Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Study Tips

This is that time of the year when Uni students are fighting a battle against ignorance, using their textbooks as shields and their lecture notes as swords, in order to conquer the enemy and pass their exams. Out of my experience (and I am feeling old as I write this), let me share with you some study tips I've learned through the years, if that helps you in any way.

  1. ATTITUDE is extremely important, and many students do forget this. If you think you are going to fail, you most probably will. Why? Well, learning is hard because you have to convince your brain that the stuff you are learning is useful. If you have already decided that you don't wan't to study the material you have to study, it does not matter how hard you try, you will not learn it. So keep a positive attitude: convince yourself that whatever you are studying is important and relevant, and your brain will find it easier to concentrate, learn and actually have fun studying.
  2. INTEGRATION is the key for satisfactory learning - and this advice goes especially for Medical students, but it also applies to students in other fields. Don't learn things in isolation - rather, try to think in "big pictures", i.e. 'How does this fit with the information I know so far?' 'How does this subject help me understand that other subject?', etc. Once you have worked that out, keep connecting new information with old one. That's why in Medicine, although you learn each organ system and pathology in isolation, you have to integrate each little piece in order to learn and understand both the normal and pathological functioning of the Human Body. For example, to understand Pharmacology, you will need to connect that info with Biochemistry, Physiology and Pathophysiology. But even in subjects that have nothing to do with each other, find creative ways to integrate that information. Connect, integrate, build the big picture, multiply your brain pathways and make them stronger - and you will have fun.
  3. UNDERSTAND RATHER THAN MEMORISE. For the most part, don't learn things by memory just by themselves. Rather, try to understand the processes behind them, their use, their purpose and their function. If you need to memorise something, make sure you understood it before you do. Believe me when I tell you that if you understood the core component of your subject, then it does not matter in what form the question comes in the exam, you will be ready to articulate or select a good answer. Because of that, don't memorise the answers of previous papers - rather, be ready in the case the lecturers pose the question in a different way.
  4. STUDY FOR LIFE, NOT JUST FOR THE EXAM. Everything you learn in your University degree will later help you, regardless of how stupid it may seem at the time. When you study, make it your goal to study for your future profession (and life!), not just for the exam. Cramming things the day before the exam will probably make you pass that subject, but you will certainly struggle the following semester while you try to catch up on the things you ought to have already learned by that stage.
  5. HAVE A GOOD REST BEFORE THE EXAM. It is rather pointless to do an all-nighter before your exam. Study in such a way that you finish your preparation the afternoon before the exam, and then take the night off. Read a book, listen to music, relax. Attentiveness and analytical skills tend to drop abruptly if you don't rest, regardless of how much coffee you have had during the night before the exam.
  6. PRAY! If you are a Christian, why not pray that God may help you not to stress too much, be diligent and study in a way that pleases Him?
  7. HAVE FUN! Who said that learning can't be fun? I have certainly enjoyed the pain of being a Uni student :)

1 comment:

Laura said...

Hey vernon! What excellent tips! :) It is clear that you are one of these 'life-long learners!' I'm always amazed at your general knowledge! Good on you! And good on you for enjoying studying too!
I have to say that one really depends on what it is, which for the majority isn't really uni (esp not stats) but there are enjoyable things to study such as the Bible! :) yay!