How to study, read and learn

by Mohammad Hajighasemi-Ossareh, MD

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    00:01 Welcome to the first year of medical school lecture series.

    00:04 This is lecture one.

    00:06 Now, what we’re going to discuss today, number one, is the goal of the first year of medical school and that is how to study, how to read and how to learn as a medical student.

    00:16 We’re going to discuss how to develop the foundational skills of being successful during you first year of medical school.

    00:23 This will include knowing how to set up a study schedule and how to adhere to it, how to study when you just don’t want to and how to manage your sleep.

    00:32 Now don’t worry about USMLE step one during the first year of medical school, this is not the time.

    00:39 I don’t care what anyone tells you.

    00:40 It’s not the time.

    00:41 What you need to do instead is learn how to properly study before we actually start studying for USMLE step one.

    00:49 What you want to do is to do well during your first year of medical school exams.

    00:53 Now, what is the purpose of the first year of medical school? Let’s focus really on three parts.

    01:01 First, we need medical students to learn how to properly study, how to read and how to learn effectively and efficiently in the first year of medical school.

    01:10 Students need to develop excellent time management skills.

    01:15 As your medical school career progresses, you’ll be asked to learn more and more in shorter and shorter periods of time so you need to build these skills of time management and effective learning early in your medical school career.

    01:28 That’s what you need to do during the first year of medical school.

    01:31 Now, the second is that medical students need to learn the material from the first year of medical school since it’s the basic background of all the medicine that you’ll learn in the future.

    01:41 It’s the foundation of more advanced topics in medicine.

    01:45 And the third is that the material from the first year of medical school is on the USMLE step one exam and ironically, it’s actually on the USMLE step one, two and three exam.

    01:56 Take it from me; I’ve taken all of them.

    01:58 You can’t get away from the material on the first year of medical school so learn it well.

    02:03 Now, the topic of how to study effectively and efficiently as a first year medical student and this has several factors that you’ll need to master.

    02:13 These include creating a manageable study schedule.

    02:17 Not just a crazy one you can’t do, one that you can actually manage and accomplish.

    02:21 Knowing then how to strategically time your study schedule to make it manageable, you’ll need to learn techniques to enhance your recall of information and you also need to learn how to read quickly and retain information well.

    02:35 You also need to learn how to study when you don’t want to and this will happen.

    02:40 And you also need to have excellent sleep schedule and great sleep hygiene.

    02:45 So let’s jump right in to these topics.

    02:47 The very first one, creating a study schedule.

    02:50 Now, the study schedule for the first year of your medical school will be based around the curriculum of your school.

    02:56 So let’s use this as an example.

    02:58 We’ll run you through one of my typical days.

    03:01 Let’s say it’s the beginning of the school year and you have the following courses: biochemisty, physiology, histology and anatomy.

    03:09 Wow! That sounds like quite the course load and you may be concerned ‘cause you may or may not have taken these courses while in college.

    03:17 And you will quickly notice that when you go into a medical school lecture you will cover a large amount of material in a very short period of time, thus, you really do need a good study schedule to ensure that you will learn all of the material and that you’re also able to recall all of this material.

    03:35 Now, the basics of your study schedule will be based on when you wake up and when your lectures begin; that’s the beginning of the day.

    03:42 I don’t recommend waking up right before the lecture starts, hitting snooze and running out.

    03:47 Instead, let’s have a more slow paced approach to the day and probably a more beneficial one.

    03:53 Instead, let’s do this.

    03:55 Wake up 1 to 2 hours before your lecture.

    03:58 Get up, drink your coffee, eat your breakfast, take some time to review the lecture that you are about to go to.

    04:04 This is the vital step.

    04:06 Quickly review the material and the lecture slides in the book or on the Lecturio video.

    04:11 You just wanna kind of see what materials in there before you go then you go to lecture.

    04:16 Then after lectures over you’ll come home in the afternoon.

    04:19 When you come home have some rest and have it to yourself.

    04:23 The afternoon is your golden time to study because no one’s gonna be involved in it but you.

