Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Nine Tips for More Effective Studying

9 Tips For Better Studying 

Use All Your Senses - Abstract ideas are difficult to memorize because they are far removed from our senses. Shift them closer by coming up with vivid pictures, feelings and images that relate information together. When I learned how to do a determinant of a matrix, I remembered the pattern by visualizing my hands moving through the numbers, one adding and one subtracting.

Teach It - Find someone who doesn’t understand the topic and teach it to them. This exercise forces you to organize. Spending five minutes explaining a concept can save you an hour of combined studying for the same effect.

Leave No Islands – When you read through a textbook, every piece of information should connect with something else you have learned. Fast learners do this automatically, but if you leave islands of information, you won’t be able to reach them during a test.

I found this somewhere on social media, and I think it is a set of excellent tips especially for medical students who have plenty of ideas to integrate and apply. I may not have tried all the nine tips listed here, but the ones I have tried have all been very useful - none of them have been proven wrong so far.


Test Your Mobility - A good way to know you haven’t linked enough is that you can’t move between concepts. Open up a word document and start explaining the subject you are working with. If you can’t jump between sections, referencing one idea to help explain another, you won’t be able to think through the connections during a test.

Find Patterns – Look for patterns in information. Information becomes easier to organize if you can identify broader patterns that are similar across different topics. The way a neuron fires has similarities to “if” statements in programming languages.

Build a Large Foundation - Reading lots and having a general understanding of many topics gives you a lot more flexibility in finding patterns and metaphors in new topics. The more you already know, the easier it is to learn.

Don’t Force - I don’t spend much time studying before exams. Forcing information during the last few days is incredibly inefficient. Instead try to slowly interlink ideas as they come to you so studying becomes a quick recap rather than a first attempt at learning.

Build Models – Models are simple concepts that aren’t true by themselves, but are useful for describing abstract ideas. Crystallizing one particular mental image or experience can create a model you can reference when trying to understand. When I was trying to tackle the concept of subspaces, I visualized a blue background with a red plane going through it. This isn’t an entirely accurate representation of what a subspace is, but it created a workable image for future ideas.

Learning is in Your Head – Having beautiful notes and a perfectly highlighted textbook doesn’t matter if you don’t understand the information in it. Your only goal is to understand the information so it will stick with you for assignments, tests and life. Don’t be afraid to get messy when scrawling out ideas on paper and connecting them in your head. Use notes and books as a medium for learning rather than an end result.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Medical School Report - End of Week 4 of IC2

Four weeks have passed and we have already completed two modules - Tropical Medicine and Gastroenterology-Hepatology.

Four intense weeks down, and another 9 more to go before the CLAMPDOWN.

Lord, give me strength.

So much to read, but I'm loving it. Call it being sadistic, but I love the torture.

For the past 3 weeks I have been sleeping upright in my chair. Mainly because I am too tired to walk down to my bed. But if I needed to, I could always sleepwalk my way there. Just like what I did a week back when I actually sleepwalked all the way down to my bedroom and plunked myself on that exotically soft bed.

The liver is so fascinating; so is malaria and dengue.

I felt so tired, but at the same time so exhilarated. You know, when you drop a stack of lectures on your study table, put your watch before you, and start SPEEDING like hell, with pages being flipped violently, that pencil scribbling like the screeching wheels of a race car, that mind of your coming up with whatever connections it can make, and that voice of your mumbling to yourself whatever bits of precious new knowledge it has managed to glean from the rapid readings.

Plenty to study, so little time, but double the sadistic pleasure,

I'm loving it. Bring it on, REGUB - I'm going to paw my way down you and smack you hard like the little bad mama you've always been. ROAR.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Med School Report - Sleepwalking

I believe I might have sleepwalked early this morning at around 4 or 5 am.

I was at my desk till 3 in the morning, and I decided to take a nap - I felt I needed to spend time with Tropical Medicine, so I really wasn't in a mood to sleep.

I shut my eyes, and the next thing I knew, I woke up on my bed, 2 stories below, snuggling comfortably under my blanket with my pajamas on. I knew I had taken a nap with my office wear - but as to how I awoke wearing my pajamas - the only explanation is I sleepwalked my way to the bedroom, changed into my pajamas and took a long rest.

Thankfully my subconscious Self was able to walk without tumbling down the stairs.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Med School Report - End of Week 2 of IC2

And that makes us 10 weeks closer to the summative exams - Lord help us.

