has suggested it can strengthen memory and help in realising what you don’t know, however, disclaimer: I cannot guarantee reciting some aspects of biology out loud will be particularly enjoyed by your family!
- Stay hydrated
Whether you’re a tea, coffee or hot chocolate person, a hot beverage has always helped me study. Secondly, keep a water bottle handy. Water can do wonders to how you feel.
- Stay connected
Speak to friends about how they are finding this time or how they have been, or even video call them and work ‘side-by-side’ or discuss difficult topics. Social isolation does not have to mean total isolation.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself
Recognise that it’s okay to have good days and bad days, but what started off as a bad day doesn’t have to end that way. Take a jog outside, go for a quick shower and convince yourself you will return refreshed. That usually goes a lot way. And if it doesn’t, recognise that it’s okay to feel a bit unmotivated, and not your ‘best self’ during the midst of an international pandemic. Studying and revising is important, but so is taking care of your well-being. So, reach out if you are feeling low, and reach out to others who might be feeling that way.
Together, we will all get through this and onto better times. You got this!