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  • Love it or hate it, studying for your prerequisite science classes is an important part of your

  • premed years.

  • Yet as soon as I utter the words organic chemistry or physics, your blood pressure probably spiked.

  • But what if I told you it’s not the subject matter or even your professor and it’s the

  • way youre studying that’s the problem?

  • Dr. Jubbal, MedSchoolInsiders.com.

  • The reason many students hate science classes in college is that they find them incredibly

  • challenging.

  • Most students fall into one of two categories.

  • First, there are the students who put in considerable amounts of effort but still struggle to understand

  • the material.

  • These students will study for hours a day and still fail to achieve the grades that

  • they desire.

  • On the other side of the spectrum, there are the students who can’t get themselves to

  • put in enough effort in the first place.

  • For these students, studying feels like pulling teeth.

  • In both situations, however, students are making things much harder than they need to

  • be.

  • How well you do in your college science classes has less to do with the subject matter or

  • how mean your professor is,” and more to do with how you're approaching the content.

  • There is noone-size-fits-allsolution to studying that will work for every single

  • class.

  • The way that you approach science classes like biology, organic chemistry, physics,

  • and general chemistry is totally different from how you approach classes like history

  • or English.

  • Whereas subjects like history are primarily rote memorization and less focused on critical

  • thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving and subjects like English are more focused on

  • dissecting literature and writing your own conclusions in a meaningful and effective

  • way, science classes are a different animal that require a completely different approach.

  • Studying for courses such as physics, chemistry, and genetics requires a similar approach to

  • studying mathematics.

  • Rather than rote memorization, these subjects are more reliant on critical thinking and

  • problem-solving ability.

  • As such, this difference in approach needs to be reflected in your study strategies.

  • Whereas with history you may focus on flashcards to memorize facts and dates, your approach

  • to physics and chemistry should focus primarily on practice problems.

  • That being said, how you approach practice questions also matters.

  • Most students will proudly proclaim how many practice questions they got through in their

  • last study session, but that’s missing the point.

  • It’s not the quantity, but rather the quality that counts.

  • To get the most out of each practice session, you need to approach each question as if it

  • were the real thing.

  • If you don’t know how to solve it, don’t just read the correct answer and explanation.

  • Give it considerable effort before you review an equation or other helpful piece of information.

  • And if that’s still not enough to answer the question confidently, go back through

  • your notes and create what you feel to be a perfect answer.

  • Only then should you check the correct answer and see how yours compares.

  • If you still get the question wrong even after all of that, then you know that there’s

  • a major gap in your understanding that needs to be addressed.

  • Although this method of going through practice questions takes longer than the normal technique

  • of viewing the correct answer, reading the explanation, and moving on, it leaves you

  • with a much better understanding of the material.

  • Shortcutting by viewing the correct answer and explanation when youre stuck severely

  • limits your rate of progress and prevents you from deeply understanding the material.

  • Approaching practice questions in this slower, more intentional way will likely feel frustrating

  • at first.

  • Youll probably have to go back through your notes many timesand even then you

  • might still get questions wrong.

  • However, making mistakes and learning from them is the whole point of practice problems.

  • Your rate of going through problems decreases, but your rate of learning accelerates.

  • Approaching practice problems in this way also gives you the opportunity to create systems

  • that avoid small, mindless mistakes.

  • A common example is forgetting to write the units in physics problems, which will earn

  • you an incorrect answer on test day.

  • For this particular example, I recommend drawing a rectangle around your final answer and making

  • it extend farther out to the right, thereby giving some blank space after the number.

  • This will be your cue to remind you to always write the units down.

  • In contrast to physics, chemistry, and genetics, however, biology classes tend to be a blend

  • of both memorization and critical thinking.

  • As such, you should focus both on practice problems and flashcards for memorization.

  • Sometimes your ability to answer a practice question will be less dependent on your ability

  • to reason your way through and more on whether or not you know a particular fact or set of

  • facts.

  • That being said, for many subjects within biology, memorization alone is not enough

  • youll also need to have a good understanding of how the information fits together.

  • For instance, knowing the names of all the enzymes and intermediates involved in glycolysis

  • and the citric acid cycle isn’t too helpful unless you also understand how they fit into

  • the bigger picture.

  • If you were tested on what would happen if you introduced a competitive inhibitor of

  • phosphofructokinase, for instance, you should be able to say how this would affect the rest

  • of the process, which substrates and products would increase, and which ones would decrease.

