I know there’s a popular perception of sleep deprivation going hand in hand with working hard or succeeding academically. However, that is only true if you’re working very last minute, and don’t care about retaining the information–you basically just want to get through your upcoming test/assignment. I would like to clarify that, although learning about 10 months of material in 2 weeks is overwhelming, it is NOT last minute because whatever you’re working on right now, you’ll have to remember in 2 weeks for your exam. Besides the exam, if you’re studying medicine, you need to remember most of these things for the rest of your life.
In order to retain that information, you need to stay alert, well rested and motivated. Prolonged sleep deprivation can make you feel very ‘CBA’ very fast.
Sleep is only one factor in staying motivated and alert; another is staying energized¬–in a healthy way. Simply put: if you feel well, you’ll work well.
difficult, I know, when you’ve got so little time to spare; but as much as you can, try to eat more whole foods (aka things that don’t come in wrappers or have their own commercial) and keep a balanced diet (too much of anything is usually not good). Everyone snacks while they’re doing exams, but try to find a vice that won’t put you in a sugar coma (some good examples include berries and other fruits, nuts, carrots with hummus to dip in, granola bars, etc).
Note: drinking tea is also an excellent way to stay energized!
Again, I know something like this is difficult to keep up in normal everyday life, let alone during exam stress. Even if it is just for 15-20 minutes, some cardio (note: the more strenuous the workout in a short period of time, the more benefit you’ll get) is a fantastic ‘eye-opener’ (I learned that phrase while learning how to take an alcohol history and now I really like it)! No one wants to go for a run in the morning, but after you get past the first 2-3 minutes of wanting to collapse, your body starts to feel really grateful. This is the BEST way to stimulate your senses and wake yourself up. I promise it’s better than any energy drink or cup of coffee you could have.
Take small breaks: SMALL breaks!!! About 10 minutes. Every once in a while, you need to get up and walk around to give yourself a break, have some fresh air, grab a snack, but try not to get carried away; try to avoid having a short attention span.
I cannot stress enough how counterproductive it is to overwhelm yourself with the amount of work you have. Whether you think about it or not, that pile is not going anywhere. Thinking about it won’t wish it away. Stop psyching yourself out and just get on with it– step by step.
Making a list of objectives you need to accomplish that day or week is a great way to start; then, cross them out as you go along (such a satisfying feeling). Being able to visualize your progress will be a great motivator.
Remember: it is important to be systematic with your studying approach; if you jump around between modules because they’re boring you’re just going to confuse yourself and make it hard to remember things when that exam comes
Note: I have a white board in my room where I write my objectives for the week. Some days it motivates, some days it I want to throw it out the window (but I can't reach the latch)…
Practice questions are excellent for monitoring your progress; they’re also excellent at scaring you. Do not fear! This is a good thing, because now you know what you’re missing, go back and read up on what you forgot to take a look at, and come back and do the questions later. Then give yourself a sticker for getting it right ? Practice questions are also great for last minute studying too because they can help you do what I call “backwards studying”–which is what I just described: figuring out what you need to learn based on what the questions look like.
Set realistic goals for yourself; most importantly, set realistic daily goals for yourself so that when you get all or most or even some of them done you can go to sleep with a level of satisfaction. Also, you need to pick your battles. Example: if you suck at neuro, then one module’s loss is another’s gain. Don’t spend too much time trying to get through one thing, just keep moving forward, and come back to it later
Facebook, twitter, instagram, youtube, whatsapp, texting, pinterest, meme websites, so many fantastic ways to kill your time… Do yourself a favor, save them for your breaks. If someone is dying or on fire, they will most likely call you, not text you or write on your wall; you do not need to check your phone that often unless you're expecting something time sensitive.
Everyone studying in your program is going to be stressed about things; do NOT let it rub off on you. You know those moments when you hear a peer or a prof/tutor describing something you have never even heard of, then you start panicking? Yeah, don’t do that. It happens to everyone. Instead of worrying so much, just go read about it! Simple solution right? What else are you going to do? Plus, a lot of the time other students seem to know more than they need to about certain things (which I can tell you right now, doesn’t always mean they’re doing better than you; knowing random, very specific factoids doesn’t mean they can bring it in clinic. Everyone can pull a Hermione and know a book inside out, but this is not necessarily the hallmark of a good doctor), what’s it to you? Worry about yourself, be confident in your abilities, and don’t trouble yourself with comparing to other people
Everyone is afraid of practical exams, like the OSCE (at any rest station you're likely to find me with my head in my hands trying to stabilize my breathing pattern and trying not to cry). The best way to be ready is to practice and practice and practice and practice. It’s like learning to drive a car. At first you’re too aware of your foot on the gas, the position of your hand on the wheel, etc; but, after driving for a little while, these things become subconscious. In the same way, when you walk into a station, you could be so worried about how you’ll do your introduction and gain consent, and remembering to wash your hands, and getting equipment and and and and and; the anxiety affects your confidence and your competence. If you practice enough, then no matter what they throw at you, you will get most of the points because the process will be second nature to you.
Practice on your roommates, friends, family members, patients with a doctor's help...when appropriate... Even your stuffed animals if you're really desperate.
DO NOT leave practicing for these practicals to the last minute; and if you do, make sure you go through every thing over and over again until you’re explaining examinations in your sleep.
NOTE: When I'm practicing for OSCE alone, I record myself over and over again and play it back to myself and criticize it, and then practice againn.
You don’t necessarily have to study in the same place every day; however, it is always good to have some level of routine. Some examples include: waking up/sleeping at the same time everyday, going for a run at the same time every day, having the same study routine, etc. Repetition is a good way to keep your brain focused on new activities because, like I said before, the more you repeat things, the more they become second nature to you.
Hope these tips are of some use to you; if not, feel free to sound off in the comments some alternate ways to get through exams. Remember that while exams are stressful, this is the time where you build your character and find out what you’re truly capable of. When you drop your pen after that final exam, you want to feel satisfied and relieved, not regretful.
Happy Studying ?