One of my professors from first-year compared learning in vet school to “trying to drink from a fire hydrant”, and I think he presented the most accurate metaphor for how vet school feels sometimes. Last semester, I had days where I had 9 hours of lecture. Both last semester and this semester I have 15-16 classes. With that much information flying at you every single day, the concepts, reasoning, random facts you just have to memorize, and putting it all into a ‘bigger picture’ lens to be clinically relevant is massively overwhelming. So how do you take all that information and get it in your brain so that you can actually use it?
Most of our professors utilize objectives for their lectures or section of a class. If a professor has objectives, I usually do them–but the objectives are usually the last part of my studying/learning process.
I start with flashcards. As I go through the lecture slides or note sets, making flashcards not only makes me slow down to actually read the information on a much more detailed level but then I have to take the information and formulate it into a good flashcard question. This works great for straight definitions, equations, etc., but also for clinical type questions. I can make up flashcards for the clinical signs of diabetes, for example. And then later in the flashcard set, I can present a case and ask what test you would run, or what treatment you might start
I try to make my flashcard sets for every lecture, on the day of the lecture or shortly thereafter within a few days. That way, when I go back to study from those flashcards, I’ve ‘seen’ the information once already (while I was making the flashcards) but there has been some time in between and I can see where I need to focus my efforts as an exam approaches.
What I love about the flashcards is that it can take a note set that is 20 pages long, and break it into much smaller, more manageable pieces. When you are not faced with a dense packet of information, it seems a little easier to tackle.
Some of my classmates prefer to make powerpoints with a similar purpose. They might have some facts that just have to be memorized, but they incorporate questions and animations to turn it into a self-quiz based on the lecture slides or notes. I’m lucky to have a super supportive class, and anytime anyone makes one of these review powerpoints, it generally gets shared with our class’s Google Drive. (We also have a class Q
Once I’ve gone through the process of making the flashcards and seeing if there are any other study materials my classmates have made, I go back to the objectives of the professor. Through making the flashcards and self-testing, I’ve started to get a gist for the entirety of the material–the objectives then help me focus in on what the professor thinks is *most* important.
I try to finish this process at least 2 days before an exam, so that way I have the day before to simply review the material and talk through it with my roommate, another way to break down the information. We take turns going through lectures and quizzing each other.
Depending on how crazy things get, this process might not happen in its entirety for every lecture in every class for every exam but I’ve found that it has made “drinking from the fire hydrant” a little more manageable.