    04:28 Now, an ideal study plan requires that you look at each exam that’s going to be coming up for the next course and how many lectures until that exam comes and then you space out your study time so you can study the material that you covered that day.

    04:45 So let’s run an example.

    04:47 When you get home, from say your lecture, it’s best to take a short break and then start studying the material that you covered that day.

    04:55 Review the lecture slides, read the book that your professor recommended or watch the relevant Lecturio videos.

    05:02 The key is that you’re studying the material the same day that it was lectured on.

    05:07 Now let me say that again, you need to write this down on your hand, tattoo it, I don’t care.

    05:12 The key is that you are studying the same material the same day that it’s lectured.

    05:18 What you’re doing here is taking advantage and thinking about the same material multiple times in one day.

    05:25 And if you take this study schedule what you’re actually going to be doing is reviewing the material three times.

    05:31 Once in the morning when you quickly reviewed it and granted that wasn’t a crazy study but you’re getting it in your head, you’re building a framework or table of contents in a way of what you’re going to learn.

    05:42 Then you’re gonna go to lecture and you’re gonna hear the material again.

    05:45 You’ll kinda have the framework and you start filling it in and then when you get home that’s the third review.

    05:50 You’ll be reading it carefully and really trying to be understanding the material well.

    05:54 This concept is the three review concept and it’s a great strategy to follow.

    05:59 Now the next topic here is timing.

    06:02 How do you time your study schedule? We talked about how you can get up, go to lecture and review three times but what do I do in the rest of the day when Mo told me to go study and review things? Well, we have this thing that I call the modified Pomodoro technique.

    06:16 Now the reason why we have this technique is that many students have fatigue while studying.

    06:22 Now, I’ve worked as a medical school tutor for many years and I’ve heard almost every single reason why students get tired when they study and the core problem that I find every time is always timing and distractions.

    06:37 What often happens? Students will start to notice that they have a very large course load to study to and then when they get home they just feverishly jump in and start studying.

    06:47 After an hour or so of uninterrupted just nose to the grindstone studying, fatigue will start to kick in.

    06:55 They will start playing on their phone, getting gob, getting something to eat, they’ll find any excuse just not to study.

    07:02 I mean geez, I just spent two hours agonizing why would I wanna do it anymore? Then after a few days of the same technique, students start to get annoyed and then they just don’t wanna study anymore and they start to hate medical school.

    07:14 And frankly, if I had that technique it’s just not fun.

    07:18 So what’s the solution to this technique? I’ve seen students and students and students come in that I’ve had to tutor, the solution is simple.

    07:25 I named it after myself, DocOssareh’s modified Pomodoro technique.

    07:29 It’s really just a Pomodoro technique but I played with it.

    07:33 Now, it’s modified because it’s adjusted for students who are in medical school.

    07:38 Now, how do you do this? Number one, this is the most important for students in our generation, take your cell phone and put it in airplane mode.

    07:46 Turn off your computer’s notifications.

    07:49 This is not the time to be getting Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, whatever updates.

    07:53 Now, you’re gonna need to go buy a timer like a kitchen timer or just use the timer on your phone.

    07:58 Set the timer for 30 minutes.

    08:01 Now, what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna—your phone remember is on airplane mode, your computer’s got no things so if you gotta study from a book or a computer you’re ready, no distractions, you got a timer set for 30 minutes, start the timer.

    08:13 Now during this 30 minutes, do nothing but study.

    08:16 No getting up, no going to the bathroom, no getting up to eat, no playing on your computer, no playing on your phone, not talking to anyone, nothing but pure, pure studying.

    08:28 Then after 30 minutes you get to rest.

    08:31 Set your timer for 5 minutes now.

    08:33 Now you get to have 5 minutes of doing anything you want.

    08:37 What you will not do during this 5 minutes is study.

    08:39 You will do everything but study.

    08:41 You’ll get up, you’ll eat, you’ll play in your phone, do whatever you want whatever works.

