First Pre-Med Exam knocked the wind.....

…out of my sails. So here I am at 2:45am going over and over what I did wrong. Not what I planned on losing sleep over that’s for sure. Okay, I don’t think I failed, and hopefully I got at least a C, but jeez, I was planning to blast that exam out of the water and have that nice cushion Mary talked about…
So now what do I do? Try to put it behind me I guess, and just plug away on the next exam. The thing is, I think it is a time issue. I just need to find more study time on a regular basis. Any tricks out there that you parents have honed? I have four kids, and they are all demanding in their own way at different times, but the real bugaboo is the baby, who wants (and deserves, let me tell you, what a cutie…) my attention when he is awake. I may just have to suck it up and get a babysitter for some afternoons. I feel like I am leaving them all the time as it is, and I know this will get worse before it gets better. Thanks for listening!!

Sorry to hear your test didn’t go as expected. You’ll do better next time!
I only have two kids but I know how hard it is to study with them around. I just recently put my little guy (age 3) in a home daycare 2 mornings a week for just 3 hours each time so I could study. It’s not much, but it’s better then nothing I guess. I’m brain drained after taking care of the kids all day and then studying until late at night. I’m hoping I can afford more hours at the sitter next year.
I must add though it backfired a bit - since started there a month ago my kid has been majorly sick. The first week there he ended up with a high fever and nasty cold that kept him home with me for a week. Then the next week he went back there he got sick again. He now has pneumonia and is crying and whining all day and night. Which in effect, has given me waaaaay less study time and energy. So I feel like my plan sort of back fired…
Germs - sure makes me hate winter!
Good luck on your next test and I hope you find a way to work out some additional study time!

Four kids, wow, and I thought I had it rough with 2 kids. I would agree with you, you need to get someone to watch the baby and maybe the others as well at least 2-3 times per week so you can get uninterupted time to study. That is unless your spouse can watch them in the evenings. That is what we did.
My husband had the child duties after dinner so I had all evening to study and for a number of hours during the weekend days as well. Otherwise you can’t get your mind into a thinking pattern that science courses demand.
good luck and don’t take it too hard. I always seemed to do poorly on my first exams. I don’t know why, perhaps due to it being new and not knowing what to suspect. Don’t let it take your wind out of your sails. Get that head of steam back up and go for it.

Thanks… I definitely need a boost. And I am generally a very upbeat person. I think I tend to wrap a whole lot of other worries into the one disappointing performance… like what do I think I am doing trying to take such demanding courses at my age? Who am I kidding, it is going to be MUCH harder in med school? And the kicker, do I really want this much stress in my life for the next, oh, 10 years??
I think you are right, I need to get some childcare coverage; my husband already does daddy solo duty at least three nights a week (plus a good amount of time on the weekend days)-my class is two nights, plus I help TA an EMT class one other night. The other two weeknights HE is out, so I can’t hit the books til after nine.
Oh well, enough of the pity party and on to packing for a trip! If fulltime childcare were not so prohibitively expensive I would go at this little project like a part-time job.
I have a better sense of what to expect, and now I will start on the next hunk of material with an eye to EARLY digestion and memorization.

Lizard-- the first is the WORST-- this was the case with me as well this fall. I had never taken undergrad-level science before 2003, and I really didn’t know how to adjust to this mode of study. I don’t know anything about birthin’ babies (shades of “Gone with the Wind”!) but I know some stuff about test preparation.
Here is how I was able to raise the grade I had on the first bio exam last semester (it was like a C+ or something and I came out at Christmas with an A).
1. Take notes on the textbook just like you would during a lecture. If you cannot write out the major concepts in your own words, then you do NOT know them yet.
2. When you see an overarching concept and a group of details/characteristics, memorize them as a group, maybe with a number attached. Your husband or a friend can ask you “What are the four distinctions between deuterostomes and protostomes?” and then be prepared to recite them out loud. Like your own handwriting, your own voice is just the best memorization tool you have-- why not recite some scientific rules to your baby in a cooing voice? The number-details method is an awesome preparation for multiple-choice questions, because you’ll immediately detect what is the odd answer out.
3. For chemistry and other math-heavy subjects, practice the problem set over and over and over and over again-- this means that if you are the type who is doing all the homework for the first time in the weekend before the exam, you’re sunk. If the test covers three chapters, don’t only practice each chapter separately but jump back and forth between the chapters, because on the test you won’t have these tidy labels alerting you as to what type of problem you are confronting and which formula to apply: “acid-base”, “enthalpy” or what have you. By skipping around, you will learn to judge the problem on its own, exclusive of its placement in the book.
4. Become your professor’s best psychologist. Confront your course material by trying to determine what will interest HER. What does she emphasize in class discussion? How would she pose a question on a given subject? How will she try to trip you up?
YOU CAN DEFINITELY, POSITIVELY DO BETTER!!! Rome was not built on one test, my friend.

this is really excellent how-to-study-like-a-rock-star advice, I give this post two thumbs up!

