Now that you’re in med school, you might be feeling overwhelmed about how you’re going to manage to learn everything you need to know over the next four years. How will you possibly organize this mountain of information in notes? You took notes in college and high school, so you should keep doing the same thing in med school right? Wrong.
In your previous classes, you probably took notes by just writing down what the teacher said or the contents of the lecture slides. What you may have not known, is this form of notetaking isn’t doing you any favors. Sure, you might be writing down a lot of information, but it is likely leaving your brain as soon as you write it down. You cover more information than ever before in medical school, so this problem is only exacerbated. If you want to spend your time wisely, avoid burnout, save yourself some stress, and actually build a strong foundation of medical knowledge check out our tips for taking more effective med school notes.
Rephrase what you’re learning in your own words
One of the easiest changes you can make to ensure you are actually learning the material is to rephrase what your teacher is saying in your own words instead of writing down what they say verbatim.
It’s a waste of time to recreate your lecture syllabus, and it’s not going to do you any favors. By rephrasing lessons into your own words, you can consolidate the information that was covered in class and focus on the most important points. This also gives you an opportunity to actually think the information through and teach it back to yourself through your notes. You know how you learn best, and this gives you an opportunity to tailor your notes to your learning style. This enables you to learn more efficiently than trying to force yourself to learn in your teacher’s style.
Write your med school notes in question & answer format
One of the most effective ways to improve your memorization and recall of the essential medical information is to test yourself on the topics as you learn them. Try ending each lesson by creating your own review questions (or using our Q&As!).
|On the left side of the page, list questions that cover the most important points from the lesson.
|On the right side of your page, answer these questions and provide all the evidence you can think of for why your answer is correct.
This process may take a little time, but the benefits you will receive are more than worth it. Training your brain to think through the questions and then answer them in an evidence-based way will help you more effectively encode the medical knowledge into your long-term memory. It will also prime your brain to recall the information when you need it most during exams and once you start practicing.
Pro Tip: We make it even easier for you to use this super effective strategy with our Step 1 or Step 2 Qbank+. Set up a customized session by choosing the topic you want to cover, and Qbank+ will generate a quiz for you to test your knowledge! After you submit your answer in study mode, you’ll see the correct answer, and explanation with a link to more information in the Med Student Core so you can instantly deepen your understanding.
Make a concept map
Drawing concept maps is a super effective way to encode information into your brain.
Concept maps are an extremely powerful tool for you to use throughout your entire career because it helps you visualize important concepts and how they connect to each other—especially if you are a visual learner. Concept maps will help you connect new knowledge with old knowledge which strengthens the memory encoding in your brain.
To create a concept map you need to start with a question. The question can be about an organ or tissue system, a condition, a symptom, or any other essential concept. Once you have your starting question, make a list of every related concept, principle, and related term you can think of. Then, you can start mapping the relationship between all these ideas and think through how bringing these concepts together helps answer your central question.
Use abbreviations in your notes
This may seem like a simple one, but it will actually save you tons of time! Think about all the time you'll save by writing or typing fewer letters! The key is to use abbreviations for as many words as possible, but also use ones that you will quickly recognize and not have to look up every time. Need some suggestions to get started? We have helpful abbreviations you can use at the beginning of every topic in our Med Student Core.
Whatever note-taking strategy you use, we hope that these suggestions help you get through med school with a little less stress and build a strong knowledge base to begin your medical career.
Get a free copy of our Med Student StudyWise guide to stop wasting time on bad study strategies and learn how you can learn everything you need to know in less time.