    08:45 When those 5 minutes are up, you go back to your dedicated and uninterrupted study time of 30 minutes.

    08:52 So 5 minutes ends, you were doing whatever you were doing, you set the timer back to 30 and you start again.

    08:58 Now, the purpose of this modified Pomodoro technique is that it allows you to keep focused but also gives you an end time reward.

    09:06 When you’re studying in a 30 minute block and you know that a 5 minute break is coming up, you’re less likely to goof off or playing around.

    09:14 That 5 minutes is essentially a reward.

    09:16 Now, when you have this rapid cycling of a reward every 30 minutes, it’s going to allow you to study harder and keep focused because you know that every 30 minutes you’ll have reward coming up.

    09:28 And frankly, research has shown that if you study for 30 minutes and take a break and then come back that’s ideal learning for retention.

    09:36 Now, how do you enhance memory recall? This is a vital skill as a medical student and a doctor.

    09:45 How do you recall things that you previously studied? Now, studying effectively and efficiently requires techniques and these techniques are absolutely vital, like I said, to both doctors and medical students.

    09:57 Now, as a medical student you’ll be learning the foundation of knowledge that you’ll build upon as your career progresses and you’ll come back to this knowledge time and time again as a doctor.

    10:07 First, you want to use multiple resources but not too many.

    10:12 Now, you’re going to want to study more than simply the lectures and slides and textbook that your school gives you.

    10:19 What you’re going to want to do though is follow along with your school curriculum with the Lecturio videos simultaneously.

    10:27 The benefit here is that you’ll cover whatever the school wants you to but you’ll have an excellent supplement to learn the high yield information that’s designed just for medical students; so that’s lecture and then the videos.

    10:38 The next thing you’re going to want to do is read books that are considered high yield and there’s many high yield books on the market.

    10:45 The reason why this is important is that it gives you a good way to review what information is considered high yield.

    10:52 Now that’s something very important you’re going to learn in medical school.

    10:55 Things are going to essentially be high yield or low yield or that means high yield is very clinically or exam relevant and low yield is more my new show oriented or maybe not that important.

    11:06 Studying with a high yield source like the Lecturio videos or having a high yield book will tell you what you should focus on initially.

    11:13 The third thing that you’re going to need is to have access to what is called a reference book.

    11:18 A reference book is usually a very big thick book that you reference to study material much more in depth.

    11:25 A reference book is full of low yield information, but the value here is that when you’re going to lecture and learning things, watching videos in the Lecturio lectures or looking at your high yield book, there are gonna be some topics where you think you know what I want some more detail, I need to learn a little bit more, I don’t know enough background and then you crack open that big reference book or the digital version and then you look in there and you can read much more detail to give your brain an understanding of what you’re reading to really understand the high yield material.

    11:54 Now, research has shown that not all resources are the same and if you noticed I gave you a mix; I told you to do some lecture, do some audio visual lectures, to read some books, to use some reference, and here is why.

    12:07 Research has shown that if you just were to go to lecture you’re actually only going to retain 5%, that’s absolutely, despicably low.

    12:16 Five perce—you missed 95% by going to lecture? That’s the sad truth.

    12:21 So going to lecture alone you retain 5%, if you’re reading something you retain 10%.

    12:28 I know you’re thinking, "Mo, you’re wrong, I can retain almost everything." You’d be surprised.

    12:33 If you read you really only retain about 10% for good recall.

    12:37 If you do something audio visual like those Lecturio videos where you have someone talking in a visual sense going on, you’re gonna retain 20%.

    12:46 Now, we call this thing called demonstration, it’s not fully relevant to studying, but if you’re learning something by hand or learning a concept visually, demonstration gives you 30%.

    12:56 If you were sitting in a group of study peers and discussing, you’ll have a 50% recall and if you actually practice by doing something you’ll have a 75% recall and the gold here is teaching others or immediately using or implementing something that you’ve learned is a 90% recall.

    13:15 That’s 90—that’s amazing, right? And that’s where we gonna key them on.

    13:19 So if you’ve noticed the recommendation we gave for good learning, you mix up these resources.

