Study Tips

I figured I’d start this and others feel free to add what works that’s a bit “other.”

I’m an ISTP in my personality and learning style. Visual, auditory, kinesthetic doesn’t describe me because I learn best using all three. So here is what I do that works. I read out loud and if I’m able to I read standing up pacing back & forth…only at home or they call security… It just started out reading out loud but now it’s more like I’m “teaching” to my imaginary class. I have my big ole whiteboard behind me, real not imaginary, and as questions I have come up, I write them on the white board as if my “students” asked me the question. It turns the white board into essentially a concept map. I don’t do any thinking in my head, I think EVERYTHING out loud. The textbooks now a days are awesome because it seems they all have a “Check Your Understanding” CYU at the end of each section. So I talk those out, which always emphasize the concept map I drew.

Depending how full the whiteboard is I will either continue on or write down in my notebook exactly what I wrote on the whiteboard. I have colored pens that match the colors of the whiteboard so I essentially have an exact copy of my whiteboard in my notes. This too I talk out loud when I’m writing it down.

So I’m essentially reading, studying, lecturing, taking notes on my lecture, conceptualizing, “group learning”, and reviewing all wrapped up into one.

This works best with non-math courses like all Bio courses, Chem1, and currently Orgo. I’m doing some of physics this way but I’m discovering that physics just makes sense to me. Now I still read out loud and talk out the problem but I don’t stand, have a “classroom”, nor a whiteboard.

Doing my studying this way has helped tremendously in conceptualizing the information as well as helped with all the visual, auditory, kinesthetic stuff. When I study at the library I still read out loud but it’s more of a whisper and my whiteboard is my notebook. I stop and talk to myself and reemphasize points just made in the book and reason out why they make sense…at a whisper but I still do it outside of my head. The CYU questions and the questions at the end of the chapter present exercises on the logic in the concept by asking questions I hadn’t considered, and why it makes sense.

I’m sure I’m clear as mud in this. While some may be thinking this is very time consuming, it’s more about quality vs quanitity. I could spend much less time and just memorize concepts or I can spend time mastering the material. I figure the latter is what I need and one pass is all I need with this style. A simple look at my notes and I can tell you the concept and even remember the “student” who asked me that phenomenal question.

It works and I highly recommend it. It’s helped me go from analysis paralysis with meticulous notes, rewriting them to make them “prettier” or whatever, to just a jumble of arrows and colors…and just a hot mess on my paper but it makes complete sense to me because in actuality it’s how we think. No one thinks in a linear fashion nor with words or numbers but pictures. I used to think I was linear but that’s just how I preferred to have the information presented because it made it easier to memorize and regurgitate but a week later I couldn’t tell you what we studied.

Anyway…I’ve rambled long enough.

That is remarkable!! I love it!! I always look at my memory this way. I am a voracious reader. I can ALWAYS remember a book - the storyline, characters, title and author.

I currently have 100 people on my caseload. I organize them like “books” in my mind. Each one has a storyline with a “title” - diagnosis and “author” - patient’s name. Of course the psychosocial includes a cast of characters to the storyline as well.

People, especially younger social workers, always say “How do you do it?”. I say, “Do you remember nearly all the books you have read in your life?” Each patient is a book…

I think in some ways I reflexivly do what you do Crooz…

Very much akin to my more intensive study sessions. I actually used the whiteboard for my math classes, as well as GC I & II. I didn’t implement the same method for Org I, chiefly because it would’ve been, for all intents and purposes, useless. I got out of Org I with an A, but it certainly wasn’t due to my highly effective study habits.

I’m a huge Cal Newport fan, and to a lesser extent that guy who founded the Princeton Review. While they differ in their respective philosophies concerning the best approach to studying, they both emphasize the absolute necessity of internalizing the information thoroughly enough so that they can “teach” someone else. My Micro teacher made essentially the same point, and it is well taken.


The methods that you are describing are very much similar to Cal Newports “How to Become Straight A Students”. I am also visual learner and learn by working things out, speaking out loud, etc. This method of studying got me through CRNA school, especially with studying very detailed physiology topics. GOOD PLAN.

