Test Taking Skills


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Preparation for Tests

Study habits and skills contribute to success on tests:

  • There must be a total commitment to becoming a physician. The commitment to a 60+ hour work week will never go away. The workload increases over time, and you learn to do more work faster.

  • Deal with non-academic issues now. It is difficult to run a race carrying a large amount of baggage.

  • Create a daily and hourly study plan; don't leave scheduling to the moment.

  • Study multiple subjects per day. Devote some time to each subject. Learning is rate-limited by neurochemistry. Hence, cramming cannot work. Consolidation of short-term to long-term memory occurs over time.

  • Make use of facilities designed to enhance learning: library, study rooms, practice settings.

  • Make use of expert help: faculty

  • Attend all scheduled contact hours and be attentive. Inattention wastes time. You can't do it on your own, off by yourself. Most students who fail have poor attendance patterns.

  • Concentrate on understanding, not just memorization. The facts must fit together. Build conceptual frameworks for the facts.

  • Concentrate on problem-solving, not just recall. Physicians must make diagnoses and develop treatment plans. Learn how to use the information you are given.

  • Learn how to effectively read and absorb information from textbooks. Prioritize and filter.

  • Participate in active learning: ask questions, answer questions, discuss, write or type notes as you go. Non-participators become marginalized.

  • Both individual and group study are important. Group study helps keep group members accountable, attentive, and on track and helps share knowledge quickly.

  • Study the subject material BEFORE you self-assess. Working backwards from review resources and exams leaves you with a patchwork knowledge base.

  • Break up intense study periods into 20 minute segments, when attention span begins to decay. Begin again by reviewing a key concept you studied 20 minutes ago.

  • Schedule time for review. The learn-forget cycle may be repeated multiple times for difficult concepts. There can be daily, weekly, and end-of-term review.

  • The curfew is 10 pm on the night before the exam. Better yet, take the evening or day off before the exam. Performance is tied to long-term knowledge acquisition. Stresses from last-minute preparation diminish performance.

  • Resist the temptations offered by all the distractions in your environment: electronic devices including TV, computer games, web surfing, MP3's, cell phone, instant messaging, etc. This is an enormous time sink. (e.g., "You Gotta Put Down the Duckie if you Wanna Play the Saxophone")


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