6 Study Techniques Every Clinical Student Should Know

Shiv M. Gaglani; M. Ryan Haynes, PhD


October 02, 2018

Technique 5: Mind Maps

Recently, Osmosis has been building on the idea of memory palaces to make them even more effective for learning medicine. We've been doing this by combining memory palaces with "mind maps," which are diagrams that organize sets of information visually to simplify the process of remembering the relationships and hierarchies between them.

Osmosis's use of mind maps began with our pharmacology videos. As you probably know, pharmacology topics have a lot of interrelated information that's all absolutely essential to remember. This includes what each drug is supposed to treat, any potential interactions with other medications, the list of possible side effects, and the often-lengthy names of the drugs themselves, just to name a few!

Rather than trying to shoehorn all of this information into one memory palace, which would be a lot of work to remember, our pharmacology videos compartmentalize these categories of information onto a mind map. Each section is color-coordinated and clearly labeled; setting things up in this way makes it easier for your brain to organize and connect the different concepts as you're studying, making review much more straightforward.

Technique 6: Fogg Behavior Model

Now that you know a few techniques that are proven to help you learn more efficiently and remember longer, how do you actually make a habit of them? This is where the Fogg behavior model can transform your life (and help you counsel your future patients better). Stanford behavioral scientist BJ Fogg reduces behavior change to three variables: motivation, ability, and trigger. If you think about any behavior—exercising, quitting smoking, or studying using the techniques described above—you need a certain level of motivation and ability, followed by a trigger, to implement the behavior.

For example, say you want to study new material and review past concepts on a daily basis. Your motivation is a desire to do well on class and board exams and, more important, when you see patients. You can increase your motivation through engaging such practices as gamification and social accountability (eg, study groups). You can increase your ability by using such tools as mobile apps that make this material readily accessible wherever you are. Finally, you can trigger the behavior through reminder emails, text messages, and push notifications.

On this last point, the key is not to burn out on the triggers so that they do not have an effect in the future. One unique way to decrease the chance of this happening is by making each trigger relevant by syncing it to your individual curriculum and schedule—so you get, for example, practice questions on gram-positive bacteria when you're actually learning about them as opposed to randomly. We've previously written in the Annals of Internal Medicine about how we've implemented this using an intelligent recommendation systemic, similar to what Amazon and Netflix use.

Further Reading

If you're interested in reading more about the techniques above, we suggest you take a look at three books in particular: Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, and Learning Medicine: An Evidence-Based Guide.

Bringing It All Together

Now that you know about these effective strategies, how do you make sure you actually apply them? Fortunately, the behavior change model above can help you implement these and other behaviors in your life. We also recommend checking out the many educational tools that enable you to use one or more of these techniques, so that you are more efficient with your limited time.

Good luck!

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