For many students, learning in vet school is a very different experience than learning in college. The sheer volume and complexity of the information makes learning more difficult.
However, thankfully, there are a number of strategies discussed in the well-known, research based book on learning and memory: Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning that can be very helpful so we will cover them below. (1)
But before we talk about how to study and learn, let’s cover what not to do and why:
1. Do not rely solely on re-reading textRe-reading leads to feeling of fluency and mastery of the text due to familiarity but in reality, it is actually one of the least effective study methods.
2. Do not cramCramming may be effective in the short term but it is does not stick. Cognitive Psychology experts have stated that “Massed practice (like cramming) leads to fast learning but also to rapid forgetting compared to spaced practice.” (2)
3. Do not study only one topic at a timeCognitive Psychology research has shown that effortful learning produces memories that last longer. Studying one topic at a time requires less effort than varying your studying so the learning effect does not last as long.
Instead, try these study techniques to improve your learning:
1. Practice methods of retrievalInstead of re-reading text, try practicing different methods of retrieval instead such as self testing or self quizzing and building connections to previously learned information. These methods require a more active process of retrieval which will strengthen your memory of the information.
2. Space out practiceBy spacing out your studying instead of cramming, you are giving your brain more time to engage in consolidation of memories. Additionally, spacing leads to small amounts of forgetting, which makes retrieval and therefore, learning more effortful and long lasting.
3. InterleavingInterleaving, which is defined as, the process of studying different but related topics simultaneously, is more effective than focusing only on one topic at a time. Because it requires more effort, it will greatly improve your long term retention of information!
For more information about how to study and learn effectively, read Make it Stick and Download our eBook “2019 Vet Student Study Strategy: How to tackle studying in the new year for veterinary students”.
1.Brown, Peter C., Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel. Make it Stick: the Science of Successful Learning. Cambridge, Massachusetts. London, England. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 2014.
2. Brown, Peter C., Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel. “Make it Stick: Six Tips for Students.”