10 Best Tips on How to Study as a Medical Student

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One of the initial struggles in medical school is finding the best learning strategies for medical students.

Truth be told, there is no single best strategy on how to study as a medical student.

However, looking at recent scientific studies, you can easily find a link between high performance in medical school and certain approaches to learning of medical students who have such high performances.

A recent study conducted in 2021 among students of the College of Medicine in an Islamic University revealed 10 outstanding study tips for medical students which you can start adopting today for faster, efficient and better learning in school.

Table of Contents

Tips on How to Study as a Medical Student

how to study as a medical student
how to study as a medical student

This study which was carried out among 675 medical students show that medical students who generally perform better than others in exams have certain characteristics which could be linked to their high performance in school.

It is quite sad that I had access to this information when I had already graduated from medical school, because I could relate almost 99% of these characteristics with most of the top 10 graduating students in my class.

However, I lost nothing at all since I never failed an exam while in medical school, and I still have lots of post-graduate work to do.

So hopefully, this information will still help me in building my best career after medical school.

I revised these characteristics to form ten study tips for medical students.

And if you are still a medical student, it’s not yet late for you.

You still have the chance to perform better than your peers who do not have access to this information yet.

These 10 tips on how to study in medical school include:

  1. Effective Time Management
  2. Get Rid of all Distractions
  3. Set Daily Goals and reach them
  4. Optimize your study time
  5. Study Alone for Knowledge and Retention
  6. Learn from multiple sources and invest in technology
  7. Contribute in teaching your peers
  8. Study Original lecture slides with notes outside exam
  9. Study Original Lecture Slides with Notes and Past Questions During Exams
  10. Keep Yourself Motivated Using Self-Gratification

Effective Time Management

It has been shown that medical students who have a study plan to help them to effectively manage their time generally outperform others in terms of academic achievement.

Medical students who do not design their time adequately use up available time to master whatever they are trying to read.

If you have been following my blogs for a while now, you must have seen some posts where I talked about how I overcame some of my medical school exams and the role that having a time-table played in these successes.

This was also my motivation for developing the “Master Study Plan for Medical Students”.

This study plan is a self-development guide that will help you to develop a master timetable to effectively manage your time in medical school.

Many medical students tend to engage in certain extra-curricular activities.

So having a daily planner will help you to manage your time more effectively while combining your studies with your hobbies and other things you may have interest in like school politics and business.

Get Rid of all Distractions

One major cause of failure in medical school is distractions.

The major sources of distractions in medical school include; your phones, family and friends.

To succeed in medical school, you need to cut down the attention you give to your phone social apps like; Tiktok, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.

And instead of studying with your mobile phones, get a good tablet/ipad or a laptop without internet connection and without all these social apps that waste your time and study with them.

Also, cut off relationships with friends who only waste your time on unproductive things like clubbing, smoking, drinking, video games and endless chitchats, then minimize dating in medical school.

Finally, have a timetable for attending to family issues.

One that has worked well for me is calling my family members only once in a week.

But that is if they do not call at all and except when there is an emergency situation that needs my attention at home.

Set Daily Goals and reach them

learning strategies for medical students
learning strategies for medical students

Having specific goals every day is one of the most effective study tips for medical students.

Every day in medical school can come with lots of activities which may need your attention.

But ordering your day early in the morning and ranking your activities from the most essential to the least essential will help you to attend to only the most important things that will help your success in school.

One tip here is to get the study plan for medical students, and use it to outline the most important goals you want to achieve in a day.

Always do this late in the night before you sleep or first thing in the morning.

Also try to limit your very important goals to less than 10 in a day to reduce fatigue.

The more the important goals you have to achieve in a day, the more you get distracted and also, the fewer the important goals, the more likely you are going to achieve them.

Optimize your study time

According to research, highly successful and productive medical students study an average of 3 to 4 hours daily regardless of whether the exam is close or not.

And when the exam is close by, it was found that about 45.5% of high-performing medical students increased their study time to 10 to 14 hours daily.

However, a greater percentage of well-performing medical students still kept their daily study time to the normal 3 to 4 hours even during exams.

The reason is because they have been consistent right from the beginning of the session up till the onset of the exam, and must have covered all that needs to be covered for the exam.