What I have continually read is that a big hurdle to cross is to discover what works for YOU in studying. It is not the quantity of time you put in, but the QUALITY of the time you put in.

If you have found that this method works for you, then drive on!

Three principles:

Always go to class.

Learn the way you study best, and study that way.

Do what you need to put in the time.

I know that I don’t pay attention well in a lecture hall with 50 people. I study best in my apartment at my desk with a bowl of popcorn in my underwear. I take steps so I can do this.

First, I record all lectures. I have a voice recorder which is USB compatible and records in MP3 format. I also bought a pricier one so I knew it would record at high quality- so I can set it down in the back of the classroom and hit record, and I’ll have an audio recording of the entire lecture. Also, in the two grad programs I’ve been in, professors always make their lecture slides available on the electronic classroom page. Between having a recording of the lecture and the lecture slides I can damn near recreate the lecture at my leisure. The only challenge is following when the prof skips around in the presentation- but if you were there in class, you should be able to follow.

This means I can basically turn the lecture into a personalized 1-on-1 session. I need to pee? Hit pause. Didn’t quite get that last part? Listen again. Lots of important details here? Pause frequently and take good notes (I like letter-size writing pads). Still didn’t understand that one part? E-mail the prof with an exact quote and the question.

What usually happens is I clear my entire desk. Everything not being used for study goes on the floor. Optimally I would have a larger desk that can accommodate stuff and still leave a working space, but I only have what my student apartment gives me. I have my laptop with the recording open and Firefox (so I can google something I want more info on). I have the powerpoint slides printed or on the computer (whichever strikes my fancy at that moment). I have my writing pad and tons of colored pens so I can color code and annotate my notes. And I get to work.

It can be a challenge staying focused if I have the internet up, and I find blocking Reddit (and such) useless. I occasionally need a short break and if my mind wants a distraction, I’m going to unblock whatever I want to look at. What I do instead is keep something to remind myself of why I’m studying. I have a picture of my fiancee and a picture of Boston Whaler’s 37’ Outrage with a flybridge. That reminds me I want to be a doctor, which means I need to get into med school, which means I need to get good grades in my PhD.

Also, I need to devote a lot of time to studying. It often takes me an hour or more just to find my groove. Combine that with the fact that the methods by which I learn best take a ton of time, and I often need 4/6/8/more hours of studying to really make headway. I need to stay sane during that, so I don’t kill myself. I’ll get up halfway through and make dinner. I’ll bring dinner to my desk and nibble while studying. I’ll have a beer (but pace myself with it). Perhaps these things mean that getting through a bit of material takes six hours rather than four. I’m ok with that because I’m not working as hard and doing things while I work that I enjoy.

There are also philosophical ways to approach things. My default state is studying. I’m at home and have nothing in particular that needs to get done? Studying. If I need or want to do something else, I do it. Friends going out for drinks? I go too. Friday and a new movie is out? I walk to the theater and see it. Hungry? Make dinner. But I study unless there’s something else.

I’m also big on schedules and to-do lists. If I have a major exam on Friday and it covers six lectures, and there are four days to study (M/T/W/Th), I look at the lectures and make a schedule. I’m going to do which one on which day, and then I stick to the schedule. Make lists with things to cross off. If we covered four parasites in Medical Helminthology Lec #2, then I list the four of them on the daily checklist as subsets of the main list item. I get to cross them off as I go and cross off the main item when I’m done. Feels good.

Now this may not work for you. I have no idea. But it works for me so it’s what I do. It’s sort of like being thrown in the water and learning to swim. You struggle, work, get ideas, implement them, and get better as you go.

Have you ever heard of the SQ3R method? I learned about it my first time around in college. One of the Rs is to recite the material, supposedly to help cement it in your mind better. I try to use it with my own children with their lessons too.

  • Silverknight73 Said:
Have you ever heard of the SQ3R method? I learned about it my first time around in college. One of the Rs is to recite the material, supposedly to help cement it in your mind better. I try to use it with my own children with their lessons too.

Just googled that. Sounds like a more regimented form of what I do.

