Study Smarter, Not Harder

Study smarter, not harder was a helpful philosophy. This involves understanding a little bit about how learning (and the brain) in general works– the more you know about something, the easier it is to learn more about that thing. For example, I did not like studying hands, splints, etc. But, knowing this, I focused hard on generating a little schema — a brain-room if you will– all about hands. Then, every time I came across a practice question about hands, I added that little tidbit and weaved it into what I already knew, and that wasn’t too hard. Fun fact: at the neuron/ cellular level, this is called “dendritic arborization” because when the brain makes more connections between cells (learning!!) it looks like a tree (arbor) growing when before and after pictures are compared under a microscope. Grow your brain-tree! Also eat/sleep/de-stress appropriately because it costs your body a lot of cellular energy to learn!

More on notes: I took printer paper and wrote in many shades of colored sharpie different things in the schemas and taped them up all around my house where I would regularly see them. Also draw tiny pictures in your notes, that is easier to remember than more words in my opinion. Your fingertips have memory, and the process forces you to slow down.

Take Breaks

Recognize when you are fried and need a five minute calming sensory experience before you can begin again. Then begin again. For me this was putting my head in a corner and closing my eyes, covering my ears. I don’t recommend doing this is public. Jokes! I studied at home once the kids were in bed. Lean on your support system if and when you can. Let them know you appreciate them.

Consider incorporating "Instant Feedback."

I highly recommend the “Instant Feedback” kind of studying. I would do a chunk of questions, then go through and figure out quickly why I got it wrong, then in a notebook write it as succinctly as I could (one sentence per wrong answer), so I could quickly read the notes over again, and re-learn what I already learned. That way it stuck.

Reward Yourself

Plant little rewards for yourself along the way, and STICK TO IT. For example, “I will eat a delicious treat after I do this practice test.” Cognitive fatigue from just reading the questions was a real hurdle for me. As you are doing practice questions, it’s okay to be mad that they are sometimes written poorly/confusing. Just glean what you can. The point is the information.

Good luck, my friends!