Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How I study

One thing that really differentiates medical school from undergrad is that as an undergraduate, you have a set of textbooks and assigned readings or sections that are common to the whole class. Everyone reads and studies from the same resource. In medical school, you can buy whatever books will help you the most. Some books are better than others, but if you make friends with someone who has a differnet book, the weaknesses usually balance out. Netter’s Anatomy Atlas for instance, has great pictures but too many labels. There are so many lines coming off the pictures that you have a hard time figuring out what you’re looking for. Grant’s Atlas is good, the pictures are simpler, but sometims there isn’t enough detail. If you want supplemental clarification, you’d better get a Moore’s Clinically Oriented Anatomy, because the previously mentioned atlases only have pictures, but no explanatory text. BUT, Moore’s alone will not suffice because the text can be too much and sometimes you just need pictures.
It is no accident that there are no required texts. The administrators in charge of curriculum explicitly told us that they set it up this way to begin encouraging us to be self-teachers. Most of the learning doesn’t happen in the lecture hall. I always go, but the pace is so fast there that you only have time to jot down a few key words that might not be covered in depth in the syllabus but might come in handy. The real learning happens after class when we get together for 6 hours and teach each other the material. The first step is usually a re-read of the syllabus with Q& A with one another to either clarify or to quiz each other. For me I study most effectively when I’m working with two other people, three tops. A group of five has a tendency to degenerate into social time and if it is work focused, then people are split into a group of three and a pair, so why bother with five in the first place. We study together for the afternoon until 5, though usually one of the regular group is dissecting, sometimes two. After 5, we head home, and I begin studying again at seven, and go until ten. The great thing about studying in a group is that you can teach the other guys and that really shows where the gaps in your own knowledge are. I’m very fortunate in that I have three extremely bright guys with whom I study regularly.

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