As a premedical advisor for the last 25+ years, I have ample experience guiding students through the challenging science prerequisites for medical school admission. At Johns Hopkins and Goucher, where I directed their postbac programs, I helped non-science students transition to full immersion in science courses and I encouraged students to adopt study skills suitable to science. As a medical school admissions consultant, I guide students through their premedical courses and the medical school application process. The following basic tips will help premed students master the sciences.
1. Details, details, details. Learning science is like learning a new language. When learning a new language you must pay attention to detail. Trying to learn science without memorizing formulas or reactions is like trying to learn a language without paying attention to vocabulary.
2. Read ahead. Premeds are pressed for time, but this technique reaps rewards. Prior to a lecture, skim the chapter/s to familiarize yourself with the material and any terms, graphs, charts or formulas; the lecture will be much more understandable, and you’ll learn and understand more.
3. Take good notes. You don’t have to write down everything that’s said in class. But pay attention to the important details, especially examples that will help you remember concepts later, when studying.
4. Review class notes. Reviewing—and perhaps rewriting—your notes will help reinforce material. This should be done within a day or two of the lecture to be most effective. If something is not clear from your notes, look up what you don’t understand.
5. Problems, problems, problems! The only way to thoroughly understand concepts is to work through as many problems as possible (especially in physics). Solving randomly chosen exercises—and you can find many online—will ensure that you understand the material.
6. Get help if you need it. One of the most important skills for premed students—and for doctors—is knowing when to get help if necessary. And it’s critical to do it sooner rather than later. Turn to your professor, a teaching assistant, or your peers for help. Be sure, though, not to depend too much on others; make sure that you understand the material thoroughly by test time so that you can ace that test!
You may also find this Study Skills for Premed Students helpful, written jointly by Dr. David Verrier, former director of Pre-Professional Advising at Johns Hopkins, and me.
–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting