If you’re like me, near the end of undergrad you finally figured out the best way to study and learn the material. And then you start vet school. Well, luckily you’ve just figured out an effective way to learn, so you’ll have a good way to learn in vet school, right? And then the first round of exams slap you hard across the face. Welp, those study techniques in undergrad certainly are not working here in veterinary school. You start back at square one on trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Don’t despair! If this happens to you, you’re only normal. Sorry, I’m not sorry. Vet school’s a whole new animal (pun intended).
Of course, every one of us is going to learn and internalize the material we learn in veterinary school differently. What works for some will not work for others. And that’s OK. The big difference in this regard is that it seemed like the material in undergrad had a start and a stop. But in veterinary school, literally, everything is tied together and builds on itself. Therefore, it’s to your advantage to figure out how to effectively study…and figure it out fast. Vet school does not play nicely when you fall behind.
It took me over a year to figure out a technique that worked for me in veterinary school. The basis of this is something I learned from a friend of mine that studied the psychology of learning in college. Here’s the science of it in a nutshell. Learning new tasks and information is all about forming new neuronal pathways in your noggin. The more pathways, the easier it will be to recall. These pathways are created by repetitive learning and digesting the information in multiple ways. Do this, and your recall will be easier.
If you haven’t found your studying groove in vet school I encourage you to try what worked for me. It takes time, but it made the information stick. What worked for me involved taking in the information in four different modalities. This forced my brain to approach the material in different ways, making it stick to memory. Here are the four ways to internalize the information:
- Listening: Just sit in lecture and listen to the professor explain. Don’t scribble notes furiously. Doing so will only create holes in your understanding. If you want to jot down an important note or two, that’s fine. But just focus on paying attention to what the professor is saying. This is the first method of learning.
- Writing (or typing): If you’re lucky to be given PowerPoints of the lecture beforehand, lucky you. Go over those notes and transcribe the notes into your own words. This uses a different area of your brain, and thus is the second method of learning.
- Draw: Doodling an anatomy structure, creating a flow chart, or making a diagram are all ways of getting “artsy” and using another approach to organize and learn your material. This is the third method.
- Reading: Just read over your notes. Simple as that. This is the fourth method.
To make a long story short, get the information into your brain in as many different ways you can. This creates more unique pathways in your brain, and in theory, should commit that information to memory. But remember the caveat: everyone learns differently. If one way doesn’t work, don’t get down on yourself. Keep trying new ways and figure out what works best for you.