So much to study, so little time. So much to cover, and everyday it's the grind.

But I guess I've enjoyed the hectic schedules, and on the brighter side of life, I get to enjoy calm mornings because I have to friggin force myself to wake up to study.

Thank God they scrapped the public health project for this year's IC2 programme.

Thank God they reshuffled the topics in Tropical Medicine.

Thank God they decided to give us one week of study break rather than none at all.

Thank God I am still alive typing this post even after such a hectic week,

I'm gonna reward myself today, with a movie. I know it's kinda like a mini self-indulgence spree, but I don't think I care.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Confessions of a Workaholic - Deadlines

Is this little blog becoming sort of a busy-o-meter for me? Only my readers can tell. But anyhow, this post is going to be a summary of whatever happened during the past first week of IC2.

This semester, we have to complete 4 modules:
a) Tropical Medicine [TM]
b) Gastrointestinal Medicine and Hepatology [GI-HEP]
c) Reproductive, Endocrine, Genitourinary and Breast Medicine [REGUB]
d) Central Nervous System, Movement, Locomotive and Forensic Medicine [CNSLMF]

To be honest, it is going to be a very packed semester.

Nearly all the Tropical Medicine topics were squeezed into one single week - last week, to be exact. But I must admit that it was exhilarating, learning about all those bizarre creatures such as cestodes, nematodes, trematodes, plasmodia and understanding the mechanisms of dengue fever. However, my weekends have become so packed - reading material, lecture notes, supplementary exercises, case studies and all, that I think I may become cross-eyed later in the semester. But it will be fun, I am sure, once we've got the whole picture in mind.

Let me see.

I need to:
Finish studying TM, finalize the paper on restraints-usage among Klang Valley road users, finalize the IC3 guidebook, oversee the September-October projects pertaining to The PEN, complete the articles on Dengue and Ebola for the November-December issue, arrange interviews with lecturers for the Cutting Edge column, and revise my anatomy before CNSLMF dawns upon me. Oh the joy of being a medical student, forever busy without time to think about time-wasting nonsense.

Holidays over, work has started. but it ain't a sin to dream of such serene scenes

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Today Is The Day

I guess it is about time - better to say it now than to allow further delays.

I knew you were the one I would desire to spend my life with; the one I would want to cherish, care for, look after and love more than anything else.

The journey would be difficult; the challenges many. But time and tide wait for no man- and I guess it is time to consolidate what I have long wished to say:

I love you truly, in body, soul and mind. I take you to be my constant companion, my life-long dedication, the spring from which my life draws meaning, the source of my inspiration and the light of my life, both now and in the days to come.

Till the seat be truly filled, this will hold fast.

A whole new exciting journey lies before us

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What Should I Get For Junior Cycle

Good day to all juniors, current and future.

The basic principle [based on personal experience] is to use one to a maximum of 3 books per field [might seem too little, but after two years of med school, this will be practical advice].

The recommended books are as follows:

a) Anatomy - you need one text and one atlas.
You can use a combination of one or two texts as follows: Clinically Oriented Anatomy [Keith Moore, Agur Dalley] and/or Clinical Anatomy [Snells] AND Netter's Atlas of Anatomy/ Grant's Atlas of Anatomy.

Grants' Atlas has got helpful tables/notations at the bottom of each page, whereas Netter's provides very very detailed illustrations of the human body. My personal preference is Grant's. But you decide - you want a very complete atlas (Netter's is like a map of Malaysia with every single kampung and jalan kecil listed in it, whereas Grant's gives you all the important anatomy without bogging you with the tiniest details, and Grant's will prove to be useful for card-signing too]
For JC3 - you will need Snell's Neuroanatomy and Monkhouse's Cranial Nerves.

b) Physiology - the recommended combination is:
- Guyton + Linda Costanzo's Textbook of Physiology
- Guyton + Sherwood
- Guyton + Berne-Levy's Textbook of Physiology
My recommendation is either one of the first two listed above.
And on top of that, get a quick revision book for physiology - 'Physiology' from the BRS series written by Linda Costanzo is the best option

c) Biochemistry - the first-and-best text for all beginners is the Lippincott Illustated Series Biochemistry book, by Harvey. Master this text and you will do very well for the exams. It makes your lecture notes simpler to understand. So, my advise is read this alongside your lecture notes. The second book is Harper's Biochemistry - but read this if you have the time for it.