Thank you so much for sharing your study tips! This is immensely helpful as I embark on this new journey. The type of studying and extent I will need to do to succeed as a pre-med and a med student is pretty much a foreign concept to me. I went to school for graphic design and the most intense studying needed was basic memorization using flash cards.

I have been researching study tips and will be experimenting to figure out what works best for me.

Thanks again!

The biggest thing I learned is that “it takes you however much time it takes YOU”.…not nobody else. Besides students lie. Have one in Orgo telling me he never studys…yet I’ve found him in what was once “my corner” of the library studying. Smells like the making of a gunner. I’ve met plenty of doctors who’ve told me they never studied past 5pm or some other nonsense while in med school. No one wants to appear like they worked hard to learn, I guess it’s the never let them see you sweat mentality. Whatever…

The other thing is find WHERE & WHEN studying works for you. We have our second bedroom as a gym/study but the desk is to small, I too like to spread out. So in the living room we also have a desk, and it only works in the wee hours of the morning when my wife is asleep. I don’t study late but I get up ridiculously early. Which feels better to me. Instead of surviving on four hours sleep by going to sleep late, I survive on 4-6 hours but I get up early, ~2am. I cannot seem to study if my wife is up and about in the condo. Not sure why but just is. I also don’t do well coming home straight from school to study at home. I always feel like I need a break when I get back home so I relax, which translates into I do not study and breaking that inertia is gega-Newtons…

Oh yeah…use the book IF it helps but not all books are created equal and some are horrible. You have to know when it’s you or when the book is just going contrary to the professor. That happens so you need to see if there are other resources you can use. “X as a second language” series, Khan academy, youtube… The problem is not that we do not have resources but that we are not resourceful. Be resourceful.

Just some thoughts that came to mind.

Off to ace an Orgo quiz…I pray!

Also Chegg is worthwhile…and my tutor turned me on to simply googling whatever my “question” is, and also googling equations…surprise, surprise - the answers come up…often with a step by step solve…which really helped me figure things out!!

For me, the most important of study is the mentality. You must enjoy the subject. So I alway try to find something fascinating about it. That’ll get me going.

For every class, on the first test I overstudy. I make sure I know every little detail. Once you’re done with the first test. You can see clearly what the teacher want you to learn… Most of them are creatures of habits. It’s pretty much easy from there on out.

So far, All my tests are As and top/2nd in my classes since my coming back to school. I was C student 14 years ago.

P.S Of course, I experiment different study methods as well. So far, I like teaching other classmates. It really solidify your knowledges. I like watching other videos regarding the subject through chad mcat, khann, youtube…Currently, I’m trying recorders. Not liking it so far but I can see their benefits.


If you have an iPad or iPhone I highly recommend an app called “BrainWave.” I use it to study and it two things, helps me concentrate and it drowns out all background noise. I use it with headphones. Now it’s not just the headphones drowning sound out because i’ve tried the headphones with just music and that didn’t work. I can now study in the busiest, nosiest place and it not bother me for a second. I don’t know if the brainwave alpha, beta stuff works but it sure seems to. I focus better and thought I’d pass it on.

With that I also set the timer to 49 minutes and get to studying, then take a 9 minute break. Why the nines? Well it gives me a minute to get comfortable or situated or whatever… I’m pretty anal about exactness in timing…yeah I know but what cha gonna do… lol


What specific app of “brain waves” is helping you? There seem to be many out there. Great thread by the way!


By BanzaiLabs adva…

  • simonspop Said:

What specific app of "brain waves" is helping you? There seem to be many out there. Great thread by the way!


Thanks for the topic. We all encounter a time when we question our methods. I have come to a conclusion that I have to go to a coffee shop and study before a test. I find that studying at home just doesnt work. I get too comfortable and have a lot of distractions. I am also very sensitive to caffeine, so the one sugary, unhealthy coffee drink lasts me the entire session at the coffee shop.

I would, however, like to try some of the above mentioned methods–my current method isnt sustainable.

any tips on staying focused?

I can only study at home early in the morning, otherwise it’s at the school library with my iPad, inear headphones, and my bineural tones playing.

