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Q: Notes in Medical School (For Boquinha) ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Subject: Notes in Medical School (For Boquinha)
Category: Reference, Education and News > Education
Asked by: underdog10-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 26 Jun 2006 13:32 PDT
Expires: 26 Jul 2006 13:32 PDT
Question ID: 741220
What is the most effective way to take notes in Medical School?
Subject: Re: Notes in Medical School (For Boquinha)
Answered By: boquinha-ga on 29 Jun 2006 12:37 PDT
Hello underdog10-ga!

I?d first like to thank my friend and colleague pinkfreud-ga for her
endorsement and suggestion that I field this question. It is always
nice to be thought of in that way.

The question you pose is a difficult one in that a lot of it depends
upon your own study style and your strengths and weaknesses. The ?most
effective way? also depends upon the way in which you will be
evaluated, although I suspect that the bulk of it will be on standard
multiple-choice exams, similar to all of the national licensing exams
that await you. Most of the information that I found said simply to
take ?good notes? in class. A lot of help, I know! I did find some
specific suggestions to help you, though. I also asked my husband
(current physician, former med student) for his top note-taking tips,
and also ran some web searches for you. Here is what I found.

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I first had my husband give me a list of suggestions for taking
effective notes. He said that most medical schools provide at least an
outline of the lecture for each student before or after the class
period. He was given paper notes in every class (with very few
exceptions). With advancing technology there are even some schools
that require laptops so that students can wirelessly access lecture
notes kept on a central server, or they are given notes on CD-ROM. His
tips assume that you will have at least an outline of the lecture for
that day. Here are his top ten ideas:

* Keep it simple! Common sense, maybe. But with all of the information
you?ll be asked to remember simple is better.
* Try to only add to the notes if necessary. Much of the important
information will be included in a professor?s outline already. Don?t
waste time repeating. Spend more time listening.
* Lectures are visual, too. Don?t get so caught up in writing that you
miss potentially important information in front of you.
* Highlight the highlights. My husband had many classmates that would
highlight so much information on their notes that it was easier to
pick out what was NOT highlighted.
* Write legibly (or at least in a chicken scratch you can decipher!).
You have to look at these later?make it worth it!
* If you use abbreviations, make sure you know what they are.
Abbreviations can save time, but only if you can remember them.
* Definitely highlight information said twice! The nice professors
make your life easier by giving ?tip-offs? before an exam.
* Look for ?lists.? In medicine there is a lot of information that can
be made into lists. These are easy targets for exam questions,
especially multiple-choice questions.
* A picture really IS worth a thousand words! My husband?s notes are
full of diagrams that he made to illustrate points. You don?t have to
be a good artist to make decent schematics.
* Don?t panic if you ?missed? something. Ask a classmate after class,
or talk to the professor later. It?s not worth missing the rest of the
lecture worrying about one thing.

Many medical schools have a note-taking service as well. Some are
endorsed by the school itself, and most are entirely run by the
students. Usually there is a designated student or two who agree to
take the notes and organize them for a given lecture period. They then
distribute them in a coherent form to other students involved in the
note-taking service. Note-takers usually rotate with each lecture and
all participants take a turn. My husband?s Neuroanatomy  professor did
not provide any notes (since he authored the textbook), so the class
organized a note-taking service. This ended up being very helpful
because then he didn?t have to furiously take notes. He just got to
sit, listen, and learn.

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There is a three-step approach to note-taking called ?The Cornell
System.? Simply, the basic tenet is to do it right in the first
place?no rewriting or typing. Again, a common sense principle, but one
that is easily overlooked when one gets pressured.

In this system, there is a short preparation phase to improve note
quality. Using standard loose-leaf paper, draw a vertical line about 2
 inches from the left. Take notes to the right side; later you will
write words to the left in the recall column. Only use one side of the
paper so you can ?map? the lecture later.

Legibly, write notes in paragraph form. Use general ideas and skip
lines between new ideas or thoughts. Abbreviations are encouraged.

Neaten areas of your notes that need to be more legible. In the left
column, write ideas or key words that capture the idea of the lecture.

?You will have to reread the lecturer's ideas and reflect in your own
words. Cover up the right-hand portion of your notes and recite the
general ideas and concepts of the lecture. Overlap your notes showing
only recall columns and you have your review.?