d) Pharmacology - Rang-Dale's Pharmacology is still the best book by far. And, for pharmacology, try to get a revision book - 'Pharmacology' from the Deja Review series is one of the best. Try to avoid thick books for pharmacology because the thick books tend to be littered with plenty of ambiguity and 'still-under-research' stuff whereas your exams require you to answer based on current knowledge. So, Rang is still the best.

e) Histology - Use the Histology Module on Moodle - all the pictures there WILL be tested in the exam - and everything that will be tested in the Histology exam during your summatives will be taken only from this site. Although Histology tends to be neglected among PU-RCSI students, PLEASE DO NOT neglect this subject because it is one of the cornerstones of understanding Pathology in Intermediate Cycle 1. You must be able to recognise the cell types in a given tissue - there should be no blind reliance on the lab technician to tell you what it is, given that we all know how hospitals are like here. You must make it a point to study histology over the weekends - it doesn't take long since there are many pictures with labels. And, the Histology Module on Moodle is just the bare minimum - you can use it to pass the exams but that doesn't mean you are ready for the real stuff in IC1 onwards - so, although nobody will tell you this, I'm telling you to get yourself a Textbook of Histology [preferably by Junquiera] and study it alongside the Histology Module on Moodle. Recognition of tissues and cells without doubt is the main outcome of studying histology.

f) Embryology - everyone says they hate it - but if you think of it, it is actually one of the cornerstones of medicine. You need to know it to understand the various abnormalities you will encounter in the hospital. Everyone will tell you that they leave it till the last minute - but it really is a waste to ignore such a precious subject. The recommended text is Langman's embryology [the other text, if you like, is Keith Moore's The Developing Human]. Studying embryology using just the book can be really horrible, so make full use of the video links on Moodle - these links are often ignored by PURCSI students but the truth is, they make embryology SO EASY to understand. Also, Youtube has many fantastic simple-to-study videos for embryology. And there are plenty of sites that provide even better-and-simpler explanations/diagrams than the mainstream texts.

g) Clinical Medicine - Over the course of your studies, you will encounter the mention of a few diseases, for example, myasthenia gravis in NM, and phenylketonuria in CPB. To be able to understand, and not memorize, it would be great to know more about the disease, right? So, a book on clinical medicine would be of great use to you. The best text for Junior Cycle students is Kumar and Clark's Clinical Medicine.

g) Pathophysiology - This is an option which I still strongly recommend. To understand how abnormal physiology leads on to disease states, use Porth's Pathophysiology.

Lastly, if you have any questions that cannot seem to be quickly resolved by looking through your books, DO NOT HESITATE TO GOOGLE.

For example, if you are finding some parts of anatomy to be rather tedious, and the explanation in the book isn't helping, GOOGLE or GOOGLE IMAGE it. The images on Google are often more interesting, colorful, better labelled, or even better-angled than some of the textbook drawings. So, be flexible - Googling is not a sin. And referring to Wikipedia is encouraged if you need a rough answer in a short time.

For pharmacology, sometimes the side-effects of a drug can be difficult to understand - GOOGLE for the answer.

For physiology, there are also fantastic sites to aid in learning your physiology - for example, you can use cvphysiology.com for cardiovascular physiology. In other words, if the Internet helps you find answers fast and accurately, why not use it alongside your books? :)

I hope this helps. For your anatomy lab sessions, remember to find the answers to the questions in the lab book the night before the lab session - it will make anatomy learning VERY interesting and you get to ask the anatomist deeper questions instead of trying to run after every word he's rattling about. Preparation reduces stress. Sleep late if you need to.

In short, yes, it looks like a costly bomb now, but they will be of valuable help in your studies. Studying without books is like sailing the oceans without a map.

If you have any more queries, don't hesitate to ask - and yes, at the middle/end of ANY lecture, if you got questions, STOP the lecturer and ASK. No need to be shy. The lecturers appreciate that somebody is actually asking or else nobody is going to talk to them.

PS: 
A medical dictionary is a good investment. The choices are Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary - the full sized version. But I do not expect you to carry it with you to college daily since it is quite a huge volume. Home use only. But if you can get the App version (ask a tech-savvy friend), you may do so. The other option is the Oxford Medical Dictionary.

For those wondering about the Health, Behaviour and Society module, the lecture notes should suffice. And if you interested in reading further, Google. The book that is recommended for this module (photocopy it - the original is costly) is Psychology and Sociology Applied to Medicine (Illustrated Colour Text series).

Good day!