Studying medicine at university is a whole different ball-game to A-Levels, which requires a different style and approach to working. The amount of content you have to learn is immense and with assignments always due, it is important to learn how to keep on top of it all quickly. Having just finished the first year of medical school, here is the advice for how to conquer your workload and stay on top of it all!
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Not only doing going to lectures when they are on help you to concentrate and engage more, it also gives your day structure. If you don’t turn up, it is really easy to put off ever watching that lecture. Classes are timetabled for a reason – don’t fall for an extra hour in bed, rather than making it on time to your 9am.
You can’t cram in medical school work as you may have done throughout school. There is too much content for you to feasibly learn it all the week before an exam. Try to understand all of the key concepts as you go along. The trick is to do little and do it often.
If you can, go over each lecture and make sure you’ve fully understood it the same day or at least within the same week. Lectures often build on knowledge from previous lectures, so not only will this help you consolidate that content but it will also help you understand subsequent lectures.
Doing little and doing it often will help prevent any last-minute panic as exams approach, and help you to better retain knowledge in the long-term.
Just like school homework, it really is best to complete and submit any assignments you are given as soon as you possibly can. Some medical schools will require you to prepare for labs or PBLs, whilst others may require essays or literature reviews.
The type and amount of work you’re set will differ between medical schools, but wherever you go there will definitely be mandatory work. Do it as soon as possible, so that you don’t end up with too many things to do and not enough time on your hands.
Good organisation and time management is essential to making it through a medical degree and university in general. In order to fit all of your work in, make sure you stay involved in clubs and societies but also enjoy your social life – advance planning is truly key.
Make a timetable that works for you or plan out the tasks you want to accomplish each day, especially around exam time. This will help you to get everything done and ensure sure you have time to relax and see your friends.
You can usually acquire pristine revision notes from students in the years above you, however finding practise papers or questions tends to be a lot harder. This is because the format of exams may change frequently.
Many students find it useful to create their own resources as they go along. You could try making flashcards using apps, such as Anki or Quizlet. Another strategy to consider is creating multiple choice questions and short answer questions in the style of my exams that your medical school uses. Not only does this serve as a great revision resource, but it also makes learning the content easier as it requires a good level of understanding.
Identify what study style works best for you and go with it. Figure out what time of day you work best, how often you are likely to need breaks, and most importantly, what methods suit you.
There is so much content to learn that you could probably revise forever and still not feel confident that you are prepared for the exam! Rather than forcing the knowledge to sink in using the brute force of countless hours re-watching lectures and pouring over notes, revise smarter. Actively recalling information is the best way of revising, so do those past papers and practice as many questions as you can.
As mentioned before, if you do little and often, revising for an exam won’t seem like such an insurmountable task. You will have so many exams throughout your time at medical school and beyond, so you will get used to revising as you go along.
Doctors don’t work alone and neither should medical students. Medicine is a team game and in your career as a doctor, working with others will be central to helping patients. It is far better to work with your peers than against them. Learning from other people will prove to be a greater benefit than competing with them.
Working with your friends can also be a great way to study. Not only is it fun but it can reduce your workload, as you’ll be able to take in turns to teach different topics and test each other on your knowledge.
These are seven top tips for staying on top of your workload at medical school based on real experience. Whilst it’s important to ensure you keep up with work, it’s also good to get involved with other social activities.
A tutor once explained that the people they believe to struggle the most, are those who take on too many extracurricular activities, and those who don’t do anything other than their medical school work. It’s all about finding that balance that will work for you and your lifestyle; spend time with friends; join a club or society; exercise, and sleep and eat well. There is more to life than medical school!
Words: Safiya Zaloum
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