You‘ve seen, as I have, plenty of tips about highlighting books, studying with a group and using mnemonics. Those are great tips, but I’ve developed a few I haven’t seen anywhere else that have helped me get through the truly rigorous material.
They are strange and specific, and I hope they’ll get you thinking.
Seriously, it’s OK. Go ahead. Find a tutorial video or animated explanation video on YouTube (or other streaming websites) and watch it two or three times before you go to lecture.
By watching videos, you can engage the material with two senses (sight and sound); pause the video so you can look up more information; and become familiar with the major concepts and terms before diving into detail in lecture.
But every month there’s a new feed of user-created videos that will help you navigate the material.
Say drug names out loud in a funny voice
I had the hardest time keeping drug names straight, until I remembered the trick I used in undergrad learning languages. I would read words out loud in my best Sean Connery impression.
Saying the name in a different way helps it surface quicker in your memory.
I wish I had remembered that trick earlier – I would have had a different voice for each class of drug.
Listen to video game music
Sounds weird, right? It works. Some people need absolute silence to study, so this won’t help them.
Video game music is designed to play in the background while your attention is elsewhere. Listening to it puts my mind into a fun, relaxed mode.
Sometimes I’ll listen to old Nintendo music from when I was young. I also made a playlist of sci-fi-themed music, so when I study hard science material, it feels like I’m in a movie during a mission briefing scene.
Do the questions first
Seems counterintuitive—and it doesn’t help much if there aren’t any questions—but attacking a subject question first gears your mind to look for answers when you cover the material.
After lecture, before you review the material at all, jump into questions. If you’re really brave, do it before lecture. It shows you what you already know and what you missed, and takes you out of the flow of the material from the lecture.
Scrambling the order also helps keep the material fresh and different.
Get your group to make questions
Split up the objectives, sit around a table and go through the lecture. Everyone makes multiple choice questions and then shares. This lets you get to know your section of the material well.
Make sure to answer them together and to explain why the other answer choices are wrong.
Don’t be afraid to be weird
Everyone has unique study needs, so use this list as a starting point.
Did one of these really resonate with you?
Maybe instead of making questions, you can start your own YouTube tutorial channel just for your program.
Maybe you use different colors for drug categories instead of different voices.
Whatever you do, don’t hesitate to try something weird. It might just work!
Ryan English is a second-year PA student at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.
His website is Pre Physician Assistant Blog, a collection of interviews with PAs and PA students.