Okay, I am definitely feeling better… study like a rock star, here I come! Great post Matt, I appreciate the concrete advice… now tell me what to do with all those boys I have getting in the way of this super-effective preparation I am going to do!!! No, really I think it is just a matter of determination. SO glad to hear about your early C+ and your final grade - A…that gives me just the right amount of motivation.

I can’t resist. I really understand the study with kids difficulties, the late nights and such. I have 5 and I never feel like I have enough big chunks to get into the mindset as Amy mentioned. I have some help during the days and none during the weekends, no solo daddy time.
I have found that little chunks of digesting material and exposing myself to the material through reading and notetaking as often as possible has worked. The same for problem solving…I really agree, I have done the best when I have worked, sometimes the same, problems over and over. I have started as early as possible and taken advantage of some of the built-in slower pace to full semester classes. HOWEVER, as you know this takes discipline. And, of couse, I ask myself, do I want to struggle everyday to fit everything in for the rest of my working life? Then, I try to forget that I asked that question and move on.
Concerning that first test, move on soon. Understand where you can improve and keep going. For some reason we have to beat ourselves up a bit. But, you deserve a break, really.
Anyway, also thanks to Matt for such a useful post!

Hi - I can’t offer any advice for studying with little ones around, but I just wanted to reiterate that you shouldn’t worry about not doing as well on a first exam as you wanted. In the majority of my classes my first exam is the worst simply because I don’t know how hard the questions will be that are asked, which material to emphasize, how much detail we need to go into, how tricky the questions will be, etc. Often my first exam is in the C range, but after that I know what to expect and can rock the rest and the homeworks or whatever and get a good grade.
Good luck! I’m sure you’ll rock the next one!
–Jessica, UCCS

The first tests are always the worst, especially when it is a new professor and you’ve never had a test w/ them before, you don’t know what to expect, what the test is like, etc. I always lose sleep over them, but I always make up for it on the subsequent tests.

Hi there Michelle,
As you correctly stated, you don’t need BIG chunks of uninterrupted study time to master concepts. You will never have such luxuries as a medical student or resident surgeon. I get a majority of my studying done in between cases in the OR. I simply sit in the corner on a stool and wait for the staff to “turn” the room for my next patient.
I have discovered the utility of 6pt type. I simply type bulleted lists of material for study and keep them in my pocket. If I had waited for “blocks” of study time, I would never study anything. You have to learn to be as flexible as possible and as efficient as possible.
I remember as an undergraduate, I was able to re-copy my notes. In medical school, you won’t have nearly that much time. You will have little time to read multiple texts. What ends up happening is that you ratchet up or back to get a “study groove” that you tend to keep for the rest of your career.
You literally have to learn to master the volume of material that you are presented with or you crash. There is little between these extremes. My favorite analogy is that medical school is like the “wall”; some people go over it on the first try by 2 feet; others just barely get over by scraping their rear ends but the important thing is that you clear the wall.
Good luck and keep making the adjustments that you are. You are on the right track.

Wow. I hope I get in to try to make that wall…

Thanks Natalie.
To stay on that topic for a moment…having less time has made me more efficient and focused on what I need to know or learn in the small chunk of time that I have.
I have had some success studying in 30-40 minute chunks waiting for children to be done with a lesson or activity. It means that I always travel with books and bags and look weighted down (always working on the organizational skills, too ). Nonetheless, when I make some headway into material in a small chunk of time, I can be more focused later and I am more connected to the material. I think that really gets back to the idea that it is very useful to see the subject matter often.
If I ever get there…I will be one of those rear-enders…

Okay folks, I thought you would like an update… I got a B+ on that icky exam!! I am stunned and amazed. Now I can work hard on the next exam and try to ace it.
I really appreciate all the advise… I like the notion of sitting in the OR (well, in my case the minivan…) waiting for the room to turnover (waiting for kids to get out of practice/school/etc) going over a bulleted list (6pt type!). Thanks Natalie, I guess this is a shakedown cruise in many ways, I need to train myself to be able to assimilate lots of material in a short amount of time, but for now I plan to get an A in this class.
I have a fantastic study partner, and we are going to put together a “packet” that can be lugged around with us wherever we go that includes the definitions, processes, concepts we have to memorize.
Now I just have to schedule and take my written EMT exam (passed the practical part yippee!!) sometime soon.

Hooooooray! Nice going.

Hi Matt,
Your post was so great that it inspired me to start a new thread looking for studying tips/methods that worked for other OPMs. I hope you don’t mind that I linked to it. Anyhow, thanks for your great post.
P.S. Did you know that Matthew Corey was the name of a character on the now-canceled daytime soap opera, Another World?