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Friday, June 20, 2008

Studying on Vacation - how to use your time wisely so you can have fun and be productive

I've been in Puerto Rico for the past week now. I haven't once touched my study materials but that's because I've been taking a less stereotypical approach to vacation. I don't really lie on the beach or take tours. I walk around ...pretty much the whole day but for the next few days, I'm going to start doing what the title says now that my semester is over.

To study on vacations, bring something light with you. Flashcards, review book, as long as it's under 2 pounds, it's probably a good bet. This is hard to do with a large group of people around. They might look at you strangely or diaspprove. So be strong and peer pressure resistant if you want to do this.

1) Use dead time to study. When you're in the car/bus/van for more than 30 minutes going somewhere, you can look out the window when you're bored but otherwise, you can read and try to learn since you have to spend time on transportation anyway. This is also great for airplane rides.

2) Use some of your rest time. Spending time on the beach and trying to get that tan? This is perfect way for you to either be put to sleep or get some learning done. Don't just lie on the beach towel. Bring your study materials with you and study when you get bored. Waiting on line to get in some museum or restaurant? Keep your ears open and try recalling whatever you read for the day. No one has to know.

3) If you're really geeky, you can play a game involving whatever you are studying with your friends who may also be studying the same thing. Alcohol and questions on medicine can be great fun. The ones who don't know anything can either be punished with more drinking or less drinking, depending on the desire of the group.

These are some ideas I've been thinking about in terms of studying on vacation. Do you have any? (Because I really need some more when I go away again in two weeks) Thanks.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Score a perfect score in class without taking notes

I have to admit. I'm a major blog reader. This article caught my eye this morning. From study hack comes an interesting article of how one student got his 4.0 without taking notes.

In short, his method was to pay full attention to the lecture as it goes on, only writing the big concepts. He recorded the lectures and listened to it carefully again 2-3 times. After that, he would just listen to it, over and over again, going along with his regular activities.

I don't think this will work with medical students without taking the lecture packets into account. I think it does help in terms of the massive amount of memorization we have to do. It's another form of reiteration.

I've listened to lectures over before but the quality can be difficult sometimes. Unless you have one of those recordings that's perfectly clear, I think this method would be difficult to implement. It would also be hard for those who learn better visually and those whose focus are on the image (ex: identifying parts).

This is not a reliable way of learning because it's dependent on each individual's learning style. If you're an audio learner (those who tend to recall sounds), then this may be the method for you.

Still in sunny sunny Puerto Rico. Enjoy the original article here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How to wean yourself off coffee

That jolt of energy you get every morning after drinking your first cup of coffee is a sign of dependence. Caffeine has become a socially acceptable drug as places like Starbucks bloom and pop up on every street corner. Don't get me wrong, I love coffee. Really. It's been a love and hate relationship between us though. If I drink too much of it, it has no effect on me. If I don't drink any, I feel like I'm missing out on the extra boost that will get me through my hard days. So what to do?

If you're already dependent on coffee, you can figure this out as my friend R did. No coffee for two days and see if it has any effect on your body. If you start getting headaches and such, then you are going through withdrawal. Your body has become coffee addicted. To stop that, you can drink coffee but slowly decrease the amount. So you might be drinking 2 cups a day. Cut it down to one cup for two weeks. Gauge how you feel and go from there, slowly decreasing the amount of caffeine you take in.

If you're only a little addicted to coffee but want to use it for its maximum benefit of giving you energy, then here's what you do.

Drink coffee only when you have to. Do it on hard days, days when you have to push but feel like you can't anymore. Don't drink it everyday. It won't have the same powerful boost as to someone whose body hasn't become accustomed to the regular supply of caffeine.

But what about meeting my friends at coffeeshops to talk? What do I do? You can get organic noncaffeinated tea instead or a blended drink that's coffee free. Either way, the point is to talk to your friends, not to drink actual coffee.

Stopping the coffee addiction can also greatly help your pocketbooks, not to mention your waistline (especially if you're in love with frappucinos and such.) But if you're really craving a frappucino, then indulge or make one from a recipe. Either way. be kind to your body and use coffee wisely.

Other recipes for frappucino can be found here and here and here.

How to study for long periods of time without boredom!

The past two weeks I have been studying for my microbiology and immunology miniboard. I focused mostly using the Lange review book since I find it the most comprehensive without assuming you know the details. (I'm getting through this program by learning hardcore cramming skills.) While some people may read and understand and remember, I am not one of those people. I need time and repetition to drill it into my head. This takes time and patience. I greatly need the latter. So this is what I did.

I broke it into chunks.

To really focus, I wrote out what I was learning in my own language, Serendipitinese. It made it easier to find out what I was missing in understanding the concepts and much easier to read later on to review.

The problem with writing is that your hand gets tired. To conquer that, I read. This meant, when I wasn't writing, I was reading and vice versa. But even that get boring so I set up stations.

Stations are 20 minute intervals where you do different activities at each station. Think of circuit training.

I would spend 20 minutes doing questions and writing down things that I didn't understand, the holes in my knowledge. Then I would spend another 20 minutes rereading what I wrote from doing questions. Then I would spend another 20 minutes reading and writing from another section of the book directly. The last station is simply just reading ahead. I had four bookmarks and after awhile, I knew the material that I had written down from questions well enough to test myself on it. That created the fifth station: the one where I test myself to see if I really remember what was going on. The fifth station functioned as a review and a test but more importantly, it helped reduced the amount of material I was rereading in station two (rereading knowledge gleamed from questions).

Since it's all done in twenty minute intervals and alternates between reading, writing, and thinking. I wasn't bored with it. I can easily do two rounds of these stations without realizing it. My concentration was maintained and I was able to get my repetition in.

Let me know if you've tried it and how it turned out for you.