How do you study? Everyone learns differently, so it's up to you to know what the best study pattern is for you.
In my first semester in college, I took Physiology 101. It ended up being the best decision I ever made in my time there. In the first few weeks of class, the professor lectured on how the brain takes in and retains new information. At the time, I was struggling in my classes. After the lecture, I realized that I was studying in ways that hindered my brain from learning.
I was studying with the television and music on, and my friends were in the room while I was sitting on my bed, "studying." This environment was preventing my brain from taking in new information. What I needed was one quiet space, clear of distraction, where the only thing I did was study.
I cleared off my desk, turned off all electronics, and kicked my friends out of my room. I made a rule that the only place I studied was at my desk with the television and radio off. I joined study groups in all of my classes. The results? My grades went up!
Many years later I found myself sitting at the CAE Kickoff course, panicking. How was I supposed to retain all this material while working full time and fulfilling my family obligations? While listening to the CAE faculty encouraging the course participants to form study groups, I remembered my physiology class. What was my current optimal situation to study for this exam? Where do I do my best thinking? What time does that occur? How did I study in school for important exams a decade ago, and how could I apply that to my current life?
- I joined a study group.
- I got up early to read when it was quiet.
- I made my own flash cards.
- I found every practice test I could find and took them over and over again.
- I talked about the material with members of my study group during the week.
- I assigned myself homework to keep up with all the domains.
- I made study guides over and over again until I knew it all.
I studied at my work desk (off hours), I bought hundreds of flash cards, and I used the CAE SharePoint site for practice tests and study guides. I spoke with members of my study group by phone or email whenever I had a question. I was diligent about following my calendar of assignments and never procrastinated. I created study guides for each domain until I knew the material.
Of all those things, the most important thing I did was join the study group. We taught each other the topics, encouraged those starting to feel down, and kept each other on track. I felt accountable to them as well as myself. If I did not do my assignment, I was letting 11 other people down. In the end, we were a 100 percent CAE study group. We all passed.
Katy Matthews, MA, CAE, is the Washington office administrator at the American Academy of Pediatrics in Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]