Thursday, December 27, 2012

Request: Tips for Revising for Exams.

So I had a request to do a post on tips for revising for your year-end medical exam. To be honest, every person will have a different way of revising. The most ideal way to revise for exams is to start from day 1 of the course. After every lecture/day, gather all your notes together and make sure your notes have enough info for you. If not, look at your recommended reading and add info to your notes. Or after end of each day is to consolidate all the things you have learned and to go over it. Some people like to consolidate their knowledge on weekends as most lecture days go from 9-5pm and by the time you finish your day, your brain will be fried. If you stay on top of your notes, when it comes to exam time, you should know your material quite well and just need to commit things to memory and you will not be needing to learn anything "new".

What I just described is the ideal way...but realistically, the chances of that happening is quite slim, unless you're quire organized and on top of everything. For me, that method got tossed out 2 weeks into my course. What actually happens is that you take notes during your lectures/print out your lecture slides. If you're having a good week and have some spare time, your notes will go into a binder so your room stays relatively neat and that you will be able to find your notes. If your university only does 1 year-end exam, like mine, on average, medics begin studying between 4-6 weeks prior to exams. You would think that's ridiculously too far in advance, but the sheer amount of material you learn in one just as ridiculous. I personally need 6 weeks to go through a whole year worth of material, but do keep in mind...I don't really look at my notes again until my 6 week revision period. So here I will list some tips on how to get on top of your revision period:

1) Make a revision schedule. Try and figure out how many days/weeks you will need to go over a topic (eg. 1 week for Paediatrics, 5 days for O&G). How much time to dedicate to each topic will depend on how well you know a topic/how confident you are with the topic. Always leave 1 week prior to exams for leeway/time to go over sample/past papers/revise stuff you don't know very well/last minute cram. I usually start thinking about making my revision schedule well in advance or else if you do one too late, you'll realize you have too little weeks left and too many topics. To avoid that, maybe think about your revision schedule when you come back from your last holiday before exams.

2) Find a study buddy! If you live with other medics, then that's sorted. If you don't, try finding a study buddy who has the same sort of revising method as you. It's a great way to make sure you don't miss out any topics and also a great way to test each  other's knowledge. Make sure this study buddy won't be a distraction though or else you won't accomplish much!

3) Rest! I cannot stress enough how important it is to get enough rest during your revision weeks. No point of pulling all-nighters when your brain can't even function anymore. Nothing will get absorbed. Your body will tell you when it is time to take a break (usually when you find yourself reading the same page over and over again and nothing is going in). Try and get a good nights sleep every day. Pretty basic stuff, but it is so easy to forget to just rest.

4) Use cue cards for memorizing things. Some people don't like cue cards, which is fair enough. In medicine we have to learn a lot of names that aren't even related to the condition such as drug names/some medical syndromes. Once you write it down, you can put it to the side. Also great for the last minute cram a day or two before exams.

5) Start early. At the same time I'm not saying start revising 10 weeks before exams. Obviously this is down to personal preference. I think I started too early for this year's exam, but it's not something I regret. It was extremely tiring and boring though. At the same time, last year I started too late and regretted it and it was extremely stressful. Because I started a bit too early (or maybe even perfect timing), I could sacrifice a day or two to take a break or to spend a few extra days on a topic such as Paediatrics. I originally allocated 10 days for Paediatrics, but actually ended up taking 2 weeks to go through all of Paediatrics, but because I started revising early, I was able to give up a few days and shift my other dates around for my other topics.

6) Use revision books to AID knowledge, not gain knowledge. There are some books called Crash Course or At a Glance, which are really good books which gives you a quick glance at a topic. These are good books to help you look up stuff quickly or to double check info, but these are books you should not base your revision around as it misses out fundamental/basic knowledge that you will get from a proper textbook/lectures.

To be honest, I think the key things for revision is to be organized, good time management, rest lots, and try not to stress out too much. Exams are extremely stressful and your anxiety levels go through the roof. Everyone will be feeling the same so don't think you're the odd one out. On top of revising, you might still have to go into placement as some unis only give you 1 week of revision (where nothing is timetabled), so you'll need to be able to balance going to placement and revising. If you aren't organized, your revision will get quite messy. At the same time, don't start skiving placements so you can revise because at the same time, you can learn/revise while on placement. Sometimes really useful tutorial sessions will be held and you can learn/revise during those sessions. To be honest, this whole revision business sounds a lot harder than it really is. You'll know what to do when it comes to revision.

Hope this helps!


  1. I have got to know that gadgets are extremely useful for students in their studying process, since they can be used not only for cheating:
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  2. Revise with other people sometimes; if you don’t feel that you’ve entirely grasped a topic, or don’t have any ‘new’ ideas on it, discussing it with other students can be helpful. This is specially useful for Auditory Learners.
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  3. A very informative and useful content for students. It covers everything be it how to make study and revision strategy, finding a perfect guy as your study companion and how to reduce stress. The best part of your article is information about the smart use of gadgets for exam preparation. Literally, these gadgets are more useful than chatting.
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  4. Really useful advice

    I've tried all sorts of memory techniques and the best I've found is the active recall (flash cards) and distributed practice method. There a plenty of excellent Apps and websites around which help with the process, eg - it's the only way I can make complex information stick in my head.

  5. Hi! All of these tips are really helpful. English is my second language so it is one of the issues I fave while making a revision of my orthopedic surgery personal statement. And this way I hope I'll do much better!

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