As I'm sure you've realized by now, some things are easier to study than others. Have you ever met someone who is able to name the winning team for the 1987 World Series, but can hardly remember the last five presidents of the United States for their history test? The human mind has an interesting mechanism for prioritizing the things we remember. Unfortunately, as an undergraduate student you are often forced to memorize and regurgitate information that may not be of any importance to your current life or future goals. Even in medical school, once you've decided upon becoming an OB/GYN, the subtle nuances of cardiothoracic surgery become tedious. When faced with these situations:
Make it interesting!
1) Stress is a double edged sword. Though at times it can be crippling and make your life seem awful, there are circumstances where it is useful. If you already received mediocre score on a previous exam, then stress can be a powerful tool to encourage you to put in the time required to do well on the next. When you're frantically studying to avoid a perceived negative consequence (such as getting a B, or having to re-take a course during spring break) this can be quite useful.
2) Be creative and see if you can find some relevance to what you are studying and your own life. One study tip I like to use is to pretend that I have to teach this information to a friend or family member. Perhaps something will develop about the subject matter that you are studying, and by knowing all of the tiny details you can talk intelligently about the issue and maybe impress people. For example I have always had a very difficult time memorizing the finer points of rheumatologic diseases such as lupus, however, if a family member or friend is concerned about the disease, knowing enough about it to reassure them may make it worth learning. You can remember information that is important you easily, so find a way to make it important.
3) If the information you are attempting to learn is primarily memorization-based, this is an instance where mnemonics can be extremely helpful. Taking the time to create hilarious stories about the content or funny ways to remember it can easily help you answer more questions correctly. I have met some students who think of exceedingly bizarre methods for memorizing information that work well for them.
4) If there is absolutely no way to make what you're studying interesting then you can always go and study someplace interesting. Go out to your favorite coffee shop, camp out in a park, enjoy your favorite beverage, and find some way to make your experience tolerable. This strategy can be risky however because you can become easily distracted. However, some distracted studying is better than not studying at all.
5) Try out a new study method! These circumstances are perfect opportunities for trying out new study strategies. If you never use flash cards then try using flash cards. If you never take handwritten notes, then take handwritten notes. Perhaps this is an opportunity to try taking notes on your iPad or tablet. Basically, find something new about the way you're studying and this can help make the experience more interesting to you, so you can remember it better.
- Happy Studying!