But for those medical students who have been inconsistent, they tend to increase their study hours as the exams draws near as they have so much to cover.

And this generally leads to surface reading without an in-depth understanding of the medical school subjects.

Study Alone for Knowledge and Retention

Statistics has shown that medical students who choose to study alone most of the time have more in-depth knowledge and better retention than medical students who study in groups most of the time.

This does not mean that group discussions are not necessary though.

Group discussions expose you to different angles from which a medical concept can be viewed or learned better.

However, it only works best if the participants in the group have spent a considerable number of hours studying the topics of discussion alone for personal understanding.

While in medical school, I engaged in group discussions with a group of 4 peers, and it was very helpful.

However, before each day of discussion, we assign the topic to be discussed to each one of us and we take time to go through them before meeting for the discussion.

Learn from multiple sources and invest in technology

how to study in medical school
how to study in medical school

One of the best learning strategies for medical students is to utilize different modes of learning and use study aids as this would improve retention and the necessary associations and memory needed to tackle questions during exams.

High-performing medical students do not only read the lecture slides and notes, but they also utilize other study resources like YouTube videos, Study Applications, Flashcards, Standard Medical textbooks, and even certain music to enhance focus while reading.

Also, a good number of medical students who perform when use available technologies to improve their study efficiency and reduce time and energy wasting.

Some of these technologies are found in the medical school essentials and they include; laptops, ipads, good backpacks, efficiently designed white coats for rotations, etc.

Related: Best Physiology books for MBBS first year

Contribute to teaching your peers

One of the best tips on how to study in medical school is to contribute in peer tutoring.

Now this one sounds a bit off because not everyone may have the intellect to understand faster than others.

However, based on my own personal experience and from the findings in the earlier mentioned study, the people who teach their colleagues while in school always have better results and a generally better performance than those who do not.

They are also more confidence and have lesser fears while facing the final exams.

If you are just an average student, you can start by volunteering in little academic-related tasks in medical school.

My theory is that this act of teaching others and engaging in academic activities increases your personal standards and expectations and this will motivate you to always stay ahead of other in school.

Study Original lecture slides with notes outside exam

I often get asked by younger medics how much a medical student should study. One of the best learning strategies for medical students who perform well is that they study the original lecture slides and make notes during lectures.

These students also make out enough time to study the approved medical textbooks recommended for the courses.

Then they go on to study these notes and lecture slides irrespective of whether exams are near or not.

Also, they do not miss lectures, clinical rotations or tutorials.

Study Original Lecture Slides with Notes and Past Questions during Exams

I also see some younger colleagues who often ask; how much does a medical student study when exams are closer?

When exams draw near, the study strategy of these high-performing medics do not change much still.

They still hold on to the original lecture slides and their hand-made notes.

In addition to these, they still study the recent past question papers from their school for the previous exams.

Keep Yourself Motivated Using Self-Gratification

Successful medical students keep themselves highly motivated in medical school during exams through self gratifications and the vision to fulfil their family dreams.

I had written a separate post on how to stay motivated in medical school; you should find it really helpful.

How Can a Medical Student Study Smart?

Drawing a conclusion from all you have read so far, a medical student can study smart by having specific study goals each day and by having fixed study hours irrespective of whether exams are close-by or not.

This will help you to reduce the workload drastically and maintain calmness and balance while facing exams.

How often do medical students study?

Medical students should study academic books that will help them tackle their exams better every day. No day should pass without you investing some time reading your medical books.

How many hours should a medical student study?

The average study hours of the most successful medical students are 3 to 4 hours daily.

How many hours do mbbs students sleep?

Medical students should aim to sleep at least 5 hours every day. For me, this is ideally between 12:30 am to 5:30 am.

Final Words!

There are no rigid rules on how medical students should study.

But there are basic characteristics that will help you get better as a medical student, help you get good grades, and make you well-rounded and have enough time for other activities while in medical school.

These characteristics were summarized above as the ten best study tips for medical students. So use them wisely.

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One comment

  1. Hi, thank you so much for this article and God bless you richly. I am truly blessed to have come across the article as I resume for my 200l.

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