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The Virginia Tech website has some nice note-taking information. Here
are some of the points they make:

* Listen actively and think before you write (don?t get behind, though)
* Develop your own style (including abbreviations, punctuation,
margins, etc.) and stick to it.
* Use a large notebook so you have plenty of room for margins, outlines, etc.
* Leave blank spaces between points so you can include more
information later. ?Your objective is to take helpful notes, not to
save paper.?
* ?Do not try to take down everything that the lecturer says. It is
impossible in the first place and unnecessary in the second place
because not everything is of equal importance.?
* Listen more and write less. Take down the main points.
* Listen for clues to important points, transitions, repetition for emphasis, etc.
* Try to identify the major and minor points for each lecture. Weed
out the ?filler? (extra samples and explanatory material). As you get
to know lecturers this becomes easier.
* Be legible, at least minimally.
* Copy everything that ends up on the board. You never know what
?scribbles? are clues to important information later. (Personal
anecdote alert: my husband says that his professors rarely wrote
anything on the board because they used PowerPoint lectures almost
exclusively. If it was important enough to put on the board, he knew
it was important enough to make it to the exam!)
* Sit close to the front of the class so you can see and hear more easily.

Butler University has a publication produced by the Learning Resource
Center. It has plenty of general study tips, but also has a nice
section on note-taking. There is a section on ?streamlining? with the
following tips.

* Don?t write in complete sentences
* Use word beginnings where possible, rather than the complete word
* Use standard symbols. They have a table with a number of them.
* Create your own symbols
* Write small. It?s faster.

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You asked specifically about note taking, but I found lots of
resources for general study as well. Really, the two go hand in hand.

The University of Utah Medical School has a site with links to a
number of study aids, mostly aimed at the USMLE (U.S. Medical
Licensing Examination). Many of the links are to subject-specific
information (like mnemonics for anatomy terms, etc.) that will be
useful not only on national board exams but also for general exams.
There are a couple of Word documents with specific study tips.

Here is a posting from a forum called It has
some general study strategies and tips.

Creighton University has lots of information on study strategies and
ways to identify the ?type? of studier that you are. It also has a few
helpful mnemonics for some subjects.

The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center has a similar page of
links regarding studying techniques and hints.

This is from the Virginia Tech Study Skills Help Information website.
There is a lot of good general information about studying effectively.

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ANOTHER RESOURCE is a fantastic resource for anyone contemplating or
currently experiencing medical school. There are lots of forums with
discussions ranging anywhere from study tips and techniques to
national board information and stress relieving techniques. We use it.
You will need to register to get access (it?s free), but it is well
worth it.

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Here is another answer I?ve done on the topic of becoming a doctor.
It?s very detailed and thorough and you might find it helpful.

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So that is what I have come up with! I hope that you find this
information to be helpful. If you have any need of further
clarification, please let me know how I can help. Good luck!


Search strategy:

Online search
Suggestions from my physician husband

Search terms:

"medical student" "study tips"
"medical student" "good notes"
"medical school" "effective notes"

Request for Answer Clarification by underdog10-ga on 06 Aug 2006 09:53 PDT
Sorry for the late clarification.

I am going to medical school in India where everything is essay based.
I was born and raised in the states. Everything here is PowerPoint,
and the slides aren't placed online for a week.

This may change your answer, sorry for not including in my question. Thanks.

Clarification of Answer by boquinha-ga on 14 Aug 2006 14:15 PDT
Hello again!

Actually, it doesn't change my answer really. I've kept the tips and
links fairly general so that you can use them to adapt to your school
and your style as well. I've provided you with some resources on
general study techniques that are actually more helpful in a classroom
environment that you've described, so it works well. Good luck in your

Subject: Re: Notes in Medical School (For Boquinha)
From: redfoxjumps-ga on 26 Jun 2006 15:26 PDT
A large part of the school is learning all the names of body parts and
drugs and diseases. Somehow you will need to memorize most of that. So
it depends on how your brain works (not your roommates) what sort of
notes will work best.

So if flash cards work for you, ...

(Remember when they said we would all learn via sleep tapes and no
ones would have to go to class.  ahha yes)

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