Ways to Avoid Cramming

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Here I am sitting, trying my best to understand the presenting complaints along with the signs and symptoms of the patient presented in the problem for my Problem Based Learning class on Tuesday afternoon.

My PBL group, brainstormed this problem and gathered answers to the objectives we agreed upon a week ago and between then and now, the information has dissolved from my memory which is why I'm here, currently reading up on the differences in strokes and trying my best apply the information in a way that would foster and encourage my hippocampus to remember it all for now...until I can spend more time on it.

It's funny how there never seems to be enough time in a day when my plate is full, however during a holiday, I have no problem "resting". Now I'm reaping what I sowed-which seems to be nothing.
Today made me think about ways to utilize my time wisely and to ensure that every minute of the day is spent in a way that would encourage overall learning and understanding of new and not so new information. Below I've listed some ways that may help you avoid cramming information that may be familiar to many of you.

Ways to Avoid Cramming 

1. Pre-Read

During undergrad this was my go to method and even during my first semester and a half of medical school. 

If you're given a syllabus or schedule of your classes and the assigned readings this would make perfect sense and would allow the lecture session to serve as a first review of the material you already read before the class. 

2. Post-Read 

As the class session is over and depending on your timetable i.e. whether there is a break between lectures, you can use that time to read over your notes from the lecture and add anything of value to the notes you made before the class during your pre-read session. 

When you go home or have  more time in the evening, if you are one to record lectures, you can playback the audio, transcribe if necessary and review the information in a more comprehensive manner adding your textbook to the mix. By doing this you would have reviewed the three times. 

3. Plan Ahead

As mentioned in number 1; by receiving your syllabus you can spend time either creating a study schedule and a class schedule that would allow you to divide your study time realistically. 

I've recently rejoined the planner community and purchased my first Webster's Pages Color Crush Planner to assist in my planning of classes and study time for exams and to schedule my daily reading sessions. 

By making my planner colorful and filling it with motivational journal cards, it allows me to stick to what I have scheduled for a particular day. Some people plan their study time by the hours in the day, dedicating a specific amount of time for a particular area; I haven't had any success with the block method of timing so besides using it for my class schedule, I make a list of the things I would like to accomplish in a certain day and use the Pomodoro method during the sessions to make the most of my study sessions. 

4.  Make a List of Questions During Your Reading

Most times as I read, I find myself asking questions either of my friends or myself. Most times the questions can be answered based on the previous information I have learnt over the last two years of medical school and this serves as a means of reminding myself of the basic (normal) mechanics of the human body. 

Any questions that I cannot answer, I then add to another list normally annotated in my textbook near the material that I do not understand and which led to the initial question, so that I can then either email one of my professors or ask them after class if the information was presented in a lecture. 

This allows for further understanding of a concept or in my case a pathological condition that makes me appreciate the normal functioning of the body. 

5. Get Adequate Rest

Most times when I find myself cramming, it is because I have failed to do one or ALL of the aforementioned and to make matters worse I am usually tired and unable to function efficiently and effectively when I do finally sit down to "study". 

I have friends who actually plan their sleep on their study schedules which seems to work for them. I don't necessarily write my sleep times down in my planner however I do routinely take a "nap" between the hours of 4-6 p.m. and then wake up and do some form of physical activity when I wake up and then study from 8 p.m.- 2:30 a.m. all to get up at 6:00 a.m. 

Napping in the afternoons has helped me for the most part and I have noticed the difference in how much material I can cover by doing this as compared to years 1 and 2. 

I hope these 5 tips will be beneficial to you. If you have any suggestions on ways to avoid cramming please leave a comment below. 

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