Monday, September 15, 2014

Study with a First Year Dental Student

Hello All, I wanted to do this post before I get too much into the Fall Semester of second year as my study habits will be changing. We now have more of a focus on dental lab practicals, and less on taking tests-although studying for boards (upcoming post) needs to start soon. Boooo!

Now that I'm through with my basic sciences, I want to explain how I went about studying. I have class (attendance is mandatory) Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm with an exam every week. How I study may be different than others, so I'm going to try to break down my study methods into key concepts that may work for everyone. 

Active Listening
When I take notes in class, I make sure that I'm not just transcribing what the professor says. I only write down what's important and I always put it into my own words, not there's. Doing this ensures that I understood what was said and when I come back to study later, it is so much easier for me to understand the material. My school also captures every lecture via iTunesU so if there was something that I really didn't understand I have the opportunity to re-listen to the lecture. Sometimes I even listen to lectures while I'm doing housework or walking the dog. Every little bit of studying helps! 

Make Adjustments 
This is a biggy because how I study now is completely different from my study habits in undergrad. Traditionally, I'm a visual book learner, but I have a limited amount of time to learn a lot of material so I've adapted. I've welcomed group studying and worked on becoming a better auditory learner. Even now I'm always open to changing my study patterns if I think that something else may be more efficient. 

Keep a Schedule 
I only have a week to study for each exam, so I have to keep on top of things. I try to stay organized and I make a loose schedule to follow. Loose because I incorporate some wiggle room as I always get behind. But all that really matters is that I'm aware of how quickly I'm moving through material because I have a deadline. 

Additional Resources 
I make sure to utilize all of the resources available to me. If a professor holds a review session, I go. If we are given practice exams, I take them. I participate in group studying and note sharing. The best assest of all for me is the textbook. I couldn't survive without them. For each lecture, I read the corresponding book chapter, highlighting only the most important information. Then I compile the info from my class notes and the text into a word document or written notes...a review packet. Our exams are every Wednesday, so I like to make sure that this info is compiled by the end of the weekend. That way I can spend Monday and Tuesday simply reviewing this information. 

Break Things Down  
Regardless of the topic, each test covers info on normal processes, abnormal processes/pathology, and pharmacology. I make review sheets for everything, but I also make flash cards for diseases and pharmacology. This especially helps with pharmacology, which is just pure memorization for the most part. 


My favorite flash card program is iFlash. You simply type up the cards and you can even add photos and sound. Once you go through the cards, it gives you a grade and reviews the cards that you missed. I love this program so much in part because of the fact that it's so simple, making it quick to use. I can normally type up all of my flash cards in class during lecture, which saves me lots of study time later on.

Learn from Mistakes 
My school makes this one pretty easy for me to do. Because our exams are computerized and multiple choice (same format as the national boards), I am able to see a category breakdown of each test. From these, I quickly realized that my weakest area was typically pathology. While I seem to understand the normal processes and do well with pharmacology, the diseases were the difference between me making a B and an A. Once I was aware of this, I was able to make the necessary changes and now I spend the most time studying pathology. 

This is how I study every week and I hope that it helps someone out there with their study habits. Also, check out my study mantra here for my tips on maintaining your sanity. 

-And check back tomorrow for "a day in the life of a dental student" post 

Happy Studying!


  1. Great post! I've been adjusting my study habits and learning ways to be more efficient so this post is right on time.definitely learning be much more selective in my focus because of the volume of information.

  2. Thanks Ele and yes there is just so much material all the time. I was stubborn at first and didn't want to change the study habits that carried me through undergrad, but the moment I did, it made things a lot easier. You're already ahead of the game for recognizing that adjustments need to be made. Sending good vibes your way