Focus? The app helps with focus. Drowning out the noise and keeping out the visual distractions also seems to help. For me that’s a cap worn low or a very private section of wherever I’m at.

The biggest thing I’ve done lately for focus and motivation was to get very emotional about what would our life be like if I don’t follow through with my goals. How would it affect my self esteem, my passion for life…what would it FEEL like…what would I say to myself…how would I be viewed and how would I view myself… basically truly feeling how rotten it will be. Then how much I would gain from following through. I awesome would it be to get straight A’s…to ace the MCAT…to ace my interviews…to have to turn down school interviews…to wow the adcoms…to graduate top of my class at med school…to have residencies calling me…to be the bestest attending I could be…to live a life full of passion, joy, happiness… Write it all down and keep it close. Then smile and revel in your success. Get excited because this study session is the next step closer to making your reality a reality. When you begin to feel the FUD begin to creep back in, grab your nose, say “beep, beep, beep” outloud. This will break up your FUD pattern and go back to the list of how awesome it will be.

The preceding is how I’ve dealt with focus, motivation, and procrastination. Also doing something else that seems to be working…

Those are all very helpful tips! I downloaded the Binaural sound waves app last night and actually did a search for Binaural music on Spotify and found a bunch of free stuff on there. (I pay for Spotify, so I don’t have to worry about those distracting ads)

I’ve already seen a bit of an increase in productivity and focus. Have you noticed the more you use the binaural waves the more you are able to recreate that concentration without playing the tracks? The only reason I ask, is because earlier in the math computer lab I played some binaural tracks and then when it was time to leave and I took off the headphones I found myself playing the white noise in my head and/or I was focusing in on other calming ambient noise in the room.

I really like what the waves have done for me thus far, the only concern I have is that I will become too reliant on them and will struggle with focus without the music. Specifically, taking the MCAT. I am hoping that like I said above, I will be able to recreate white noise in my mind.

Train how you’ll fight and fight how you trained.

For the MCAT I will try to recreate as much as possible how the environment will be. Ask around here about the noise level as well as chairs and the like. No sense in getting accustomed to a nice, peaceful serene environment if that is not what you will test in. I will even try as much as possible to take practice test at the same time I plan to take the test.

My recommendations of focus and what not are more to do with studying in general. For exams I believe it best to recreate the environment you’ll test in, whether the MCAT or just some prereq class.

Refining things a bit.


I would recommend what I previously posted. Bio is mostly just memorization. Now I presume that everyone understands that I include understanding the concepts. I’m not sure how people can just memorize words without understanding what those words mean in the bigger picture. I equate it to memorizing vocabulary for a foreign language. The end goal is communication not knowing a bunch of arbitrary words.


Get David Klein’s Organic Chemistry as a Second Language. Learn the concepts from that, then go to your textbook and take notes on any highlighted concepts but not much else. Then work on all the end of chapter problems. Check your answers and whatever you get wrong, write down the concept you got wrong and review it. Before you move on get that concept hammered down. Continue working through the rest of the problems this way and you’ll realize that once you get to the challenging or synthesis problems you’re not having too many issues. Solutions manuals are awesome in this regard because they show you precisely why it is or isn’t the correct answer…well some manuals are better than others but I recommend them.


…still working on this. I’ve confused studying the chapter with studying. Physics is about knowing the concepts and then doing the math. The physics is a no brainer so I haven’t studied as I should which means I haven’t done enough problems. Correctifying that as I take a break this morning.


To me lectures are a complete waste of time but I can’t avoid them because attendance is mandatory. I don’t get much out of them. I watch Khan Academy videos before classes and try to understand the concepts before hand so the only thing I have left to do is work on problems. So I’m not seeing the relevance of having a professor essentially read the section summary to me or the powerpoint slides. The only time it matters is when they put things they added to the lecture, an aside they had, into the exam. Other than that I have not seen the benefit of attending lecture. Chem102 I loved lecture. The prof didn’t bother with the book and yet it was an awesome class and very informative. The lectures this semester are just…insulting really.

Anyhow…take what you find useful, discard the rest.