    13:24 You don’t just rely on lecture alone, you don’t just learn on reading alone, you wanna mix all these up and try to get as much from each category as you can.

    13:33 Now, the second thing that you’re going to need to do is to use flash cards.

    13:38 So how do medical schools and medical boards test questions in physicians? Well, they do in it in a form of exam questions; that’s how we get tested.

    13:46 Now flashcards are simply just that.

    13:49 A fun way for you to test your knowledge against yourself in a like no judgment, no consequence manner.

    13:56 What you’re going to do is to take flashcards and you’re gonna create them by writing a question on one side of them and then on the backside you’re gonna put the answer.

    14:05 In this way you’re coming up with questions on your own and then challenging your memory, challenging your recall to come up with them on the back and in this way you’re essentially testing yourself.

    14:16 You’re asking yourself a question like medical schools and medical board exams do and then getting to see the answer in a risk free environment.

    14:25 Now, that’s a paper way of doing it with physical flashcards, you can also do it digitally.

    14:29 There is this program called Anki and that’s a great tool for creating and testing yourself on flashcards and you can just Google Anki; it’s a free software to use.

    14:39 Now, the third concept and absolutely important is the concept of spaced repetition with your flashcards.

    14:47 Now, research has shown that short bursts of studying over time and repeatedly testing yourself on what you have learned is the absolute best technique for long term recall of material.

    14:59 Now, this means that on your study schedule that you’re going to create, you not need to study material the absolute same day as taught.

    15:08 Now we emphasize this, when you go to lecture and you come back home study that day’s material and then every 2 or 3 days, thereafter, you need to review that material again.

    15:18 Now, an efficient way to do this is to use that free computer software we talked about called Anki.

    15:24 Now what this software does is it allows you to keep coming back to your flashcards.

    15:29 So say on day one you reviewed some material, you made your flashcards and you studied them that day.

    15:35 And 2 to 3 days later, you go back to that flashcard deck and you see them again and overtime your flashcard deck will grow as you go to more and more lectures but the benefit will be you’ll keep seeing old material as you’re seeing today as new material and having what’s called spaced repetition which is absolutely going to increase your recall.

    15:54 Now the fourth skill here is you do not want to cram.

    15:58 Now emergencies do happen, that’s life, and sometimes you have to cram.

    16:03 But research has also shown that cramming will only keep knowledge in your head for just a few days and after that it’s going to be difficult to near impossible to actually recall, thus, you want to avoid cramming at all cost and only do it in the case of emergencies.

    16:20 Now, how do you read quickly and retain well? Well, reading quickly is a skill that students will develop and it’s something that you have to develop and something that you’ll continue to get better at overtime.

    16:35 So here are some simple ways for you to improve your reading and to improve your retention.

    16:40 The very first thing, and it may sound goofy, is to read out loud.

    16:44 This may be difficult to do when there’re others around you or maybe you’re studying in the library, but you can whisper quietly to yourself as you read.

    16:52 When you’re alone you can read out loud at your own comfortable level.

    16:56 The purpose of reading out loud is that it absolutely forces you to keep reading and you will not start daydreaming.

    17:04 I mean how great is that? It keeps you engaged in the material since you’re actively reading it out loud and active reading has better retention.

    17:12 The goal here of active reading is to prevent passive reading and that’s when you’re reading a paragraph and then you finished it and you asked yourself, what did I just read there? So that’s passive reading and that’s what we’re trying to avoid because that gives minimal retention and often just leads to daydreaming.

    17:28 Now, the next thing is imagine that you’re teaching in a classroom of students or you’re tutoring a student with your reading material or covering it.

    17:36 Act like a teacher.

    17:38 If you recall when we talked about the research on different forms of studying, 90% retention when you can teach someone else so act like a teacher.

    17:47 It’s a fun way to keep yourself engaged and it gives you a 90% recall.

    17:50 Now, not all the material that you’re reading in med school is going to be all that exciting and admittedly some of it will be less fun or more challenging to learn, so acting like a teacher in your mind and drawing out descriptions as if you’re trying to show them to someone.

