Post-exam deux & studying techniques

About three weeks ago, I promised that I would post my post-exam analysis for my first exam. Little did I know, medical school is much like holding onto a fire hose. If you lose control over it, then you will most likely find yourself on the ground. You will be forced to regain control of the fire hose, which flails in an unpredictable manner. Well, that is what happened after exam un. I was totally zoned out during lectures on the day after my first exam. And I quickly fell behind. In fact, it took about three weeks to regain control just in time for my second exam. 

I am currently listening to Mozart as I compose this post. My intention is to update on my academic progress as often as possible. I have another exam in about four weeks, so let’s see if I can write one more sometime in between. 

I would like to talk about my first exam before I move onto my second exam. For my first exam, I only listened to classical opera for the seven days leading up to the exam. I’ve decided to forego baroque because it was putting me to sleep while I was studying. Opera worked out well for the most part because it kept me awake, kept me energized, and kept me productive. Finally, I used Anki and method of loci for spaced repetition and memorization.

Now that I have taken my second exam, I can finally compare the two exams.

Figure 1. Exam 2 results

Overall, I am satisfied with my results. This time, I actually have no idea which one I might have missed. According to the specific score report, I’ve missed one on cancer genetics and one on pharmacokinetics. I will just have to review those two concepts again until I have completely mastered them.

For this second exam, I actually did not limit myself to classical opera. This time, I listened to other genres such as hip hop and EDM. I feel like it worked out to my advantage because I felt more liberated. I believe studying should be enjoyable, so studying with enjoyable music just made more sense. With the last exam, I felt stressed at times when I had to force myself to listen to opera only. From now on, I have decided to listen to any kind of music as long as I am able to enjoy and focus on my studies.

Last time, I also talked about the three highlighter method. I would use purple for preview, lime green for lecture, and red for review. I really like this method because it allows me to quickly navigate through my lecture notes and focus on the keywords. And I pay closer attention to them when transferring to Anki cards.

Anki cards are very useful because spaced repetition really forces you to hammer information into your brain. One improvement I would like to make for the future is to make them on time. For exam 2, I made them five days prior to the exam and was only able to flip through them 2-3 times. There is really no point in doing spaced repetition over the course of a few days. Such time schedule will not be enough for a satisfactory result in the future as the amount and difficulty of information increases.

Lastly, method of loci. I tell a lot of people about it, but they are not attracted by it. I have to explain how our brains perceive and store information. Moreover, the actual process of storing information using method of loci requires a lot of time and effort. Many more are attracted to simple mnemonics such as acronyms or memorable phrases, which I find to be relatively short-termed and ineffective. Yet, I’m also opposed to completely disregarding such methods because I know plenty of people who do well while using them. I just know that the method of loci works well for me. In fact, some of the images are so disturbing that they are quite difficult to erase or transform in any other way. I’ve used this method to memorize drugs and common genetic disorders thus far. I hope to use them extensively for anatomy and physiology of the musculoskeletal system.

For this exam, I was definitely more assertive in making decisions when I had narrowed down the answer choices to two options. I always say that there are two ways to improve your score on an exam: 1. study well before the exam, and 2. make better decisions during the exam. I simply made better decisions this time. What is the best answer? What are my reasons? Is this really the correct answer? I call the last question a “touch of skepticism.” It helps to filter out red herrings and tricky wordings in the question, which I found to be fairly common for this exam.

Well, that is all for now. If you have any advice for conquering the musculoskeletal system, then please leave your comments below. Thank you as always. Cheers!


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