Re-learning to Revise (Part 1)

There isn’t one foolproof method, as we are all different learners. Here are some general tips which can help everyone when it comes to learning effectively.Revision is one of those mysterious concepts which is unique to every individual. There
are those who need to go over everything multiple times before an exam to the point they can recite a textbook with their eyes closed; alternatively, you have the annoying but admirable students who learn as they go along and manage to retain a lot and revise little; you also have your types who go for the cramming approach and learn best with a proverbial gun against their head – this seems to be a university favourite.


General tips

I don’t believe there is one foolproof method, as we are all different learners. However I do believe that there are some general tips which can help everyone such as using colour, starting early and making targets. Additionally, I’ve learned that one should be open minded to new ways of studying, within reason. Even since first year, I’ve made minor adaptations to my techniques and I’m better off for it, despite feeling like I studied effectively back then.

One of the hardest lessons has been that you simply can’t learn everything in medicine. Many of us developed “perfect methods” to learning our modules in school and sixth form and trying to apply them to this degree, with the increased content-to-time frame ratio, has proved near enough impossible. You’ll often hear medical students talk about the volume of learning we have to do rather than the difficulty of content. It certainly is difficult but I do find that what gets us during exam time and separates the best students is retaining so much. As with every challenge, one adapts to survive, and hopefully this post included good ideas on how to revise effectively and succeed/survive.

Written notes1

This is quite a standard method and if it wasn’t effective, nobody would use it. For me, the rationale is that by actively learning and re-writing the content (ideally using less words) you are learning a lot better than passively reading a textbook.

The key with this is to start early so that you can really revise them. Early on, I found that even when starting at an appropriate time I was barely finishing my notes before the exam and I was effectively just doing “vision”. On top of that, I had a small tree’s worth of notes which was overwhelming to go through. A way to get around this is highlighting but as every enthusiast will know, there’s a fine line between emphasising important information and colouring in a piece of paper.  Alternatively you can type your notes, the advantage being  you are able to format and use pictures and easily make corrections. I personally don’t learn as well, but the time and energy I save by typing can be used to go over things again, so I would recommend computerised notes.


2This is my personal favourite and has got me through life since I was 16. Similar to notes, it is a summary of information but easier on the eye. What works for me is that you can compartmentalise information and visualise everything clearly. This complements medicine as majority of it can be split into broad generic categories e.g. causes, symptoms, signs, prognosis, treatment. Again, it is time consuming but is certainly easier to revise afterwards even if it’s just doing a couple of sections a day or passively learning by sticking posters up on the wall (student landlords may or may not appreciate this)!

Ebo Dadey
Final year medical student

More to come in the next post!