    18:07 You know you can sit there on paper and act like you have teacher or someone behind you or you’re teaching a class on a whiteboard is a great way to engage yourself because teaching something is going to keep you both engaged with the material and also improve your retention.

    18:21 Now the next skill you should implement is highlighting and underline as you read.

    18:27 Now, the dean of my medical school used to teach us never read without a pencil or a highlighter in your hand.

    18:34 Having a writing instrument to comment and highlight as you read is a simple strategy to keep yourself engaged.

    18:42 Keeping yourself there with underlining the words or highlighting sections keeps you in the words and keeps you from reading passively or starting to daydream.

    18:50 Now, a common, common problem that everybody has in the world, not necessarily unique to medical students, is how do you study when you don’t want to? Now don’t tell me I’m gonna want to study all the time—you’re gonna get tired eventually.

    19:04 And the question here is how to build a habit for something which is something that you’ll be spending most of your time doing as a medical student, which is studying, so building the habit of a study is great.

    19:16 Now recall that the habit cycle has a cue, a habit and a reward.

    19:22 And so starting with the cue you need to pick a regular cue that will trigger you to start studying.

    19:29 This can be time-wise so when you get home from lecture or after you’ve had lunch or after you’ve exercised that can be your cue.

    19:36 So after you’ve done that you can start studying.

    19:39 Now, after you’ve actually started the cue you need to start studying itself and how should you study? Well, I’m biased but you should be using what we’re telling you as the DocOssareh’s modified Pomodoro technique to study.

    19:51 So pick whatever cue works for you and stick with it.

    19:55 After you’re done studying—so you had a cue, you got home from lectures, you sat down, you’re studying using the Pomodoro technique, time has gone by like that’s enough studying for now, then you need to give yourself a reward and a reward can be anything.

    20:08 It can simply be feeling good about yourself for having studied so hard, you can eat something you like or enjoy some type of entertainment.

    20:15 And this will complete the habit loop, having the cue, the habit and the reward and this will build, ingrain within you a system in place to keep you studying efficiently and effectively and it’s a habit that you’re going to need as a medical student.

    20:30 Now, sleep schedules, naps and sleep hygiene; all critical and commonly talked about topics in medical school.

    20:38 Sleep is important if not more important than eating healthy and exercising.

    20:43 If you lack sleep you will start to diminish in every other category.

    20:47 You will study less effectively when you have not had enough sleep, you won’t be able to exercise as well, you’ll make poor decisions, you’ll probably end up eating poorly.

    20:58 So sleep is where everything starts.

    21:01 It’s the core of being a great medical student and a great physician.

    21:05 It may seem ironic but you can have complete control over your sleep.

    21:09 Now, many students that I’ve mentored over the years told me, “Mo, I just don’t have enough time for sleep, there’s way too much to study I need to be awake, I need to be on and reading.” Well, the secret to solving this problem is actually very simple.

    21:23 It’s not that complicated.

    21:24 You can only study so much every single day.

    21:28 When you are studying you might as well be getting the most out of it.

    21:31 There’s only so many hours in the day, only so many hours you can be focused at a desk, you might as well have the highest efficiency during that time.

    21:39 So you’ll be able to study faster and retain more when you sleep well.

    21:44 So when you’re telling me, "Mo, I have no time to study." The first thing I’m gonna tell you is, "You better be sleeping enough to make sure you’re studying efficiently." So let’s walk through the solution.

    21:53 Let me tell you a schedule.

    21:55 So you should be telling yourself when you’re planning out your schedule for studying that you should get about 7 to 8 hours of sleep every single night.

    22:03 I don’t care what you have to do to make this happen.

    22:06 Make it happen.

    22:07 You may have to stop studying; you may have to turn down social events.

    22:12 Let me reinforce this, absolutely nothing is going to get in front of your way of getting enough sleep.

    22:19 It’s that important.

    22:21 You don’t sleep well, you don’t study well.

