It's been 3 weeks since I've completed my second set of midterms, and I think I've finally recovered (ie. caught up on sleep, come to term with my marks, and stopped being in denial that I have finals next month, along with 2 - or maybe 3 - more years of midterms)
Yet again I'm going to be making adjustments to my study methods. I didn't review every lecture within 72 hours, nor did I utilize one day of each weekend to prep for the following week and review material that I missed the week before, and I found myself estimating course objectives instead of checking them off while studying. But it's okay, I definitely believe that (I'm telling myself that especially since I need some consoling from the whooping I experienced from anatomy, whoo!)
I attended all of my lectures, I really tried to be present for the most part, I even had complete faith in the importance of attending lectures and not skipping, and although I still believe that, I feel my habits outside of the classroom are why I only passed (without flying colours). Now I realize that attending lecture will ensure that you hear the material once, have an idea of what will be important and testable (unless the professor is misleading and creates discrepancies on the exam), and as long as the lecture material is understood superfically through a few review sessions, a passing mark is likely.
However, I've also realized that just attending and superficially understanding lecture is NOT enough if I want to do well enough on midterms that I can relax a bit when studying for finals. As mentioned before, lecture provides the main ideas (which may take extra studying time to truly understand), a sense of the types of questions that will be asked on the exams along with how questions may be asked, and for me, peace of mind that I lose if I skip a class. I've also found attending class to be valuable in that listening to how professors get their ideas across provides insight about what they look for in assignments. Just like reading improves one's vocabulary overtime without them noticing, it makes sense that hearing well-spoken instructors articulate their thoughts through teaching will positively influence my explaining abilities in the future. For example, my professor for nutrition includes examples of studies during lecture which are especially important for prescribing supplements and misunderstandings patients may come across in their own research, in terms of sneaky tricks supplement companies may use to make their products seem more supreme than they actually are. Also, anatomy is the heaviest course, but I could not imagine having any other professor for that particular course because it requires a great ability to explanation skills in order to facilitate understanding, transitional skills to keep lecture flowing, along with life experience to provide interesting real-life examples.
Overall, I think that the study methods I used would have yielded way better results if I gave myself more TIME. That way, I wouldn't have mixed up concepts on the exams which relied upon one another, and I would've been able to easily differentiate between concepts which were very similar to each other instead of quadruple-guessing myself.
That being said, here's what I plan to do differently for the rest of the term:
Be in charge of my learning
- If lectures and/or practicals aren't helping me learn to the best of my ability, make it work. Anatomy is a great example for me because even though the cadaver lab is a cool place to be, it is a 170 minute commitment every week (40 minute commute to lab + 90 minutes in lab + 40 minute commute from lab). For the first few weeks of lab, I didn't find it very conducive to my learning because there's not enough guidance given the very uneven ratio of students vs. TA's, but since attendance is necessary, I'm trying to learn by studying from a textbook which has photos of the human body cadaver-style. That way, in lab I can confirm body parts of the textbook photos with the cadavers in front of me, and if the space becomes too busy, I can refer to the book instead of the cadaver. I also found it very helpful to study from my atlas (which has animated drawings of the human body) when learning lecture material, as there are so many body parts which are connected to one another, and it's easier to match the words with the pictures from the get-go.
- Previewing notes will help me have an idea of where the lecture is going, and put me in the state of mind for that course - especially when I've already had two lectures that day and need to think a different way. And although I am not a fan of reviewing within 72 hours of a lecture, I'll just need to take the pressure off of myself to learn everything during that review session. If anything, I'll remember the bigger picture, which will make it easier to fill in the tiny details when studying for the actual exam. I'd much rather do that than have to learn the bigger picture of each lecture, in addition to the tiny details of each lecture, and put it into the bigger picture of the entire course, while doing the same thing for other courses at the same time. High potential for brain mix-up.
- Seeing as this is still first year, it's extremely helpful and consoling to seek the advice of upper years who have successfully endured this experience, along with checking in to see if other first years are feeling the same. Yet, I've become too comfortable with hearing my peers say that they're too tired after class to do any work, pulling all-nighters during exam week is completely fine, and if you study every night you are too studious and are not living life to the fullest. I agree to an extent about all of the above, but there comes a point where balance comes into question. For some, balance means sleeping in everyday, and not sleeping much during exams. For others, balance means working out during the beginning of the semester, but then stopping for the rest of the term, and then making a resolution at the beginning of the next term to not let that happen again. For me, I want balance to be studying a bit every evening (even if only 2 hours, including weekends), so that I can keep my sleep schedule, exercise schedule, eating schedule, and stress levels as steady as possible. I want to do well enough on my midterms so that I won't spend the rest of the term stressing about what if I don't do well on my finals. I may be called a keener in the process, but everyone has an opinion - the beauty of the world is that you are entitled to it. Others can judge, but I am in charged of myself, my decisions, and my goals.
Do it for me & my future patients
- Having a similar ring to my point above, except this time I want to be able to want to do well on my exams for myself and my future patients...not to impress my professors and gain their approval. I'm sure all instructors have their thoughts about certain students based on who speaks up the most, who doesn't do so well on examinations, and who may make seemingly common-sense mistakes in practicals. I've let the pressure of trying to make myself not look bad get to me to the point that I'm scared to even try. I'm a student, I'm not perfect. Neither are my classmates, no matter how perfect and competent some of them seem. I must accept that when an instructor is given a set of students, they cannot help but make a few comparisons. I just can't let that pressure consume me or hold me back.
In all, I'm happy to be here and have wanted to study this program since 2008. If I wasn't here, I'd be working idly, or wishing that I was here. And even though there are improvements that could be made to make this a better experience, this is where I need to be in order to gain the knowledge for who I'd like to become after I graduate. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.