It’s week 11, SWOT VAC and exams are upon us and we like to think we look as cute as those little puppies do when they study! The weather is about as turbulent as we feel ourselves right now and we can’t decide what’s worse – the sun shining outside while we’re stuck reading Talley and O’Connor, or the rain and wind that so conveniently whips us just as we step outside for a well deserved break! It’s tough, we know, but don’t worry! We’ve got your back! Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get through the next few weeks:
- Keep in mind the bigger picture
Take a step back and see where your stressor fits in the big picture. Sometimes not being able to memorise all the branches of the maxillary artery isn’t something worth stressing over (unless you’re a maxillofacial surgeon). Which brings us to…
As you’ve probably heard in Craig Hassed’s lectures, some stress is okay and in fact helps us perform. You just need to keep in mind the proportion of stress; stress more when it actually matters, but always aim for that “peak performance” area on the Hassed curve of life!
If (or perhaps when) you feel that you haven’t studied enough and that you should have studied more during the year, remember that blaming yourself, or anyone else, isn’t going to help the situation. What’s done is done, and you’re just going to make yourself feel worse and make it even harder to motivate yourself to study. The key is to keep a positive attitude, keep focused, and not just give up on studying just because you don’t think you’ll pass. Instead, do something productive and….
- Plan ahead
Sometimes, just laying out what revision needs to be done in the coming weeks can help make that mountain into a mole hill. For some people that means making a list of topics you want to revisit, for some it’s drawing outa fully fledged timetable. Make sure you stick to #1 and the bigger picture – it’s worth sacrificing an hour of studying the lumbosacral plexus (#notexaminable) for an hour of relaxing, talking to your friends, or doing something else you enjoy to help keep you balance. Which leads us to…
- Keep healthy
Simple things like eating or sleeping (yes, that elusive physiological state lecturers talk about all the time!) are way more important than trying to remember every step of the Krebs cycle. In fact, getting a good night sleep instead of late-night cramming (not that you need to, since you planned ahead during step 4) will help you remember all that you’ve studied AND ensure you’re better prepared for tomorrow’s study session!
- Different learning styles
Don’t be afraid to change your study techniques if they’re no longer working for your learning style. If you don’t know what learning style suits you, try finding out here: http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb.html. And don’t forget, it’s not too late to try something new! Switch it up from writing out notes to maybe flashcards on Quizlet? Or practice explaining concepts to your friends in a study group, or drawing out pathways. There will be something that works best for you, and the key is to optimise YOUR understanding and YOUR learning, not sticking to some notion of what studying looks like if it isn’t working.
Remember, that this is just one exam. It is not the make or break of your career. It does not reflect or define who you are. It definitely does not reflect how good a doctor you’ll be. No patient will ever care what marks you got in med school. Some of the best, most accomplished doctors out there have done poorly, possibly even failed an exam here or there. We’re all human, and so long as you’re trying your best, that’s all anyone can ask of you and you should be pretty happy with that.