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Improving Your Study Techniques and Skills

If you have been admitted to Johns Hopkins, you have been academically successful in the past. You likely have preferred and effective methods for studying, but some of those techniques might not transfer easily to studying science.  You might have to adjust and refine your studying techniques to meet the rigors of science course work at the college level.  As you begin to study science and then eventually prepare to take the MCAT, we want to stress a few key points and offer some study techniques that may help you in your transition to studying science and serve as supplements to your current methods.

Successful scientific endeavor requires a tremendous attention to and command of detail.  Trying to master the sciences without memorizing any formulas or reactions is like trying to master a language without learning any vocabulary (remember: you will not have an equation sheet to refer to when you take the MCAT!). You need more than just the “big picture” to succeed. You will be asked to assimilate and retain vast quantities of information.  As a result, time management and attention to detail will become extremely important skills, both now and in medical school.  The strategies listed below have been effective for premedical students in the past, and you may wish to consider trying them.

Many premedical courses are taught in large lecture-style presentations, using textbooks to reinforce material.  The most important and relevant material is usually that which is explicitly covered and/or hinted at during the lecture.  An exam cannot include all of the material presented in class or available to you in the textbook.  Your job is to determine, isolate, and focus on the most pertinent information.  Active learning involves being able to relate information across contexts:  to use class notes to guide the reading of the textbook in order to extract relevant and supportive material, and to integrate that material into the class notes while reading.

Please see the list of suggestions in the following handout.  They should not be taken as a set of concrete rules that will work for any course; subjects and professors’ teaching and testing styles can vary significantly.  However, these suggestions may prove to be helpful across a range of subjects.  You must learn, of course, to adapt your studying methods to the circumstances at hand. 

Study Techniques for Premedical Students (Verrier/Thompson)

Additional Resources

Effective Study Techniques (Adapted from Plan for Success, C.E. (1988). The National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions, Inc.)

The Nitty-Gritty of Effective Studying (From A Guide to Learning Chemistry, C.H. Yoder and C.S. Yoder, Franklin and Marshall College and Millersville University, 1992)

Academic Success (an amazingly comprehensive study site at Penn State University)
Including info on:
• Reading Comprehension
• Note Taking
• Test Taking and Anxiety
• Writing
• Understanding Instead of Memorizing
• Studying Math/Science
• Working on Study/Learning Teams
• Additional Relevant Study Skills Sites

How to Study Math, Science and Engineering
by Dr. Phillip R. Rosenkrantz
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

How to Study for Organic Chemistry
by Dr. Christopher Falzone
Johns Hopkins University

College Student Online Guide for Better Study Skills
The Open University
United Kingdom

Letters to Students
This is a brand new website on how to tackle specific science and engineering courses created by Carl Hart de Ruijter and Jackie Heath, both JHU students.  It is an "open forum" where students with either proven methods of or ideas for great study habits can offer their advice to the general student population.  Check it out!

 

 

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