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Study Tips: How Future Doctors Study

February 26th, 2010 admin

Well my honey is making his way through the first year of med school, and I do NOT envy him his workload. But at least his study techniques are useful! Check them out:

“Pimpin'” It

So when the hubs came home from school on Monday he casually asked me, “Have I told you about pimping?” You can probably imagine the look I gave him after that weird question, but he quickly explained that it is an actual term med students use for one of their study techniques–explained to him by his 40-something class moderator (and she is a serious and respected ER doctor who just finished her second residency).

The basics of “pimping” are simple: You go over your notes and study alone, and then get together with someone you work well with and take turns firing off questions at each other, one after another. It is fast paced and intense, and really gets your synapses firing.

The way my sweetie and his study comp do it is to simply say something like, “Tell me about keytones.” The questioner lets his partner start off with a simple description, and then fires off questions until the discussion continues. They spend hours doing this, but hopefully your major doesn’t require that much “pimping.” 😉

Become the Teacher

Another method that works really well for a lot of the study groups is to take turns being the teacher. One of my sweetie’s study groups gets a small room in the library and each take a topic they’re familiar with to re-teach to the group. They discuss problems, hypotheses, and questions together, go over anything confusing from lecture and of course mess around cracking jokes and stuff, which helps them all stay sane on full-day study dates. Then they swap teachers.

The group gets the benefit of going over notes again, while the teacher gets to really focus on wrapping his or her mind around their teaching topic.

Solo Study & DIY White Boards

While group and partner studying are both awesome ways to dig deeper into material, you first need to have the foundation of solo-study. For tips about how to study on your own, check out these memory tips and consider these thoughts on how to kickstart your study habits. (Still not getting anything done? Time for some ridiculously easy ways to kick distractions.)

A new tip we picked up from a second year med student this year was to DIY a whiteboard (shown above!). It is really easy and ridiculously cheap. We found a huge sheet of whiteboard at Home Depot and cut it down to fit on our desk (they have a saw available for free there). We got four desk-sized pieces for only 10 bucks, so the extras got passed on to other students. Now the hubs slaps down his computer and notes on the whiteboard, and writes down chemical reactions, internal processes, and all kinds of things I don’t understand, like the stuff he wrote in the photo you see up at the top there…

Bonus points if you know what’s going on in that photo. It is a super-intricate process of creating ATP… And such. Haha.

Even if you aren’t a science student, this could be a great tool for brainstorming essay ideas, diagramming sentences, time-lining historical events, and making a note-to-self so you retrieve laundry before it gets stolen. 😉

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Emily  |  February 26th, 2010 at 11:16 am

    What was that white board material you got at Home Depot called? Love that idea!

  • 2. Jamie  |  February 26th, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    @ Emily: I can’t remember what it was called, but it was back in the lumber section. It shouldn’t cost you more than $10 for a huge sheet of it (enough to cover like 4 standard sized desks!). 🙂

  • 3. Xenia  |  February 27th, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    That picture you have is absolutely fantastic for explaining glycolysis with ATP and pyruvate. It is now the background on my laptop, so I can peruse it at my leisure. Seriously. It’s a fantastic diagram.

    Not only that, but also the Krebs Cycle! AWESOME. =D I need to know this stuff.

  • 4. Stefan | StudySuccessful.com  |  February 28th, 2010 at 6:07 am

    I actually understand what is going on there! How do I get my bonus points? Haha.
    Here in the Netherlands we don’t have to understand the ATP-cycle that good, but it comes close.

    The other two ways are things med students just do I guess. I’m always studying with friends, and the days before a test, we start to fire questions at each other, when someone doesn’t understand something, the other will explain it. It works fantastic!

  • 5. Hillblogger  |  February 28th, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this blog. Plus I read at a useful time I have finals in a few weeks and I need all types of study techniques and all those sounded great.

  • 6. Shelby  |  March 11th, 2010 at 10:44 am

    I’m an undergrad in college now and this idea of “pimping” is such a great idea! My roomate and I are studying the same materials so we are constantly bouncing ideas off of each other. Since both of us want to go into med school it’s a really good idea to start good study habits. So I’m glad that I read this. I’m going to try this new study technique with my roomate so hopefully studying for Biology will be a lot less painful!

  • 7. Gilbert  |  March 14th, 2010 at 6:07 am


    Very good article. The “pimpin technique” does work.

    A study by Edgar Gale suggests that we retain 90% of what we teach in comparison to 10% of what we read. So the teaching technique is a great idea also.

    And the whiteboard technique is a version of Buzan’s mind maps.

    Loved this article.

  • 8. Amie  |  November 21st, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    I read this article because as a Biology Major, many of my fellow students are going to med school, or Physician’s Assistant school, or just grad school in general, so I was curious to see how accurate you were, and even as undergrads (although seniors) we as a class have utilized all of these techniques. It is especially great that there are nine of us (small school) in every single class together, so we always have at least one person to study with.

    My biggest suggestion is to utilize techniques like this as early in your college career as possible. I only began to study this way this year, and I really wish I had studied much more efficiently earlier on.

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