Cramming: I don't have time to study

One reason cramming feels good is that it requires very little planning. Most of the time, we’re faced with several different courses, all competing for our precious study time and with their own exam schedules. With the rapid march of each upcoming exam, it’s easier to just focus on what’s next. But you might have more time than you think.

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Cramming: The "Perks"

Most “professional” students will at some point find themselves in situations where the amount of material they need to learn far exceeds the amount of time they need to prove mastery. In this mini series, we will explore a couple of the factors at play, and how to tip the scales in favor of durable knowledge and the most efficient (and fun!) ways to achieve it.

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My Favorite Books: Learning How to Learn

In researching evidence-based learning, we’ve encountered an avalanche of books, papers, blogs, and podcasts about learning how to learn effectively. It can seem overwhelming at times. A great place to begin is by picking a book and reading it cover to cover. Here are Alex’s favorites.

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Learning anatomy: a strategy for memorizing muscles

What's the best way to memorize the muscles of the arm? Cathy discusses her two-step approach to developing adaptive expertise in anatomy, which will play a big role in our future careers—scroll to the bottom to find out where we're headed next year!

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Optimizing the Pomodoro Technique: Strategies for Maintaining Focus During Deep Work

I wrote last week about the Pomodoro Technique and its potential for fostering productive work. In the eight years I’ve applied the method, its focus-break-focus-break-etc prescription has worked wonders. Despite my best efforts, however, at times I still catch my mind wandering. The question becomes: How can I get the most out of my pomos? I discuss several strategies I’ve incorporated which help me keep distractions to a minimum.

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The Pomodoro Technique: Your Key to a Productive Day

Retrieval practice, spacing, the memory palace, and other evidence-based learning strategies will help you achieve your learning goals. However, without a schedule for implementing them in a focused way, you may find your efforts futile. In our age of distractions and socially acceptable multitasking, cutting through the chatter to focus is paramount. Enter the Pomodoro Technique.

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Memorizing Drug Trade Names

Learning trade names (or brand names) of medications poses a classic memorization challenge for medical students transitioning from preclinical to clinical medicine. We learn all manner of generic drug names as first- and second-year students, only to find that doctors and patients throw around trade names far more frequently. Knowing these trade names can be invaluable. Here’s how Alex tackles it!

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Hit the Ground Running: A Quick Guide to Mastering the Memory Palace Before School Starts

We’ve received a few messages recently from people who are starting a professional school this year. While we love the memory palace technique, there can be a significant barrier to use, especially if you're about to enter a high-stakes learning environment. Here's an easy one-month ramp up to mastering the palace technique before you start a new learning adventure.

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Silence Is Golden? White Noise, Coffee Shops, and the Learning Boost of Habituation

Do you prefer to work in silence? With music? The jury's still out on the benefits of white noise, but we've got our own preferences. Cathy shares her thoughts from a coffee shop. 

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Drawing Pictures: A Memory Technique That Works?

Alex discusses a recent New York Times article highlighting research on drawing pictures as a memory aid. Recent studies have uncovered that the technique can be surprisingly powerful. But why does it work? And can drawing pictures be sustainably implemented to improve learning?

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The Body Palace: Memorizing the Review of Systems

A key tool in the physician’s arsenal is the review of systems, or ROS—a run-through of pertinent symptoms while taking a patient history. To the novice clinical student, it can feel overwhelming. Medical students often first learn the ROS as Alex did—as a giant, inscrutable list of symptoms. Here’s how he uses a memory technique to tackle it painlessly.

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