Are you an undergraduate student wanting to up your study game to get those grades for vet school? Or are you a current vet student craving to find new ways to cram oodles of information into your already jam-packed brain? Whatever your current situation may be, I hope some of these tips and tricks will help you get your study on. ?
Tip #1—FIND YOUR STUDY SPACE
First things first, you need to make sure you study in a place that works for YOU! In undergrad I got into the habit of studying in different places with different levels of background noise because I read that being adaptable would help with controlling test taking anxiety. I would have to say I’m glad I did that because now I am able to study anywhere. I’m also able to remain focused during exams if there’s distractions going on (like people walking in/out, coughing, etc.). Now that I’m in vet school, I spend most of my time studying in my room at home. If I’m feeling really distracted or need to group study, I’ll usually go to a coffee shop or a library on campus.
Tip #2—PREP AHEAD OF TIME
This is something I am trying to be better about but with the amount of material and limited time we have it’s hard to do. Earlier this year we had a professional come in and discuss strategies to increase retention while learning. She suggested looking over lecture materials before the actual lecture because it gives you some background on the topic. This allows you to get more out of the actual lecture rather than going into it blind. I must say, from the few times I was able to do this it REALLY helped me get more out of the lecture material. So, if you have the time, skim the lecture notes/presentation or try to read chapter summaries in any textbooks you use.
Tip #3—GET CREATIVE
DRAW, DIAGRAM, MAP. This is by far one of my favorite ways to learn. Drawing allows me to clarify confusing material and study it in a different format. I’m very visual when it comes to learning and I find that writing and drawing concepts really helps make it stick for me. I use a lot of colors and often draw weird pictures, so I have some way of remembering the material. During my first year of vet school, a professor told me that she’d write out information on large pieces of paper/posters and hang them around her apartment to study. She told me she saved every single paper, so she could rehang them when it came time to studying for the NAVLE. Ever since that day, I’ve been following in her footsteps! Now that I’m in my third-year, I’ve been rehanging posters from second-year to aid in my studying this semester. I LOVE this because I save time having to make more study material on stuff I previously learned but can’t remember AND I can keep reusing it for fourth-year block rotations/NAVLE prep.
Another thing I recently came across that I’ve implemented in my study routine are bath crayons. Yes, it sounds crazy but if you’re someone like me who values “relaxation time” this may be something you want to investigate! I’m notorious for indulging in bubble baths and face masks the night before exams so I’ve started writing/drawing out concepts in the shower so that when it comes time for spa day, I can be somewhat productive too.
My friends and I literally have a google drive titled “Divide and Conquer” where we collaborate with one another to create study materials for all our classes. Learning material for 12 classes is so much easier when the lectures are split up between multiple people. Our current go to method consists of writing exam questions on topics and placing them in PowerPoint presentations with animations. This method allows us to continuously quiz ourselves in a format that may be like our actual exams.
Tip #5—EXPLORE OTHER SOURCES
When I have time or can’t remember concepts, I like to use other resources to get more information over topics. If you’re continuously seeing information from different sources, presented in different ways, you’re bound to not only retain it better but understand it. I’ve been doing this A LOT this year when it comes to our different medicine courses. So, what do I use? My go to is my Merck Veterinary Manual. I’ve been using Merck Manuals online for the past 3 years, but I recently got my hands on a physical copy of the eleventh edition! I’ve been reading up on different disease processes and highlighting key points. The manual is thick but compact and easily transportable wherever I go. I keep telling myself this will be the perfect source to review when I’m running around clinics 4th year and trying to study for the NAVLE.
Not going to lie, there are some days where I can’t bring myself to get out of bed to study. Then I remember this amazing thing called Quizlet which allows me to do both! This handy little app allows you to create study sets online that can be used as flashcards, practice exams, and more. Many of my classmates make different study sets for everyone to use which comes in handy when you want to lay in bed for a little longer or you’re on the stair climber at the gym.
I hope that one of these tips/tricks help get you closer to your goals! Whether that be getting into veterinary school or just passing your classes, we all need to tweak our study habits sometimes.