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August 23, 2021

Debunking Trendy Pre-Med Study Tips: How Helpful Are They?

The Savvy Premed

By: Priyanka Mistry


For pre-med students, scrolling through social media seems to be the easiest way to gain mentorship and find answers to their questions. One of my biggest questions centers around the best ways to improve your studying to boost your GPA, especially when trying to ace daunting subjects such as organic chemistry.

Instead of telling you how you should be studying, I decided to dive deeper into a few trendy study methods I have been exploring myself through social media. Read on to hear my advice about the most and least effective popular study tips!


Debunking Trendy Pre-Med Study Tips: How Helpful Are They?


Trendy Pre-Med Study Tip #1: The Infamous Pomodoro Technique


The Pomodoro technique has become increasingly popular because it allows for study breaks that seemingly prevent burnout during study sessions and prevent distractions. But how effective are they really?

Since this technique is based on ratios of focused time : break times, which is usually 25 minutes of studying : 5 minutes of relaxing, it requires planning ahead of time to figure out what exactly you want to accomplish.

Therefore, there are many limitations of the technique, including a rigid schedule that does not allow for many changes to be made, disruption of flow while working when the study interval ends, and distractions if your work does not fit into the timeslot. For example, if you’re trying to cram for an exam, you may require a deeper level of thinking that exceeds the mindset in place using the Pomodoro technique.

Therefore, while I think that this technique definitely creates a disciplined schedule, it seems to be more hurtful than helpful. 


Trendy Pre-Med Study Tip #2: Music - Alpha Waves/Classical vs. Rap


How many of you fellow pre-meds enjoy jamming out to music while studying? I know I do! But how helpful is music to effective studying?

It provides both pros and cons: listening to music of preference will generally put the student in a better mood to get studying done, but it can also be distracting. The “Mozart effect” has been studied for many years, and most researchers have found that while classical music can improve cognitive abilities, silence is necessary for developing new brain cells in the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory.

This connects to the effects of listening to loud music, such as rock and rap music, while studying. Although it might help make studying more entertaining, it overall distracts from the task and produces a lower quality, less productive study session. This stems from its fast rhythm and significant amount of beats per minute.

A new trend, which involves listening to hour-long loops of white noise or “alpha waves,” has also been investigated to find its correlation with increased academic performance. It has been deduced that alpha waves play a vital role in removing sensory information from the environment to home in on a given task.

Therefore, I would conclude that music in and of itself is distracting, but listening to white noise, such as alpha waves, is much more productive because it allows for mental relaxation and an increased level of concentration. 


Trendy Pre-Med Study Tip #3: Anki Flashcards


At this point, most students have heard about Anki, the new and improved Quizlet. However, if you are unfamiliar with Anki, it is a tool that helps with memorization using digital flashcards and spaces out the material to allow for maximum retention. 

While this seems relatively easy to operate, Anki is unique in that you must also learn how and when to use Anki for mastery of the desired material. Making the cards and decks for different purposes, while time-consuming, is one of the best ways to learn because you are actively recalling material over periods of time instead of simply reading the textbook or notes.

Although memorizing information is entirely different from understanding material, I believe that Anki is an effective study tool for short-term and long-term memorization due to its spaced repetition method.

Anki should be used with other study techniques, such as making flowcharts of the material or practicing problems to aid in preparation. Overall, Anki is a great tool that, when used properly, makes the daunting task of memorizing much easier to do!


Trendy Pre-Med Study Tip #4: Studying Apps 


In the modern world, technology has been integrated into all aspects of life, especially studying. In the effort to become more efficient, apps such as Study Buddy and Flora were designed to aid in getting the most out of each minute. 

Whether it be having a virtual companion to focus with on Study Buddy or planting an imaginary tree for each study session in Flora, these apps make studying more enjoyable and motivating so that you are held accountable for something even greater than your GPA.

From my experience using Flora, I became more obsessed with starting small sessions in pursuit of growing a pretty garden rather than using my time in the most effective way. Although it forces students to stay off their phones for longer periods of time and adds incentives, it overall seems more distracting than productive. Some solutions that allow for the same intended purpose can be turning off your phone, rewarding yourself with time off, or even having your friends hold you accountable.

Finding the perfect studying techniques for you is definitely challenging and takes trial and error, but it’s important to know that everyone has a unique studying style. Some useful study tips to get started include anything from learning in a group setting, using visuals such as flashcards, or utilizing mnemonic devices to make memorization easier. Regardless of current trends, trying the tips for yourself is the best way to personally debunk them and succeed in the future. 


About the Contributors:

Priyanka Mistry is an incoming sophomore at Northeastern University majoring in Behavioral Neuroscience on the pre-med track. She is also minoring in Human Movement Sciences, with a focus on functional neuroanatomy. Currently, she is researching physiological stimulation in the Lifespan Emotional Development Lab and is passionate about helping the community through various volunteer activities.


Have any questions about pre-med study tips? Did we miss any good or bad ones? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll respond to you personally!

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