DaVinci's Man

Getting the Grades

Two keys to doing well in your courses are

  • approaching your courses with a passion to learn and
  • managing your time efficiently.

The medical profession requires constantly keeping up-to-date with a rapidly changing field of knowledge; i.e., it is a lifelong commitment to learning. The sooner you develop a passion for learning, the better off you will be. Learning can be fun if you strive for understanding and study to satisfy your curiosity. On the contrary, studying can be dull, tedious, and totally ineffective if you try to memorize so as to score well on exams. If you study with a passion to learn, you are very likely to build good academic credentials and to impress people with your scholarly attitude. This is especially important for your teachers who will be writing letters of recommendation.

If you learn one thing early in your academic career, learn good time management. You will need to do many things well, and this can be overwhelming if you find yourself never having enough time to complete what you start. You will probably find it helpful to set up a schedule for every day of the week. Allot enough time to prepare for lectures in advance, attend all classes and labs, complete written assignments, and review your text and lecture notes every day. Most importantly, leave time for meals, lots of sleep, and extracurricular activities that keep you active, physically fit, and engaged.

Here are a few specific tips as to how to approach learning and manage your time. They may not work for everyone, and ultimately you have to find what works for you. However, it is worth going over them and at least trying a few.

  1. Read the text before attending lecture.
  2. Take complete notes, but try to think about what you write. Don't hesitate to ask the professor to explain something that wasn't clear or that you missed because you were writing so fast.
  3. After lecture, copy over your notes and supplement them with material from your text. You can also make "flash cards" that are easy to use later to test yourself. This only works if you make the cards on a regular basis, i.e., not the night before the exam!
  4. Before going to bed every night, spend 20-30 minutes going over your notes or flash cards, starting with day one. This "cumulative learning" process helps to establish connections among the many facts you will have to learn. It is these connections that can trigger your ability to answer questions on exams. Try doing this twice a week for each one of your three most demanding courses.
  5. When taking exams, scan all the questions, and then answer the easiest ones first. This will build confidence and allow you to begin making the connections you established as part of your "cumulative learning." Don't get stuck on an especially difficult problem; this can make you frustrated, and then you enter that vicious cycle of frustration coupled to poor performance.
  6. Start working on written assignments early. Set your own deadlines for completing them at least two days before they are actually due. This will allow you time to actually finish them and to provide the attention to detail, even at the last minute, that can improve your grade significantly.
  7. Go to bed early and get up early. Sounds corny, but once you get into the habit of working early in the morning, most people find that they study and perform much more efficiently. Of course, this also means that you should go to bed at a reasonable time to allow a good night's sleep.
  8. When preparing for an exam, test yourself. Find or make up some questions you think might be on the exam and try answering them under timed conditions without referring to your notes or the text. A set of previously prepared flash cards is a convenient way to assemble such questions. This will help you identify areas you need to work on. Review the material you had difficulty with and then repeat the process.
  9. If you work with others in study groups, take turns trying to "explain" a topic or a problem without using your text or notes. This really tests your understanding, and provides immediate feedback. Do not get trapped in a study group that is not focused on studying.
  10. Set aside some time every day that is sacred. Get away from studying, work, and other "responsibilities." Escape. However, keep in mind that doing anything illegal or just plain foolish will quickly destroy all reasonable chances of your becoming a doctor.

Study Skills Links:
A College Student's Guide for Studying
Anxiety and Stress Management
Balancing Act: Tips for College Students to Best Manage Their Time
Build Effective, Efficient Study Habits for Medical School
College-level Writing
College Note Taking
College Student Study Tips
College Study Skills
College Study Skills Guides
Concentration and Memory
Critical Analysis and Conceptual Understanding
Effective Study
Effective Study Skills
8 Advanced Tips for Effective Studying
11 Good Study Habits for a Breakthrough Routine
Essential Study Tips for Successful College Students
Exam Preparation and Performance
Exam Preparation: Ten Study Tips
Exam Stress: Students Reveal Their Top Tips for How to Cope with Exam Anxiety
Expert Guides on How to Study for College
5 Secrets to Improving Study Habits for College Students
5 Tips to Improve Your Study Habits
Goal Setting and Time Management
How to Develop Good Study Habits for College
How to Get to Know Your College Professors
How to Improve Your Memory While Studying
How to Improve Your Study Habits
How to Improve Your Study Skills
How to Improve Your Study Skills (
How to Overcome Test Anxiety
How to Study Effectively
How to Study More Effectively
How to
How to Study: The Most Effective Study Techniques and Tips
Improve Your Study Habits in Five Steps
Improving Concentration
Improving Concentration, Memory, and Motivation
Improving Memory Retention
Improving Study Habits and Remembering What You Read
Improving Your Study Skills
Learn More Effectively With These 5 Study Habits
Learn to Manage Your Time in College
Learning Strategies
Managing Time for Success in College
Managing Your Time
Managing Your Time and Study Environment
Overcoming Test Anxiety
Reduce Your Test Anxiety
17 Ways to Study Better
Sites to Promote Academic Success
Six Minutes to Success Videos
6 Simple Tips to Study Effectively
Study and Success Strategies
Study Guides
Study Guides and Strategies
Study Habits and Time Management
Study Skills
Study Skills Advice
Study Skills Articles
Study Skills Basic Information
Study Skills for Academic Success
Study Skills for Students
Study Skills Guide
Study Skills Help Page
Study Skills Information
Study Skills and Learning Tactics
Study Skills Primer
Study Skills Resources
Study Skills Self-help Information
Study Techniques
Study Tips
Studying for College
Studying Science: The Six Keys to Success
10 Habits of Highly Effective Students
10 Highly Effective Study Habits
Ten Study Methods That Work
10 Study Tips That Will Boost Your Results
Ten Traps of Studying
Test Anxiety/Study Skills/Time Management/Test Prep
The Basics of Effective Learning
The Best Study Skills
Time Management
Time Management Strategies
Time Management: The Key to Academic Success
Top Learning and Studying Methods
12 Tips to Improve Your Study Habits
12 Unusual Study Hacks
20 Study Hacks to Improve Your Memory
Understanding Learning Styles
Websites on Study Skills