    22:23 So get enough sleep.

    22:24 Once you’ve scheduled in 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night, then you can study everything else around it.

    22:31 So once the sleep is in your schedule, you can schedule your study time and everything else.

    22:34 What you can also do though is incorporate a 15 to 20 minute nap in the middle of your day to refresh yourself.

    22:42 Now, we will not get into all the details of napping, that is a whole science in and of itself, but 15 to 20 minutes is really the sweet spot for most people and actually aids in learning and in retention.

    22:54 How do you get the most out of those 7 to 8 hours of sleep? And that’s maintaining something we call perfect sleep hygiene, not like brushing your teeth hygiene, this is called sleep hygiene.

    23:06 And I said perfect, yes, I’m not trying to be a stickler but trust me this is that important.

    23:12 So what can you do to make sure you have perfect sleep hygiene? Don’t drink caffeine 5 hours before going to bed.

    23:19 Don’t play on your phone right before you go to bed.

    23:21 Take your phone, put it in a separate room and as far as possible from your bed as possible.

    23:27 That light going into your eyes it’s gonna mess with your pineal gland, you’re gonna be reading things in motion, get that phone out of there and put it as far away as possible.

    23:36 Turn off all the lights in your room.

    23:38 Don’t keep something on, your computer screen, your TV, complete black and keep your temperature of your room cool.

    23:44 Eliminate noises.

    23:46 If necessary, you can buy something called a white noise generator that makes noise that actually will keep your room quiet for you.

    23:53 I hope you’re getting the picture here.

    23:55 Having a perfect sleep hygiene is the core to making the most out of those 7 to 8 hours of sleep and then from that will stem getting the most out of your study time in your day.

    24:06 So let’s summarize what we've talked about here.

    24:08 The purpose of the first year of medical school is to learn the basic science material that is taught, but just as importantly, you’re gonna learn how to effectively manage your study schedule and how to study well.

    24:20 You need to create a study schedule that is based on reviewing material multiple times in a day and using spaced repetition overtime with the use of flashcards.

    24:31 Now, use DocOssareh’s modified Pomodoro technique to enhance your time management and focus.

    24:36 Study for 30 minutes and give yourself a 5 minute break and continue.

    24:40 Read actively to engage yourself.

    24:43 Read out loud, act like you’re giving a lecture, keep yourself from passive reading.

    24:47 Use the power of habits to study when you don’t want to.

    24:51 Remember the habit loop: a cue, a habit, and a reward.

    24:55 Develop this habit in yourself and your studies will become natural to you.

    24:58 Maintain perfect sleep hygiene and make sure you give yourself enough sleep.

    25:04 A great day of effective studying will start with enough sleep.

    25:08 Thank you.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture How to study, read and learn by Mohammad Hajighasemi-Ossareh, MD is from the course Med School Year 1. It contains the following chapters:

    • How to Study, Read and Learn
    • The Purpose of the First Year of Medical School
    • How to Study Effectively and Efficiently
    • Creating a Study Schedule
    • Solution to Study Fatigue
    • Enhancing Memory Recall
    • Reading Quickly and Retaining
    • How to Study when You Do Not Want to
    • Sleeping Schedule, Naps, and Sleep Hygiene
    • Lecture Summary

    Author of lecture How to study, read and learn

     Mohammad Hajighasemi-Ossareh, MD

    Mohammad Hajighasemi-Ossareh, MD

    Customer reviews

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    Very useful for first year Medicine students ????
    By Mirela P. on 11. December 2021 for How to study, read and learn

    Very helpful to start studying efficiently! Thank you for the tips!

    It was helpful.
    By Yvonne K. on 16. November 2021 for How to study, read and learn

    I personally chose this rating cause it has really taught me new habits and ways to adapt as I start my first year in a medical school. Thank you.

    Good life skills
    By Juan A. on 10. April 2021 for How to study, read and learn

    It gave me very good life skills and I will use this throughout my school life

    By Ahmad A. on 01. January 2021 for How to study, read and learn

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