  • Although flashcards are helpful for memorizing facts and labels, they aren’t ideal for

  • learning how things are organized or how they relate to each otherwhich is just as,

  • if not even more, important.

  • Think about it this way, you can have all the ingredients necessary to bake a cake,

  • but if you don’t know how much of each to use, how to mix them together, what temperature

  • to bake them at, and for how long, youre probably not going to end up with a very good

  • cake.

  • When learning step-wise biological processes, techniques such as summary sheets, drawing

  • mind maps and diagrams, and the Feynman technique are much more effective.

  • Whereas flashcards are good for dialing in the small details, these techniques force

  • you to organize those details, make connections, and understand how they fit into the bigger

  • picture.

  • Once youve built a foundation of memorization and organized the information, however, you

  • should start going through practice questions using the same approach we discussed previously.

  • Create an answer you are confident in and then check it with the correct answer.

  • Remember, the goal of practice questions isn’t to do as many as you can, but rather to learn

  • from your experiences and your mistakes.

  • Your study strategies are only one piece of the puzzle.

  • If you truly want to optimize your studying, there are other factors you need to consider.

  • First is your study schedule.

  • Understand how your energy and focus waxes and wanes throughout the day and organize

  • your schedule accordingly.

  • You want to study during the times of the day where you are most sharp and focused and

  • use any slump in energy for less cognitively demanding tasks.

  • For me, I know that my focus is sharpest in the morning but dips in the afternoon before

  • peaking again later in the evening.

  • As such, during college and medical school, I would schedule my study time in the morning

  • and in the evening.

  • During the hours in between, I would strategically schedule chores, exercise, and other daily

  • tasks and use them as a break between study blocks.

  • Next is your study environment.

  • You may not realize it, but the location in which you study heavily influences your energy

  • levels, ability to focus, emotions, and much more.

  • It’s all about finding what works best for you.

  • For some students, studying at home in a quiet environment is the best way to focus on the

  • work at hand.

  • For others, studying at the coffee shop or library and being surrounded by other people

  • who are also working helps motivate them to be productive.

  • Whatever the case, find what works for you and stick to it.

  • Be mindful that how fun or enjoyable a space is doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s

  • more conducive to focused studying.

  • Next, should you study in a group or study alone?

  • The answer is that you should do both.

  • Studying alone has its benefits as does studying in a group.

  • Which one you choose at any given time comes down to what you are trying to accomplish

  • during that particular study session.

  • Studying alone helps minimize distractions which often allows you to study more intensely

  • and for longer periods of time.

  • This is ideal when you are first learning information and are trying to go through the

  • material at a faster pace.

  • Studying in a group, on the other hand, often allows you to work through and reinforce difficult

  • concepts while keeping you motivated and sane.

  • That being said, groups should be small.

  • Study with only 1 or 2 other people.

  • Larger groups have rapidly diminishing returns in that you will more than likely get distracted

  • and your productivity will plummet.

  • One of the biggest advantages of group study sessions, however, is the ability to teach

  • what youve learned.

  • This teaching reinforces the material for yourself and helps out your fellow classmates.

  • This is called the Feynman Technique and it is incredibly powerful.

  • We cover this topic in-depth in our How to Study More Effectively video - link in the

  • description.

  • If you aren’t using this technique already, I suggest you start.

  • Last is to optimize your physical health.

  • Although this isn’t necessarily a study technique or strategy, it’s just as, if

  • not even more, important for your performance during college.

  • Improvements in your physical health have been shown to be beneficial for cognition

  • and memory.

  • As such, neglecting your physical health leaves a lot of performance on the table.

  • The three pillars that you should focus on are sleep, nutrition, and exercise.

  • When any one of these is lacking, you won’t be able to perform at the top of your game.

  • Although it sounds obvious, the reason that most students neglect these is time.

  • While in college, it can feel like there is too much to do and not enough time to do it;

  • however, when you better optimize your time, youll often find that there’s much more

  • of it than you realized.

  • To learn more about the benefits of sleep, exercise, and nutrition and how to optimize

  • your schedule to make time for all of them, be sure to check out How to Rank First in

  • Medical School | The (Not So) Obvious Truth on the Kevin Jubbal, M.D.

  • channellink in the description.

  • Although doing well in your prerequisite science courses during college is challenging, I believe

  • that with the right strategies and the right approach, any student can be a top performer.

  • But if your goal is to get into medical school and become a physician, doing well in your

  • college courses is only one piece of the puzzle.

  • The path of getting into medical school is arduous, with complexities, nuances, and roadblocks

  • that can stop even the most ambitious of premedical students.