This post is written by Kenedy, a first-year medical student at Kansas City University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is originally from Kansas City, KS, and went to Southern Nazarene University for her bachelor’s in Biology and Chemistry and The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill for her Master’s in Public Health. She loves oat milk lattes, yoga, and having movie nights with her husband, Britain, and Goldendoodle pup, Blue! You can find her on Instagram @kenedydawson!

One of the hardest things to do as a pre-med is to figure out an effective study strategy for your science courses. Being a pre-med is no joke, and it requires a lot of time and effort. Every class is a little different, and every person has a unique approach to learning. Whether you are a visual, kinesthetic, auditory, or any other kind of learner, here are some tips for you to level up your studies and get that A!

Make a plan

I’m sure we have all heard at some point, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Every good study strategy starts with a plan. It’s important to set a goal for how many times you want to go over the material and to create a schedule to help you stay on track. A great way to keep track of how many times you’ve reviewed your course material is with a “pass-tracker”. You can make a spreadsheet and fill it in as you review your notes, study with a friend, and quiz yourself on the content. The more times you can review the material before the exam, the better!

Active listening and effective note-taking

Although it can be hard, it’s important to pay attention during lectures! If it works for you to type, great! If you haven’t tried handwritten notes on a notebook or iPad, give it a try. You may be surprised how much more you remember from the lecture! It’s important to be an active listener as well. Try to avoid passively highlighting and take the time to write things down. It may help to restate some of the important concepts in your own words on your notes to reference later. Write study questions for you to answer when you go back and review, and be sure to take note of anything the professor emphasizes heavily in class. This will help you be a more active learner and will help with retention. 

Spaced repetition

In science courses, there is often SO much material. To remember it all can feel overwhelming sometimes! Using spaced repetition will help you not only remember the material for the test but can also help you remember it long-term. (Hint: you’ll thank me later when you’re studying for the MCAT!) You can use flashcard apps like Anki, which has a spaced repetition algorithm so you choose when you see your flashcard based on how well you remember it. The most important thing is that you are consistent! 

Summarizing the material in your own words

Using your own words to summarize your course content can help you figure out if you actually understand the material rather than just have it memorized. You can write it out, say it out loud, say it in your head, or whatever else works for you! Try to start small by reading a page in your textbook, or a few PowerPoint slides, then cover it up and try to summarize the material to yourself. I often find that when I’m pausing for a long time and get jumbled on what to say next, that shows me where my knowledge gaps are. Then you can go back and keep reviewing the content until you can summarize it seamlessly to yourself. Rephrasing pathways, concepts, and specific facts can help you remember them since you’ve put them in your own words. This is one tip that can be done alone or in a group! You can try this with your study group and take turns summarizing different topics from your classes. 

Teaching a friend

This is my personal favorite way to study. Once you have reviewed the material, and you feel like you are starting to really get it, find a study buddy and take turns teaching it to each other. Let your partner ask you questions, find a whiteboard and teach them as much of the topic as you remember. This can help you make connections across various concepts, memorize fine details, and have fun with your study partner! It can be helpful to stop and ask each other “how can I remember this better?” because you can come up with creative or even silly ways to remember pathways, enzymes, chemical reactions, and those dreaded amino acids! 

Practice, practice, practice!

Last, but certainly not least is practice! Practice questions are a great way to test yourself and see where your content knowledge is at, especially before a big exam. Many professors will give out practice questions if you ask them, and your textbooks typically have practice problems in the back. Sometimes you can even find practice questions online! Ask your professor if they have old test questions you could practice with or textbook practice questions they recommend. When you’re reviewing make sure to review why the correct answer was right as well as why the rest were wrong. It will help you spot distractors when you see them.

Remember that everyone learns a little bit differently, so don’t feel like you need to do exactly what your roommate, friend, or lab partner is doing. Trust yourself and do what works for you, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different strategies until you find one that maximizes your success. These science courses can be extra tough sometimes, but you are not alone! We know you will do awesome. 

Leave a comment if you found this helpful! What are your go-to study strategies?