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Memorization techniques for med school (or any other specialty)

Here are a few memorization techniques and their characteristics. Even though I have mentioned med school in the title, these techniques are not exclusive to med school and can in any sphere of life as their situation permits. Read on to find out which one or more techniques are right for you.


ROTE LEARNING


This technique banks on the fact that repeating anything for a substantial amount of time will embed it in your memory even with no understanding of the basic underlying principles.

As it requires no understanding of the subject material, it is probably the easiest method to learn something without really learning it. Even if it is useful to cram for an upcoming exam, this is a unsustainable mode of education as the information is forgotten in the long term as it is lacking any connection with body of knowledge that you already possess.


Rote learning cycle

THE FEYNMAN TECHNIQUE


Memorization technique advocated by the late physicist Richard Feynman.

It consists of 3 successive steps as follow:

  1. Take a blank paper and write down the name of whatever you are studying as the topic.

  2. Then read through the literature and write down the concept you want to learn as if you are teaching a child. The wordings should be simple with no interspersed technical jargon as it could be used as an excuse to cover up holes in your knowledge. Also, the analyzing and summarizing done in this step will improve your understanding as well as help you form connections with your already existing knowledge of the subject.

  3. Review the matter that you have written down and if any deficiencies are present in what you have written down. If this is the case, go back to the source literature and review it again and supplement what you have written down.

  4. Further refine and simplify as what you have written as you gain a more deeper understanding of the subject matter and keep revisiting the topic frequently to prevent forgetfulness.

Even after being *arguably* thee best memorization method around, it does have a caveat which is the time consumed to study. Studying a single topic in exhaustive detail with possibly many hours required to study a single topic may not be plausible for most students.



MNEMONICS


One of my least favorite learning techniques.

It is basically rote learning with a weird twist on it, the basic premise still being repeating something albeit in a slightly different and mildly amusing manner. This along with the having to learn a specific word sequence in a predefined order gives me no pleasure in using it. And GOD help you if you confuse one corresponding word of your acronym for another.




MEMORY PALACES (THE LOCI METHOD)


Excerpt from Wikipedia says:

"In this technique the subject memorizes the layout of some building, or the arrangement of shops on a street, or any geographical entity which is composed of a number of discrete loci. When desiring to remember a set of items the subject 'walks' through these loci in their imagination and commits an item to each one by forming an image between the item and any feature of that locus. Retrieval of items is achieved by 'walking' through the loci, allowing the latter to activate the desired items."

The few times I tried to use this, I ended up abandoning it as imagining an entity in intricate detail and trying to commit information on to it was too time consuming and boring. So much for being an "intellectual".



LEARN, RECALL & REPEAT


Recalling and repeating is the *killer combination* that I would put my money on any day. This has been my go to method during my med school barring very few exceptions and the most time efficient in my opinion.

This method simply involves paraphrasing a topic that you have just read through in your mind and picking out the important points that stand out which you would like to remember. Understanding of the topic that you have just read is a definite prerequisite as your ability to recall important points depend on it. After doing this, it as easy as repeating the recall cycle that you have developed time and again as to imprint it deeply within your memory.


CLOSING THOUGHTS

Even if the methods mentioned above may seems to vastly differ, the basic premise of all are: ”Repetitio est mater studiorum” (Repetition is the mother of learning).

With that being said, I wish everyone happy learning. What is your personal favorite mode of memorization? I wold like to hear it in the comments. Questions, comments and feedback are welcome as always.

Thiruvananthapuram

Kerala, India

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