How to Study

Updated: Oct 17, 2018


When you start school, they tell you to work hard. You say to yourself, “Duh!” Then they tell you to do so efficiently and effectively. You say, “Tell me more!” Unfortunately, the elaboration is sometimes lacking. At my school, an administrator briefly talked to us about the value of whiteboards, but spent far more time instilling the fear of God. Fortunately, one of my classmates posted a study about learning on our class Facebook page. Although it is very concise, I will spare you the time since you are likely either exceedingly busy premeds or medical students (for those interested though, the full study can be found here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4031794/).


Ultimately, the study proves that the most efficient and effective learning is comprised of three elements: the testing effect, active recall, and spaced repetitions. First, the testing effect refers to the fact that testing yourself while learning material is superior to studying the material via non-testing means. Moreover, testing without feedback (whether or not you got the answer right) was even been shown to be superior to alternative non-testing methods by the mentioned study. Convinced yet?


Second, active recall refers to consciously producing previously learned information without the aid of cues. Conversely, an example of passively studying would be simply rereading or summarizing facts. Even multiple choice testing is not active recall, since you are provided cues from the answer choices themselves. An example of active recall would be organically producing the adverse effects of beta-blockers. Go! To further convince you, active recall is superior to passive methods even if you have not been exposed to the material before. Pretty cool huh?


Third, spaced repetitions encompasses increasing the time period between exposure to the material, preferably incorp